2020 was a year of starts and stops. Of more time but less mental energy. It was a year of developing patience and adapting to hard changes.
In early March my wife, an ICU nurse here in Los Angeles, saw the first signs of COVID coming in from travelers from Italy. Being ahead of the curve with little ability to do anything other than brace and watch it unfold forced us develop some humility.
In the AST we watched and guessed the trajectory of the virus as it spread country to country derailing our in person meeting. Then it shutdown major conference after major conference. All we could do was wait and see what are options were for our own conference, CAST. By the time it got canceled no one was surprised.
I spent more time at home with my family and less time on my commute. Despite these benefits I didn’t find more mental energy—quite the contrary. I had plans to attend many virtual conferences and I made it to none of them. Neither free nor paid. I had plans to write for other publications but couldn’t.
Writing became more consistent as I took to putting my frustrations down on paper instead. Yet I hardly published to my blog. I couldn’t get my mind to make space beyond the everyday challenges. There were / are so many things to say but no space available.
In the United States it seems like most of us will be working from home at least until Q1of 2021. I was thinking about this the other day: when will we see infection levels low enough that masks will no longer be required AND such a decision won’t lead to a rebound of the virus? And… When will a vaccine be available and widely used? In other words… it’s going to be at least another 6 months.This isn’t meant to be depressing, rather quite the opposite. Knowing the work situation will be the same for the next 6 months gives me the opportunity to change things up so the next 6 months are better than the previous.
Nearly 4 years ago I had my own home office. It was a full room and I could keep the door closed to avoid distractions. Now my desk is in the middle of the living room and I have to deal with such a busy place.
If I truly want to make my work situation better for the next 6 months what changes should I make to build an awesome home office space? Additionally, what can I do that is convenient and cost effective? The answer I found is to use as much equipment as I have access to from work and home.
I like working from home… but it feels different now.
Clarification: I like working from home, when it’s my choice.
My ideal work/life choice would involve: splitting the week into 2 or 3 days of in-office and from-home work. The extrovert in me would get to talk to my coworkers, pair up and communicate freely. The introvert in me would get to focus with limited distractions, kill my commute time and get to see my family a little more.
Back in the day I worked fully remote for over 3 years straight but this time I no longer have the same choices to keep me balanced. My old office became the kid’s bedroom and although I love my standing desk it’s also in the dining room. Staying inside for most of the workweek used to be fine when I could go out to eat for lunch or dinner or spend time with friends. Those options are much reduced today.
However even as we retreat from physical interaction I’m reminded there’s still the possibility to learn and connect with others. This morning I was Skyping with a friend in the Netherlands who had just gotten off of a random Zoom call with 30+ Strangers for an happy hour drink. Someone posted a link, others joined and enjoyed an after work drink together!
And that’s the point. There are still choices to be made despite our shelter-in-place orders. I take long walks with the family after work and on occasion I fly my drone to explore my surroundings. This weeks goal is to start taking walking breaks at regular interviews where I’ll listen to my podcasts and perhaps say hi to people doing the same. Who knows, maybe I’ll host or join social hangouts for fun?
My yearly tradition has been to summarize the most popular and important (to me) articles I’ve written over the past year along with some reflections and other forward-looking (and likely wrong) statements mixed in.
I joined BloomNation as a Test Automation Engineer in 2018 and in 2019 was promoted to senior role. The promotion was in part my testing contributions and hitting my goals but also the general impact I’ve had on the company outside of that role. During CAST I was telling people I had temporarily switched positions by taking on a Product Manager role until we could fill the vacancy. While temporary, I helped the company continue to deliver on a new core piece of the business and in turn it gave me some new experience and perspective. I plan to write about this experience soon.
Speaking of CAST 2019, this was my first year helping to organize and run a conference of any kind. I plan to write about this experience as well but suffice it to say this was both fascinating and incredibly hard.
I did some speaking in 2019, made my first and second podcast appearance and found what I hope is a sustainable model for supporting TestingConferences.org. I’ve started to become more serious about potential ways to support the things I do. In fact one theme of 2020 might be me figuring out how to balance all the things I want to do with all the things I’ve already committed to doing. Just like every year!
The Five Most-Viewed Articles:
How to debug problems on Mobile Safari – After showing a co-worker how they could debug mobile safari problems on their MacBook, I realized it wasn’t common knowledge. So I helped change that a bit but making it clear how to do it.
Participating in Code Reviews as a Tester – I’ve always liked the concept of helping testers push their technical understanding to reduce both risk and increase confidence. This post was based on a webinar of the same name and includes the slides and a link to watch the webinar.
How I Became an Automation Engineer – A talk based on my personal experiences of becoming an Automation Engineer and what my role looks like. This also became a blog post with references, slides and an embedded video.
It’s Easier to Write about Tooling – Whenever I go to conferences there is a heavy emphasis on what our tooling is. Even in my own writing there can be a heavy emphasis on tools and I think that’s just because it’s easier than writing about the decisions we took and models we made prior to choosing it.
Over 185k page-views in 2019
The first article made it into my top 10 articles over all, which is great. Traffic to this site continues moving up and to the right over time. In 2019 alone I had more than 185k page-views. That’s double the views in one year! Wow!
A Few Other Articles
It was the Creative Web that collapsed – The title of this post is a line from Edward Snowden’s new book, Permanent Record. It’s a great book, you should read it. I reflected on how Surveillance Capitalism is part of the world of the web and how I hope to limit that surveillance on all my sites.
Getting Paid to Learn was a reminder of how important it is to have the company you work for support your professional development. Making promises is one thing but taking action to do it has a positive effect on the people and the company culture.
These are articles were written because I was feeling the flow and when inspiration hits you take it. They turned out well, I’m proud to write consistently about topics that intrigue me and I hope there’s intrigue on the other side too.
The Future is already here
Predicting the future is fun and yet meaningless. But here are the things already on my radar for 2020. So much to consider and so little time:
CAST 2020 is already rolling with early bird ticket sales open.
I’m almost done teaching an AST-BBST Foundations course, my first in a few years and I’m constantly looking at the course with an eye for improvements.
Speaking of improvements, I’m still helping to redesign some aspects of the course AND of course trying to be a treasurer and handle all the financial things.
When it comes to writing I hope to continue the pace of 2x blog posts per month. It’s challenging but doable. More would be great but I want a constant pace to keep myself going.
Despite record setting viewership in 2019, I’m hoping to get better at self branding and sharing which should see page-views increase YOY again. I’ve already updated the newsletter to be less often so I can focus on driving readership for certain articles. I also intend to cross-promote on other blogging and reading platforms to gain viewership. So much to do.
I essentially did 3 presentations / talks in 2019 and I intend to do the same or a few more this year (especially for the online conferences). Hopefully I’ll also get around to making a few more podcast appearances because they are fun to do and fun to share.
Cheers to the rest of 2020! What will you be doing?
April has come and is nearly gone without any prose being published. I couldn’t have that. You see I’ve been writing but I haven’t condensed that prose into a nice enough package to share. In the meantime lots of things are happening that are worthy of sharing:
On Friday, May 3rd at 10:00am PST, I’ll be hosting Doug Hoffman for the AST’s May webinar on “The Often Overlooked Test Oracle: The Key to More Powerful Testing”. I love talking with Doug because he’s so knowledgeable and frankly I think Test Oracles aren’t very well understood. Learn More or Sign Up.
Despite being the “just” the Treasurer for the AST, I’m actively involved in most aspects of the business including finance, marketing, SEO, IT, conferences, education and elections to name a few. Ultimately what this means is I spend a good deal of my time trying to help improve the organization. It’s a fun challenge.
As it has become a yearly tradition I will attempt to summarize the most popular and important articles I’ve written over the year along with some other forward-looking (and likely wrong) statements mixed in with past reflections.
I’ve always spent a lot of time volunteering for the non-profit Association for Software Testing but seemed to take it to new highs as I recruited, promoted and led what I like to call “Season 1” of our webinar program. I also taught a class or two for AST-BBST and was elected to the Board of Directors!
Our home came very close to burning down in the most recent Southern California Wildfires (fires were stopped a few hundred yards away). Oh and I did a little writing:
The Five Most-Viewed Articles:
How To Run Your Selenium Tests Headlessly in Docker – A guide to setting up your test automation framework with a Chrome docker container for running your Selenium tests headlessly, complete with code examples. This has been my default configuration for the last year or so due to its simplicity.
Good and Bad UI Test Automation explained – Richard Bradshaw went off on a Twitter deep dive on UI test automation and the subtitles involved with doing it well. I enjoyed the tweetstorm and the topic so I decided to annotate those tweets and provide more context. I think I have enough information now to do a part 2 of this!
How to set up Apple Pay on Mac (non TouchID) – I was testing Stripe’s ApplePay integration but for some reason I wasn’t seeing ApplePay enabled through Safari. Googling didn’t help so after I figured it out I wrote a how to guide.
A typical day of Testing – How I worked in 2018, aka what a typical day of testing looked like for me. It’s amazing what a year difference can make!
The first two articles made it into my top 10 articles over all, which is great. Traffic to this site continues moving up and to the right over time. In 2018 alone I had more than 100k page views. So crazy!
A few other Important Articles:
After attending TestBash in San Francisco in November my family and I came home to find the surrounding areas of our home on fire. I find writing helps keep me calm and allows me to vent a bit so I wrote about the experience.
I enjoyed TestBash so much I wrote a recap of both Day 1 and Day 2.
I’m half way through Michael Lewis’ The Undoing Project and already loving it. I knew nothing about the subject before starting it and have been pleasantly surprised to find out it’s about Daniel Kahneman who wrote the very influential (great book) Thinking, Fast and Slow. Also there’s talk of data analysis and statistics!
Of the 2 mailing lists I run, one for this site and another for TestingConferences.org I’ve sent GDPR related confirmations to non-US subscribers. Of all the GDPR related emails I’ve recieved, only one came from a list I didn’t recognize / didn’t subscribe to.
The last few weeks have been crazy busy, but I hope to write more about it soon. Changes coming!
As it has become a yearly tradition I will summarize the most popular and important articles I’ve written over the year along with some other forward-looking (and likely wrong) statements mixed in with past reflections.
18 Github Projects for Testing – A simple list of 18 or so Github projects that might be useful for testing and/or testers. This includes a number of tools like Bug Magnet, Form Filler and PICT (a combinatorial tool), Libraries and Frameworks.
9 GitHub Lists for Testing – Another a simple list, this time made of other lists that might be useful for testing and/or testers.
How do I test this? – At some point last year I realized I wasn’t communicating the way I wanted to. Using the wrong words could have (potentially) been lowering my credibility by implying I was looking for someone else to tell me how to test something. I like suggestions on what to test, what changes to consider without actually insinuating I want someone to tell me how to test.
Testers, don’t be afraid to make Production Changes – Also one of my favorite posts of the year. We may find bugs that have such low risk and/or low priority they aren’t ever fixed. Sitting in this position can be annoying and unless you are pairing with a developer and/or have the knowledge yourself many of these things don’t get fixed. I started fixing them myself and I encourage others to do the same.
Practice Using Selenium Now – It’s possible to start learning to write UI automation with Selenium WebDriver by following the great tips over at the Elemental Selenium newsletter. This is a complied list on how to do that.
Contributing to GitHub is for Everyone – My first conference presentation ever, co-presented with Matt Heusser. It was an easy topic for my first presentation and I hope to build on it with a few other OnlineTestConf presentations.
Being a Distributed Tester was hard – I enjoy(ed) working from home but being on a distributed team in a non-distributed company was difficult and challenging. The scars are still there but I wouldn’t rule out trying this again. Turns out it helps to talk about it.
I’m proud to have published a tip called How to Run Your Tests Headlessly with Chrome, #72, on the Elemental Selenium newsletter. When I was learning to write Selenium tests I leaned heavily on these resources, so to be able to write my own tip was pretty satisfying. I don’t really write much outside of this blog so it’s kind of a big deal
I managed to write and publish more than one article per month for a grand total of 16. This seems like a reasonable volume with some fluff(ier) pieces, some short pieces and some longer pieces. Continuing this pace for 2018 seems doable.
Started a new job and expanded our family. It’s been a fun ride with some very fuzzy and sleep deprived moments.
I’m running AST’s webinar program and we have our second speaker lined up for the year. Alan Page will be talking about the (AB)use and Misuse of Test Automation in February. Sign up here.
My work is pushing me deeper into our rails application forcing me to learn more about our integration and unit level tests which is all fascinating and challenging. I’ve failed in a few attempts but I seem to have room to try and grow which is both scary and amazing at the same time. Turns out co-workers who always want to help and pair on things is very special.
Finding ways to use data to understand quality seems like a fascinating trend I intend to learn more about. I don’t know what this means yet but it sounds promising. I wonder if I can get someone to do a webinar on it..?
Stale posts seem inevitable as technologies and concepts change and my overall understanding evolves. Having said this I’d like to be able to update articles and maybe republish them as necessary. I have a few in the backlog that could come out in the next few months.
Maybe I’ll get to my first in-person conference in the last few years. Maybe I’ll even present at it.
I’m bad at long-term career planning. If you ask me where I see myself in 5 years, I can’t. For that reason I’ve probably never tried. Perhaps it’s being a father or just wanting a better designed life, but it now seems appropriate to find the time to develop both a plan and feedback system to do this instead of relying on luck.
In January I started working for Laurel & Wolf and went from being a distributed employee working from home to driving daily into an office. The commute is roughly an hour each way so I began looking for ways to consume items from my reading backlog (books, articles, papers, etc.) so that I can utilize that lost time. In the past I’ve purchased Audiobooks but I was hoping to have more choices and/or not have to sign up for a new service like Audible.
Almost by accident I remembered Instapaper’s iOS app has text-to-speech support. (I consider this to be an accessibility feature although I don’t think it was designed with that purpose in mind.) With it, I’m able to create playlists of articles and have them read back to me like an audiobook as I drive. This has been particularly handy with those longer articles I’ve hesitated to dedicate time towards. Aside from bookmarked videos and code-heavy posts which don’t translate well, this functionality has been a huge win.
After a few weeks of Instapaper reading articles to me, I wondered if I could get my existing eBooks to do the same thing. Between the Kindle iOS app and iBooks, I had at 15 books sitting around ready to be consumed.
Turns out iOS has an accessibility feature called Speak Screen. (Below is a screen recording showing you how to turn it on.) Simply toggle it on, swipe down from the top with 2 fingers and a SIRI voice will read the screen for you. Speak Screen can turn pages and will continue reading until you stop it. Page turning works a little better in iBooks than Kindle but both are doable. Despite a few miss-pronunciations and the monotone-ness of its voice, the result is a free Audiobook from your eBook!
However, if phones and other IoT devices (like smart speakers) can dictate books and other text, does this replace the need for audiobooks? If I can get 80% of the value of the audiobook through my eBook why would I buy a different, more expensive product? True, audiobooks have better voices (professionals voice actors, tones, and style that may be hard for a computer to replicate) but is that enough to compete with lower priced eBooks that can be both?
The challenge with any good technological advancement is what long term impact it will have. Is this merely an accessibility improvement or the end of Audiobooks? In the short term I’ve solved my problem!
I grew up with a lot of books in our home but I rarely recall someone reading them. My mother was perhaps the most avid reader with her interest in romance novels while my dad read the daily newspaper and his magazines. Their library was (and still is) a homage to the books they read, not an anti-library of books to read. As a result reading for fun wasn’t a place I visited much in my youth.
Things started to change around the time I became interested in computers. Our first computer with a modern OS was a Gateway 2000 with Microsoft Windows 95 and in those days came with Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia. Despite having physical encyclopedia’s in the house I gravitated more towards exploring the digital encyclopedia. Reading it was fun because you had (in those days) quick access to vast amounts of information for a wide range of subjects. Essentially it was the pre-cursor to the vast archives of Wikipedia where to this very day I can still spend hours “wasting time” digging through articles & googling tangentially related things like How much money did Home Alone gross and what can I learn about Joe Pesci?
Reading is the Input
Today things are much different. Between micro-news, articles, blogs, podcasts, audiobooks and books I read daily, kind of like a maniac. Much of this feeds into my inspiration for writing. It might be a topic I agree with, some description or analogy that helped me understand something or even something I disagree with and want to see if I could explain / convince someone of better.
I start by capturing the inspiration either on paper (and later transferring them to) or directly in Evernote (something I highly recommend). The more I read, the more I discuss, the more pieces I seem to gather. Just last week I added three notes on topics such as: test cases are not deliverables, why the distinction of black-box and white-box testing approaches are valuable and some thoughts on testers writing production code. Turns out this method of capturing ideas in small pieces and storing them for later is what Jerry Weinberg calls The Fieldstone Method in his book Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method. (Think of walking through a field of stones and collecting ones you think will be useful later when building things.)
Writing is the Output
The workflow goes something like this:
Find an interesting topic or idea and write it down in Evernote (initially just as a title)
Add whatever context, or information or inspiration I come up with as bullet points
Tag it with a topic and priority
Forget about it until the time my energy for the topic comes back (or if it never goes away keep working on it)
At this point I’ve collected slightly less than two hundred notes (or fieldstones) on a wide range of topics. Most are about software development but it doesn’t matter what topics they are on, as long as I think they might have some value I’ll collect them. Over time I hope to have enough stones to assemble articles like this one and maybe a book or two. For me these two things, reading and writing are linked; one is the input and the other the output.