It has been a little over six months since I ventured into the world of blogging. Before this, I tentatively dipped into writing in 2014 with an article called ‘The more I learn, the less I know’, which I originally published on LinkedIn.
It was inspired by my experiences with my colleagues at AccessHQ (or Access Testing as we were at the time) and my realisation that there were many aspects of testing and the wider realm of software development which I wanted to learn more about. It was an article about learning; it just happened to be framed by my experiences in testing.
It took me some time to write anything else. My second article, ‘Empathy: a lesson from history’, was more directly targeted at software development and the IT industry. I found that the process of researching, writing, reviewing and rewriting the article was a great way to learn more about the subject.
I had caught the writing bug and wanted to take things further, but I felt frustrated at the limitations of LinkedIn as a forum for sharing my articles. I knew that I needed to make better use of social media, both in terms of my own learning, and as a mechanism for sharing my work.
Social media meant something quite different to me up to that point. I used Facebook as a way to keep in touch with my friends and family, and to read about some of the things which interest me outside my work and family life.
I had also dabbled in online forums from time to time. These were usually linked to the football club I follow, and whilst I had enjoyed discussing the sporadically euphoric, but usually gloomy experiences of being a Sheffield United supporter, I also marvelled at the tangential, sometimes bizarre discussions that cropped up about any number of other subjects. I suspect these may have influenced my writing style at times.
Other than building up a network of colleagues and contacts on LinkedIn, and the occasional contribution to discussions on their forums, I had never been inclined to use social media in my working life. I realised this had to change.
Into the Twittersphere
So it was that I went about setting up my Twitter account and my blog site. I wanted to keep things focused on subjects related to my work, which meant that testing would feature prominently along with broader themes of quality and customer experience.
I wanted to connect with people who I could learn from, and people who might help me to refine my thinking as I wrote articles for my blog. I was aware of an active global community of testers; people who contributed to discussions and debates online, who wrote blogs and who spoke at conferences. I knew the names of some of the people, so I began to search for them on Twitter in order to get some further insight into the community.
Although I was aware of the community, I was perhaps unaware of its extent and of the deep significance of some of the debates and discussions which occurred online. It became clear that Twitter is not merely a medium for sharing information; it is also a forum where ideas are proposed, shaped, questioned and improved.
As I tapped into this network of testers, I found people who were knowledgeable, funny and welcoming but also, at times, provocative or challenging. I observed disagreements and sometimes quite heated interchanges between people who clearly respected each other, but who also recognised the importance of being able to defend an opinion, whilst absorbing other views, and if necessary adjusting or clarifying their position.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has worked in testing, that a collective of smart, thoughtful testers would question each other’s views and statements. The knowledge that your words will be scrutinised, coupled with Twitter’s limitation of 140 characters per tweet, is a powerful incentive to consider carefully what you might be about to say, and how you might say it precisely.
I would not wish for this to deter anyone who was inclined to join the community of testers on Twitter. Most people I have interacted with have been friendly and supportive. In a relatively short time I have met (virtually at least) some who have made a real effort to include me in some of the community’s activities.
Recognition of value
More than anything else, I have been struck by the willingness with which many people are prepared to share knowledge and ideas. Sometimes the methods used are innovative and eye-catching, and sometimes they are clearly the result of a major commitment of time and effort.
I have been genuinely taken aback by some of the initiatives which have been put in place by testers who want to contribute to the opportunities for their colleagues to learn and develop. There are resources, often freely available, which are amongst the very best that I have seen for anyone wishing to learn about and understand testing.
I think it is important to recognise that some of what is shared is truly valuable. Here are some practised people sharing material which, in my experience, can be of a higher quality than that which might be provided through some commercial training channels. We should be grateful for this.
I was undecided as to whether to include examples here in the article. There are many people working hard in many different ways to provide their fellow testers with valuable resources. However, to emphasise the point around the diversity of methods and quality of material, I think it is useful for me to list some examples. All of these can be accessed by clicking on the link in the text, or through the menu option ‘Essential for Testers’ on my site. Where relevant, I’ve included links to the Twitter feeds for the people I mention too:
Ministry of Testing – Led by Rosie Sherry, the Ministry of Testing provides articles, webinars, useful links, information and tips for job seekers and recruiters, and much more. A resource, but also it seems to me, the heart of a community.
developsense.com and satisfice.com – Articles, blogs, presentations and more from Michael Bolton and James Bach respectively. Both blog sites have a search facility and I heartily recommend making use of them if you have even the slightest interest in learning about testing.
Test Insane mindmap repository – A selection of mindmaps (over 150 available at the time of writing) on a wide range of subjects relating to testing. This repository really appeals to me as I have found mindmaps so effective in my own working life. A wonderful idea, neatly executed by Santhosh Tuppad and his colleagues.
Whiteboard Testing – A relatively recent initiative, but one which I hope continues to grow. This YouTube channel was the brainchild of Richard Bradshaw. A series of short videos using the humble whiteboard as the backdrop for discussions on testing related subjects.
Testing in the Pub – Podcasts from Stephen Janaway and Dan Ashby, often including interviews with other testers. This idea appeals to me on two levels, due to my interest in testing and my interest in pubs. Subscribe from iTunes or visit the website to download episodes.
Testing Curator and 5blogs – There are a number of excellent curated collections of testing articles and blogs. The first one I became aware of was Matt Hutchison’s (aka Testing Curator). I regularly read Matt’s blog and follow the links which he shares each week. I admire the discipline of anyone who commits to this kind of endeavour. On this note, I must also mention the incredible efforts of Simon P Schrijver who produces a list of five recommended blogs, five times a week. Remarkable!
Testing Trapeze – Shortly after I started writing my blog, Katrina Clokie asked me if I would be interested in contributing an article to Testing Trapeze magazine. I was really happy to do so and I was struck by the professionalism and commitment of everyone involved in the process of preparing the magazine. There are of course other excellent testing related publications, but I would highly recommend reading Testing Trapeze every two months.
I hope this demonstrates that the opportunities for learning (and contributing) are extensive, the means are diverse, and the content of these resources is often of an excellent standard. There are other forums for sharing ideas and knowledge which I haven’t even touched on here, notably meetup groups and conferences. My personal circumstances limit my opportunities for attending these kind of events, but I am aware of the incredible effort which goes into arranging them, speaking and attending. I hope that one day I will be able to participate in these forums too.
For many years, I have followed the fortunes of the riders in the Tour de France, the epic cycling race which occurs each July. I enjoy the race itself, the beautiful scenery and the incredible stories which are often associated with the daily stages and the riders themselves.
There is a term used amongst devotees of cycling, a single word intended to show respect and admiration for others. It is often used when a rider has done something remarkable, shown courage, or commitment beyond the call of duty. That word is ‘chapeau’, a French word which is translated into English as ‘hat’, but which means something far more profound to anyone who uses it in the context of cycling.
So, to the testers I have engaged with over the last six months, the people who have helped me to learn, and the people who invest their time and energy in writing, mindmapping, tweeting and talking about testing I say, “Chapeau!”
What have I missed? If you know of any great resources for testers, please share them in the comments below. I’ll add more links to my site as I become aware of them.