Ep 86: Don’t be afraid to catch feels

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about human interaction with computers, the way humans connect to and feel about the tech in their lives, and how we evoke emotions using technology (both purposely and incidentally).

I’ve started work at the BBC, for the BBC Taster website, which serves experiences like a journey of a family from Syria to the UK, or an interactive graphic novel that has you making choices that will change the way world war 2 plays out (highly recommend this one, it’s still available, and I’m not saying I fucked it, but the Americans nuked the Germans in my attempt, so see if you can do better than me). These are obviously intended to make you feel things, and that’s important to look at and consider, but I’m also intrigued by mundane day to day aspect of human emotion in tech.

I recently backed an app called Aloe – it’s based on an online service that offers a check in and prompts you to do some self care. Seemingly obvious things like, taking a walk, or drinking water or a reminder to take your meds.

The app will allow you to set your own self care goals, things that may not be obvious, or work for everyone, but you know work for you – for me it would be to go to spin class once a week, as exhausting myself at least once a week is great for my mental health.

One thing the online version prompts you to do is to pick a plant that represents how you feel that day – things like a succulent, or a cactus, or a sunflower. And that’s great, sometimes you don’t want to acknowledge your feelings enough to put a word to it or can’t boil it down to words, but looking at a series of images and choosing one that speaks to you is pretty awesome.

Another thing I’m interested in the esoteric, about how tech is replacing or augmenting aspects of spirituality in certain spaces. Leigh Alexander has spoken about this, about how humans compulsively sweep their thumbs over the screen as if their phone is a modern day religious tablet or token bringing luck or solace in anxious times (also come talk to me about emoji as sigils in modern spell casting or predictive text as tarot). Humans cling to superstition, to things that reduce anxiety (regardless of how healthy that may be).

Binky, the entirely fake app that provides swiping and refreshing but without any actual connection started as a satire of people’s need to be connected, to refresh, but people have found it really useful for curing their need to swipe. A placebo, if you will, that you can wean off as you’re literally not missing anything.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this. As we put more and more of our lives into tech, we put our feelings there as well, and that’s something we should be thinking about

You might not be working on an evocative project, but your users and your team will still feel something about your project. Maybe the best thing you want from your app is for your users to feel that small satisfaction of something going as smoothly. A check off a to do list. But if that means that users have more time everywhere else, that will elicit a good feeling. Maybe you want people to engage in something that isn’t fun or interesting, but necessary (If I could have an app that tells me which bin I need to put out which week, I’d be happy with that. I should set up calendar notifications, but my council keep changing my bin collections. Yes, I do sound like a daily mail reader, what of it?).

I guess, my challenge to you is: think about what you’re working on right now. I bet you know a fair amount about the purpose and use cases for it. But how will it make people feel? Excited? Anxious? The small and seemingly inconsequential satisfaction of something going smoothly or being completed easily?

Think about the current state of your work: Is it making (or going to make) users feel the way you want it to?

Next: what do you feel about it? Happy? Angry? Why? What can you do to change or amplify or even just maintain these feelings? What feelings are users going to have coming into your app or project, and what should you do about those?

I advocate stepping back from work a lot as for the most part, the bugs and work don’t ‘belong’ to us, they belong to the product owners, the business. But sometimes, thinking about how it makes you feel can open up new avenues of investigation. Or open up new insights into your emotional state, and that’s something that is useful to take note of. We get so used to the Monday: boo, friYAY cycle that sometimes I think we forget that we spend a lot of time at work, and maybe we should consider if we’re actively unhappy more often that not.

Basically: FEELS. Think about them <3

Ep 85: Sound Effects and Overdramatics

This week is the Manchester Testbash crew!

Matt, Claire, and I talk about out experiences of putting our first successful conference submissions together and how we’re preparing. We’re planning on doing a part two post Testbash to reflect on the days themselves.

You can find Claire on twitter and she writes for Ministry of Testing.

First, what we’re doing at Testbash:

Matt is giving a workshop(!) on APIs for beginners
Claire is giving a talk about her personal experience with imposter syndrome
I’m giving a talk on mental health and anxiety in testing

Tickets are still available!

Step one: Submission

Where can I start to gain confidence and experience before submitting?

  • Write blogs but don’t publish them
  • Take something you’ve read/watched/heard and create a small talk to a couple of people at work that you feel comfortable presenting to
  • Lightning talks/90 second talks
  • Attend meetups and just talk to other people – you will have something to share and you will be surprised at how different your experience can be.
  • Build up to bigger talks – present a talk to more of your company, or a local meetup (plenty of meetups that encourage new speakers).
  • If you get the opportunity – go to a peer conference
  • Outside encouragement – people will cheerlead you if you want to get into public speaking

What to submit

  • Technical talks
  • Overcoming a challenge / solving a problem
  • Personal experience report
  • Workshop

Where to submit

  • Consider whether you will have to pay to speak
  • MoT Open CFP
  • Other conferences which have a deadline for submissions
  • Smaller events like Leeds Testing Atelier
  • At home or abroad ?
  • Will your employer allow you to attend or will you need to book time off ?
  • Do you know anyone who has spoken at an event you are interested in ?
  • What was their experience like?
  • Can you submit the same talk to multiple conferences ?

How to put a submission together

  • What do I want to say
  • Why do I want to say it
  • What will other people get out of listening to me

Step two: oh god, what have I done (putting the talk/workshop together)

  • Scripted talk or more free-form ?
    • Notes
  • Avoid slides that you just read out
  • Using keywords or images as prompts

Step three: Practice AKA the countdown

  • Talk through it yourself – friends / family etc
  • What reads well on paper isn’t always very easy to say. Better to compromise your language so that it flows more naturally than tripping over pronunciations.
  • Practice at smaller events / internal company audience
  • Resources if you are new to speaking (i.e.: James Whittaker videos: one, two)

Episode 82: You’ve Got All These Great Answers

To All These Great Questions

WE’RE BACK and with a bumper episode of Let’s Talk About Tests, Baby.

Matt and I have both gone for interviews, so we decided to do an episode about it. We talk about applying to jobs, sussing out the language if job adverts, CVs and cover letters, and the dreaded interview. Matt also has experience on the other side of the table, so he brings that insight to the episode as well.

Mindmap
Interview MindMap

Things we mention:

BugFinders
uTest
http://www.testingeducation.org/BBST/
http://www.satisfice.com/info_rst.shtml
http://www.istqb.org/
http://www.askamanager.org/

Episode 81: It’s the small things that count

This week I talk to Andrew Morton about unit tests!

We cover the basics of units tests: what they are, and what they do. We also cover unit tests as documentation, pitfalls to avoid, and some tools you might see in the wild.

References and resources we mention:

https://github.com/testingchef/bad-units – A repo of bad unit tests
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8I8-hVS5JI – Andrew’s Whiteboard Testing video on unit tests as documentation

Ep 80: Who lives, who dies, who tells your story

Manchester is my adoptive city, and I am even more in love with it after this week. Strange to feel pride and be heartbroken at the same time. I was hoping to get a bee tattoo but all the tattoo parlours have been overwhelmed by demand, so I may get one at a later date, and just make a donation to the fund.

Life goes on, and so do we.

I went to an event on Thursday about storytelling called What Makes You, You? I wanted to go to primarily get tips for my other podcast (Inner Pod), and help people come up with their own stories, but I actually found a lot that connected with me on a testing level.

So, testers being story tellers isn’t a new thing, people have spoken about it before (on this podcast even!), Huib Schoots is running a workshop on it at London Tester Gathering workshops etc., but the guy who did the talk/workshop thing (Andrew Thorp) really solidified the crossover between testers and storytelling.

Okay, so firstly, there were parts of this that were a bit wanky. Like the concept of storyselling (selling something using storytelling), but he did admit he usually gave this talk to corporate types who sell things for a living, not for creative types who are looking for a way to either sell themselves to get better at public speaking or interviewing. Overall I found it incredibly useful, and have some pointers in my arsenal when it comes to building a good story and helping people build theirs. If you’re in the area and interested, he’s doing the same talk again on 13th June.

The most common thing I hear when asking people to come on the show is something like ‘I’ve got nothing new to say/I’m not interesting enough’, which firstly is bullshit otherwise why would I be asking you to come on the show? But more importantly, Andrew had 3 principles for having a good story, and they are basically 3 principles for being a good tester.

Hoovering: Hoover up experiences. Not just your own, other people’s as well. Think about observational comedy and how those kinds of comedians can turn something small into something significant. They can see the importance in these things.

Testers should do the same. It’s only in learning about other’s experiences that I, as a web tester, can learn how people interact with the sites and apps they use. It’s as I learn about new technology that I can see how it’ll connect with my job going forward. It’s noticing the small things and the effect they may have that mean testers can catch cases that others may have missed.

Be interested: Being interested is great on many levels. Interested people tend to be interesting. Firstly, interested people tend to do active listening, which is listening where the listener fully concentrates, understands, responds and then remembers what is being said. It’s not reflective listening, where you repeat what the speaker said to drive home shared understanding, and it’s definitely not the false listening I find myself falling into occasionally, when I’m either jumping in to say something and slightly talking over people because I’m excited, or even worse, waiting for someone to stop speaking so you can speak. We all fall into the trap – we think faster than we can speak or listen – but we need to learn to listen.

This is fairly obvious in how it relates to testing, we should be listening to our co-workers, our stakeholders, our clients, everyone. Our job is just as much taking in other people’s stories as it is telling our own. In fact, one of my biggest issues is getting clients to tell us their stories. People know they need a website but often smaller businesses, or more corporate brands may not know what message, what story they are trying to sell.

Be willing to open up the bonnet. Curiosity! Curious people have things to say, and testers are curious people. Not just curious in their work but outside their work as well. Being curious not only facilitates the previous two points but also allows you to craft your own story. If you’re not curious how do you know what excites you, or angers you, or just leaves you apathetic. These, across contexts, will allow you to craft your own story.

I’m giving but a small sliver of my Testbash talk at Liverpool Tester Gathering on 15th June. Come along! https://www.meetup.com/Liverpool-Tester-Gathering/events/240216573/

More links
https://www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation

Andrew’s free PDF on storytelling/storyselling: http://mojoyourbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/School-of-Mojo-Manifesto-21.03.17.pdf

Ep 79: It Takes Two (Rebroadcast)

Back in October last year, I spoke to Maaret Pyhäjärvi about pair testing. We did a session of pair testing then recorded our debrief/thoughts on the session. It is a great episode, and the shownotes are full of great resources, including the mindmap we used during our session.

However, the editing and sound quality was not amazing. Maaret was quite quiet compared to me, and it was difficult to listen to. I’ve been wanting to reedit and rebroadcast for a while, and finally circumstances came together to do this. The sound still isn’t perfect, but I think it’s a lot clearer, and the volume makes more sense. I’ve also made the outro a bit quieter so there isn’t suddenly a big jump in sound.

I hope you all enjoy the new improved episode 61!

Ep 78: May the Testbash be with you

So this week we finally discuss Testbash Brighton and the freshly announced Testbash Manchester!

First, Testbash Brighton. Testbash was awesome as always. Brighton moved to a new venue but all the normal Testbash awesomeness applied!

 

Conference Day Takeaways

  • Nice to see a focus on empathy
  • Empathy for developers
  • Empathy for customers – Tito customer feedback/Ethics in testing
  • Good balance of tech/non-tech
  • Range of topics! Starting as a new tester in agile, AI and testers, ethics, how testing has changed, API testing, Toolsmiths.
  • Not all speakers were testers: there was a professor + 2 Devs turned CEOs!
  • Testers creating better Turing tests kind of blew my mind despite being bloody obvious now I think about it
    • Testers as the ideal middleman between understanding how people work and how machines work.
  • Lots of juicy ideas to take into my new job that I’ve just started. Amy Philips and Del Dewar’s talks covering ideas on starting on a new project and what good leadership really means.

Open Space Takeaways

  • A nice, low pressure environment to share
    • Can be a discussion or a question, not necessarily a talk or workshop (though they can be done as well)
    • Dan Billing did a demo of Burp Suite and a whirlwind tour to Ticket Magpie (see episode 77)
  • Matt did a session on bringing testing into education (schools, uni, etc – see episode 75 for our talk on a testing syllabus)
  • I did a session on mental health with Mike Talks, which was so awesome
  • A talk popped up during the last break of the open space where we shared stories about people in our lives we were grateful for, and why, and it was a genuine love-in.

Testbash Takeover!

So if you check out the lineup for Testbash Manchester you should see a couple of familiar names! Matt is doing a workshop on API testing, aimed at people wanted to get into API testing who may not have done so before.

I am giving a talk called Anxiety Under Test. With as few spoilers as possible, I’m going to be talking about my anxiety, and how I’ve applied the strategies I’ve learned to help cope with my anxiety to testing, with a quick look at how you can check in with your own mental health and keep on top of it.

The rest of the lineup look A+ and we’re looking forward to an amazing few days!

If you can’t make the conference there will be the pre- and post-testbash meetups as always. These are free to attend so come along and hang out with a bunch of great people!

Ep 77: The sonic screwdriver won’t get me out of this one

This week I talk to Dan Billing! (Check out his podcast: Screen Testing (co-hosted with another friend of the show Neil Studd!))

We cover how to get into Security Testing, a brief look into the mindset of security testing, and share resources to allow you to start Security Testing ethically, legally, and without making your Sys Admins angry.

Topics covered:

  • Resources and tools!
  • Being legal and ethical
    • Check your local laws – in the UK/EU/US it’s illegal to hack a production site
    • There are some fake sites to train/practice this testing:
    • If you’re bringing this testing into your workplace, seek permission first
      • Talk to your system admins/security team/technical team/line manager
    • Get a quarantined environment to work on
    • Take a backup on the environment first
    • Warn your sys admin team before you start crawling sites/running reports – they may have logging and be alerted to suspicious behaviour (and do you ever really want to piss off your sys admins?)

Thanks to Dan for being on the show, and thanks for reading/listening. If you want to support the show you can rate and review us on iTunes or check out the Patreon!