Books, more books and yet more books

For the last 12 months I’ve been spending time tracking what I’ve been doing in my journey through my testing career. It’s been mainly at a higher level but in some areas I’ve delved deeper. I’ve tracked the books I’ve read, the content I’ve created, my thoughts on testing, my inspirations and ideas, my successes in testing and of course, areas for improvement.

One of the main areas of inspiration for me is the area of reading. I like to read. And from reading I learn. But I also get inspiration for blogs, for content for The Software Testing Club and for other side projects which I’ll be sharing with you throughout this year. I guess this is a form introspection.

It’s a chance to pass a reflective thought over what I’ve been doing.

It could even be called a journal. It could also be a form of measure.

A way of managing my thoughts and ideas.

Like Jurgen Appelo states on his latest blog post – “You cannot manage what you don’t measure.”

Whatever I call it, it’s a really great way of looking at where my learning is going, where I draw inspiration from and what makes me tick.

Why am I doing it?

It’s a way of me looking for patterns in my reading habits. I’m also able to compare what I’ve read to what I’ve created (I’ve not shared that part as there are still lots in final prep – due out this year through The Software Testing Club). This introspection could lead to all sorts of insightful information about me and what I do. Some positive, some not so.

Why Share It?

Lots of people share their book lists and I think it’s important to share information like this so we can all grow our learning if we wish to. I look at other peoples reading lists and add them to my backlog of books with the aim of getting round to reading them…at some point.

Is it complete?

Not at all. I am sure, especially in the early months of last year, that I didn’t record everything I read. I have also not included blog posts, PDFs and other online content which takes up a huge amount of my reading time. I’ll be including that for this year’s record.

Why a timeline?

I stumbled across the TimeGlider software around Feb last year and loved the ease and simplicity of it. A timeline is also a great way to track my work and the software enables links and other information to be included.

I’m also interested in finding new ways to show data and this mini project has given me a chance to experiment with TimeGlider and timelines as a way of sharing content.

What findings did you stumble across?

I’m still looking through the book list but I’ve noticed some trends:

I often have multiple books on the go at once. I dip in to books for a few chapters at a time. I read based on my mood, my level of concentration and my interest in that subject at that time.

I read a lot more about topics outside of Testing than I do testing books. I do read testing blogs though, so maybe blogs have surpassed books for my test learning.

I read about business, sociology, communication, people, teams and management.

I need to start adding in the eBooks and PDFs I’m reading as they give a much more rounded view of my learning and reading. I probably read more PDFs and eBooks than I do “normal” books. I shall add these throughout this year.

There is a spurt of reading about Creativity. This was in the lead up to Agile Testing Days where I presented on Killing Creativity.

I read a lot of “old school” literature from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I like the way the writers of the time framed ideas and views. I think ideas from this long ago haven’t changed that much. There is a lot to be learnt from writing from all periods of history.

I can see lots of seeds of ideas for my blog posts and content when I compare my list of reading to list of writing. Maybe I should also add in a list of listening to or watching. I get ideas from all over but I suspect the management of this kind of information is maybe too much.

I have periods in the timeline where I don’t read much. This was partly due to prepping my presentation for Agile Testing Days but also because this is when I’m writing material, editing The Testing Planet or taking time out to rest.

How to Use The Timeline

At the right hand side there is a zoom viewer. Best to use it at a level around 28 (1 qtr). Each item is clickable which will open a small dialogue box. In the dialogue box is the book information and a link to the book on Amazon. (the links are NOT affiliate links)
Scrolling left and right is done by clicking and dragging on the canvas (background)

About The Data

All of the references and book information is taken from
All of the links are to except the direct links to original download sources.
None of the links are affiliate links, so click away.
The date of the entry does not always relate to the date of finishing the book. It is within about 2 days though….
The only exception to the above is The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook which I’m still reading on and off. On initial purchase I skimmed through the pertinent information for my context. I see this book as a reference book.

So what’s next?

I have lots to get done this year but I have some very clear community projects which I’d quite like to get rolling. One of which is community led book listing using a Semantic Web framework called Exhibit. I have a test server up and running and I have a couple of people in my mind who I’d love to be contributing to it also. Once the proof of concept has been done then I intend to open this Framework up to the community as a whole, maybe with some checks and filters in place on content submission. I may ditch the whole project though for a number of reasons. But I’m experimenting with community led data, so expect some projects to rise and fall over the next 12 months.

I’m also experimenting using Exhibit Framework for managing and reporting on Exploratory Testing. It’s got a great potential to offer simple ways to manage lots of data and make it searchable. I’ll also be exploring how we can use the Exhibit Framework to manage all sorts of other test related data such as notes, ideas, to-dos, test, reports, learning sources etc. So watch this space.


If you can’t view the embedded timeline below, it’s available here too :

12 thoughts to “Books, more books and yet more books”

  1. Excellent stuff Rob! I love how you so eagerly seek out new tools and approaches for fresh ideas. Time glider looks excellent, I’d been thinking of sharing my reading list also. I’ve signed up for it so I might just use this to do so.I hope you get to achieve what you want this year, good luck.

  2. Hi Darren,Thanks for the comments. TimeGlider is ace. It will be great to see your book list.New tools are essential for learning. There are so many out there and they can offer real benefit to organising data and learning new skills. Good luck with itRob..

  3. Very, very interesting Rob!I really like the tracking of your learning in this way – very valuable and very simple. I must start cataloguing my reading history and sources (plus non-book formats – good point!) I think being able to share sources and maps of learning is very useful – how did I get here, which potential directions am I thinking about, what’s influencing me, etc, etc.Timeglider – can you add your own notes about the books?I see we have some similar interests – nice!

  4. Hi Simon,Thanks for commenting. I just find that tracking certain aspects of learning is a good way to explore how I can improve or change directions and how this affects my creative output and work ideas.TimeGlider notes are simply copied and pasted from Amazon, so you certainly can add your own notes and reviews about books.Glad you like the idea.Rob..

  5. Thats quite a few books Rob! and interesting stuff too.May i ask you to comment on how you process all this information? Do you race through the books as quickly as possible trusting the important/usefull stuff will stick, or do you seriously analyse, debate and contemplate the content?Personally I have not been very good at devouring literature in the past but its a “skill” I’m working on. English not being my first language makes it a bit more of a challenge but to be honest I would not be a reading champ in my native language either.Thanks for a lot of book ideas and another nice tool.Regards,Geir

  6. Hi Rob!Nice idea to share what you’ve been learning!I like to read too, after all, with books we can learn a lot and to improve in so many areas.But one thing that worries me, is to apply what I learned. For me, only to read is a waste of time.Of course, it isn’t easy to put into practice what we’ve learned, especially from non-technical books. And to know that we are wrong, already worth it. :)I wonder if you have the same worry and how you handle it?

  7. Hi Geir.Thanks for commenting. Great question to. To be honest it depends on the book and the information. If it is a serious academic book or testing book then I will make notes on a separate piece of paper, which I then rewrite again in to my “learning” notepad. Other books might trigger thoughts and ideas or seeds of thinking which I will write in my day to day notebook. These may grow to be bigger ideas, but many just sit there waiting for the day they may end up in inspiring a blog or an article of some description.I often make no notes at all whilst reading as some books are fiction that I just enjoy reading. The New York City street guide is a good example of a book that I just flicked through. I read it to get ideas of Usability. After reading it I made no notes at all, but then I reread it and made several pages of notes.I think a lot of the note taking and ideas is down to the mood and energy levels in me.One of the most effective ways to process the information you have just read is to ponder it, reframe or rephrase it and then write about it. Writing about it forces more logical thought about it.Good luck with your reading, I can certainly imagine the challenges of reading a language that is not your first. I still occassionally try to read Russian books (I studied it at college) but the going is tough. CheersRob

  8. Hi Fabrício,Thanks for commenting.In terms of worrying about whether you will learn something and whether that something will confirm or contradict views you have; well…I wouldn’t worry about that too much. At least not before opening a book. A preconception that if you don’t learn something from a book it will be a waste might cloud your view on what you can take from the book. Best to approach each book with an open mind.I’ve read lots of books which I appeared to learn nothing from. On further inspection though and very much past the time of reading it I realised I’d learnt something.I was chatting to Rob Sabourin at EuroSTAR 2010 and he was reading a book. And he said “If I even learn one thing from it, it will have been worth it”, but I don’t suspect he was expecting to learn anything from it.I have a very simple rule about reading which might help you somewhat. “If I am not enjoying reading the book, or I am bored, then I don’t continue with it” – I’ve put down New York Times Bestsellers because I wasn’t enjoying them. It’s probably a rule many will disagree with but there are SO many great books out there that time spent reading one which is not interesting is time away from one which might ignite that spark of learning or creativity inside you.If a book changes my mind on a topic then that’s a great book. We should actively seek out reading on things which might challenge our assumptions, it’s often the best way to learn. So don’t worry about those either.I really am keen to know how you get on so please let me know how this year works out for you and your reading.thanks again for commentingRob..

  9. Rob,Thanks you for your response.So, actually my efforts are focused in books about Programming ( – very nice this tool!). I used to read no-technical books, this is good to give a break and learning more or new things about other subjects.I also think that a open mind is very important when we will read something (in fact an open mind is always important ), after all, the truth is in many cases, something subjective.My process of reading is very poor yet, but I’m trying take notes about the book (with Kindle now it’s easy) and what I learned from it. And also I do some mind-maps.One thing that changed in last years, was the fact that adquired a book and informations about it is very easy in nowdays. For me, a Brazilian guy, have my book almost instantly in my hand with Kindle is amazing (I don’t work for Amazon hehe). Because this, we can read more and choose better what to read.I commented about books, but I think that what I said is applicable to another information sources (like blogs, discussion lists, etc).About my worry, it isn’t obsessive 🙂 In fact, it is more to push me, because many times I’m so lazy about my reading, it isn’t hard to catch me reading only the words and not taking notes.

  10. Hi Fabricio,Great to see you’re using TimeGlider too. Great news about the Kindle. I got one too a few months back, but most of my books to date come from the local library (free), but I am enjoying the ease of use of the Kindle and the note taking ability.Mind maps are indeed a really powerful way of thinking and linking/exploring notes. Let me know how you get on with that. Rob

  11. I buy all my books from Amazon, nice and sometimes funny to view my entire order history…going back 11 years now, that makes me feel old. Browsing through my entire order history clearly defines many parts of my life. I can see how much I have progressed since that first book.

  12. Hi Rosie,You should publish your list too. I can totally see the defining parts of your life element. I think the same things. Can see what interested and intrigued me at certain times in life. All good.Rob..

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