My Life In Panto

If you know me you’ll be familiar with my brass banding. I enjoy performing on stage, but generally only with an instrument on my face. I don’t like to act or song or do anything that may require me to use my voice.

So, the following ancient film is a rare thing. It’s me, on stage, during my RAF trade training at RAF Locking, all the way back in 1988. I would have been 19 when this was filmed:

I’ve included the code for it to start at the correct point, but if it starts at the beginning our course’s bit starts around the 33rd minute or so. That is ME right at the start, talking in a Yorkshire accent at a million miles an hour. I am sorry that there are no subtitles.

Thanks to Paul Harris for putting this on Youtube (whoever you are)


Star Wars Rebels Season Two

I have seen some news that will make my daughter very happy; season two of Star Wars Rebels starts later this month! The bad news; we don’t have any of the Disney Channels so we can’t watch it until it comes out on DVD.


Ruby has surprised me a little bit by becoming a bit of a Star Wars fan. We’ve watched, together, the original trilogy and she loved it. I asked for Star Wars Rebels for Christmas, and we’ve raced through the whole series. It is very good, and Ruby has thoroughly enjoyed watching it with me. It’s a shame we won’t get to watch it for a while.

Anyway, here is the trailer:


We haven’t got The Clone Wars yet. That’s six seasons of Star Wars goodness to come. We think Ruby is a bit too young for the prequels just now (maybe next year) and certainly too young for the new one. In the meantime, I’m glad that she likes a bit of Space Opera. I should try her with something else, but most SciFi isn’t really aimed at six year-olds.


Mapping biases

One of my favourite aspects of systems thinking was the consideration of thinking traps. It brings into play all kinds of problems with the way that humans consider information, and why we often grab the wrong end of a stick (the shitty end, usually).

Maaike Brinkhof has written a very nice blog post about mapping biases to testing, the first part of a longer series of posts. She writes about how a book by Daniel Kahneman – thinking fast and slow has encouraged her to consider how our preconceptions can affect our decision making. There’s a few bits about ‘system 1 and system 2’ thinking (which I’ve read about before somewhere) and there’s loads of good information for the considered tester.

By a total coincidence one of the other blogs I follow has also posted something about biases: Duck or Rabbit by What’s The PONT. I’m sure you’ve seen the duck/rabbit picture before, but there’s some discussion about how our biases/perspective might inform our views and decisions. This is also worth a read.

This is all important stuff. As noted in the second blog, knowing and doing are different things. We might think we know what we are doing in our work/life, but looking at the evidence for our activity in a different way might reveal more detail that we have missed. Maaike talks about heuristics in the first post, and these can be very helpful in guiding us to better decisions, by making us consider the less obvious (or knowledge blocked by our biases and perspectives).

For instance, I am more than aware that my negative feelings for Test Management application HP ALM mean that I cannot ever think it is the best tool for the job. I may be mistaken (but I don’t think so). Lots of people seem to use it, even giving it positive reviews. My biases inform me that they are all wrong, but maybe it’s me that cannot see the benefits?

I’ll be looking forward to the rest of the series by Maaike for sure. My testing friends should also read it (and What’s The Pont too – some excellent systems thinking posts there).

Attenborough Nature Reserve

It snowed! You probably noticed.

Rather than stare at the rare phenomenon out of our window we decided to tackle it head on and head down to our local nature reserve. It was beautiful, as you can see from the follow photos.

flickr photo shared by rutty under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license
flickr photo shared by rutty under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license
flickr photo shared by rutty under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license
flickr photo shared by rutty under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license
flickr photo shared by rutty under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Using Selenium

There’s an increasing need to use automation to assist with our testing. We are about to launch into developing a huge, new system that interacts with all sorts of existing systems. This is an off-the-shelf application (which will require limited testing itself) which is to replace some existing systems, expand the capability of current users and hopefully make everything easier for everyone.

We will need to create a whole pile of integration tests and along with some business process tests. Automating some of the checking of the business processes early on will ensure that we will have more time to spend on the tricky bits (like testing the interfaces).

The prime candidate for automation tool is Selenium Webdriver. I’ve only used it briefly, though have had some experience with its older sibling Selenium RC. I’ve never created a project like this from scratch before, though I have helped create one using HP QTP. I’m familiar with the basic steps of creating an automated test package, but I am in dire need of some education to help make better decisions before I dive in both feet first (and make an utter dog’s dinner of it).

So, I have subscribed to an excellent, free starter course by Dave Haeffner (which is delivered by email; and I shall also be watching this Youtube video:

We may have other options. I have also been familiarising myself with Visual Studio, a product I’ve not used before. I’ve downloaded the Community addition and tried a few guides, and it looks like a pretty decent IDE for coding. We will probably use C# (I’ll need to convert my java experience, but this seems doable). You can automate with Visual Studio  but you need the Enterprise edition (too expensive, most likely). We are also considering other tools, but Selenium seems to be a good choice for our needs.

I need to be careful not to concentrate so much on the automation that I forget to actually do some testing. It’s easy to get buried in technical solutions and ignore the important stuff. I’ll be sure to add some time in there for exploratory testing and I’ll be talking to our UX folks to assist with making sure that our users will like it.

So far my new job has been rather good. Lots of scope for learning new things, great people to work with and a fantastic supportive work environment.

RIP Alan Rickman

It’s been a bloody awful start to 2016 for celebrity deaths, hasn’t it? Two giants of the British entertainment industry gone with days of each other, both 69 and both had cancer.

Alan Rickman made even some pretty iffy films watchable (see Robin Hood) by his immense presence and always-entertaining delivery. He’s done some incredible work over the last three decades and he’s going to be greatly missed.

Twitter provided me with this extremely funny sketch – a rework of the famous Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen:

He’s on stage with 3 excellent comedians and outperforms them all (although Vic Reeves is particularly hilarious too)

Rosie needs your help

flickr photo shared by rutty under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I am a tester. I test software for a living, but I inevitably can’t help but test just about everything that comes my way. I wonder how things work – or, more likely, wonder why something was made that way. I internally correct other people’s grammar (even though mine isn’t exactly perfect) and get quite grumpy when ‘Enterprise’ software works like a dog.

I love testing and being a tester. I tried my hand at software development, and while I can write code I know where my strengths lie. I like testing so much that I regularly attend testing events in Nottingham, constantly read testing-related blogs and articles and try my best to help along other testers. I’ve still got a lot to learn about my trade, but the testing community is particularly good at helping each other, with a number of excellent resource sites and one particularly good tester community site, The Software Testing Club.

Rosie Sherry runs this site, along with a sister site that is aimed at tester training. There is all sorts of good stuff on there – it’s called The Ministry of Testing – and it’s worth the money to go ‘Pro’ and do some learning’ a-plenty.

However, Rosie is getting rather snowed under with stuff and needs the testing community’s help to grow this network. Have a read of her article ‘I Need Your Help‘ and see if you can do something.

Every time I try to decide how to best to grow this thing then I can’t help, but go back to how I need to work with the community.  However, now I need to do it in a more intense and focused way.

So, I’m on the hunt for Creators.  If you have projects, ideas, articles, meetups, events, videos or any other stuff that you would like to see happen then I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU.  Also, we have lots of things that we’d like to see happen so we’ll constantly be pitching ideas and opportunities.

Want to help? Give her a shout!