Uncharted Waters

January 26, 2018  10:59 AM

Motivation Matters

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
HR, motivation

MotivationImagine for a moment you come into a small team and see a gaping problem with the infrastructure — the test process doesn’t find the right bugs. Instead of running the same tests over and over again, you want to pivot, to address emergent risks. Or perhaps you want to add change the performance tests to run under secure mode to be more accurate. It doesn’t matter what needs to be done as much as your motivation to see it done.

You write a bunch of cards defining this new work, which will take about the next two-week sprint for the whole team. Then you get team buy-in. Next you talk to the product owner about changing the entire flow of the work for two weeks to this new approach.

What’s going to happen now?

The answer, of course, is “It depends.” Most people will recognize it depends on how much schedule pressure the product owner is under, as well as the company culture.

What we often miss is that it depends on the Product Owner’s personal motivation style.

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January 24, 2018  2:35 PM

The Socialtext Effect

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Socialtext LogoDoes anyone else remember back when the web was mostly static brochures, bad eCommerce sites, and hand-curated “search” engines?

That year was 1999, when Darcy Dinucci defined the term “Web 2.0” to mean sites where the user brings the value. Flickr, Etsy, Youtube and Facebook are all web 2.0 companies. Without customers uploading, adding, and sharing, these sites are just empty shells.

Tim O’Reilly’s List of Web 2.0 concepts (below) includes the wiki, the editable web page. Today there is a wiki plug-in for all the major information sharing tools, but in 2002, there was only one company offering a commercial tool: Socialtext.

Socialtext was Web 2.0

I worked at Socialtext for three years, and met some of the brightest minds in the industry. Here’s the story, a little of the why, and how to build something like that in your organization.

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January 22, 2018  10:14 PM

Better Story Slicing

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

Slicing up user stories into something useful has been trouble at every company I have worked with. Usually what happens is the development gets stories in various states. One story is clear cut and takes a day. The description of another story seems clear cut, but ends up taking a week or more. Product management complains that sprints are unpredictable. Each late feature cascades into the next sprint causing something, probably important, so shift off the immediate radar.

Unpredictability isn’t the problem, though. I’m not even convinced it is ‘a’ problem at this point. Unpredictability is a symptom of something going on in the organization. Luckily, it can be fixed and like with most things in life this gets easier with practice.

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January 9, 2018  9:16 AM

Cultivating Good Hiring Practice

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

Google created Project Oxygen in 2013 to review data starting in 1998 about every person they employed. This project reviewed data surrounding hiring, firing and people leaving google, and how people move around in the company. The goal was to discover what made the best Google employee. The result was that Google ended up learning what most of the software world already knows. The best employees, according to Project Oxygen, have the ability to coach, listen, empathize, think critically and solve problems. Being able to describe big O to coworkers wasn’t on the list. Being fluent in the latest javascript framework du jor wasn’t on the list.

From what I gather, Google hiring practices tend to be heavy on credential requirements and programming tests. That doesn’t exactly reflect the results of this project. So, how do we cultivate good hiring practices? Or at least, hiring practices that build capable teams?

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January 2, 2018  9:52 PM

On Boarding New Technical Staff

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

On board is something technical people don’t seem to think about very often. Bigger companies handle this through the Human Resources department. There is probably a handbook and a series of videos explaining step by step what to do with a new person. IT builds new computers based on employee profiles so that everything is setup on the new person’s first day. The startups I have worked with didn’t have any of this. I had to get my computer setup and figure out what systems I needed access to when someone pointed me to a URL that I couldn’t log into.

I am starting the new year with a new gig, and that reminded me of some of my preferences for the first day on a new job.

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December 30, 2017  8:27 PM

Favorite Browser Extensions for Test and Quality

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
browser, IT, quality, test

Favorite Browser Plugins

It wasn’t too many years ago the world discovered Selenium IDE, the record/playbook tool the runs for free in the browser. Click, click, click, verify that this result had that value, and testers could suddenly create automation … of a sort … in FireFox. It quickly became the favorite browser extension of many a tester. Then again, it was the only browser extension of many a tester.

A few years after that, James Whittaker suggested the Heads Up Display (or HUD) for testing at the Google Test Automation Conference. That discussion starts about 49 minutes in:

It’s been some time since Whittaker’s talk. The Tester’s Heads Up Display never quite materialized, but we can build our own.   That is, we have tools that pop in, pop-up, insert data, and show things that are happening on the browser that usually require acrobatics in the web developer tools console.

Here are a few of my favorite browser plugins, primarily for Chrome, all at no cost.

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December 29, 2017  9:43 AM

2018 Skill Development

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
IT skills

I have written these posts several times before. Usually I make a list of a few ‘it’ technologies, a few small and high profile community events and that’s that. Of course, for good reason, I never get to most of these ideas to develop a new skill. Most people are in similar situations, I think. We have things we want to do and no time to make any real progress. 2018 will be different for me. I am starting a new contract in January, and the business I am apart of is rapidly changing and growing. 2018 will be a year of forced skill development. These aren’t things I’d like to do when there is time….if there is time.

Here is the list

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December 21, 2017  4:08 PM

Outfitting Your Home Office

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Home Office, remote work

Earlier in 2017, I wrote about some of the dynamics of working from a home office. I have worked from my house for about 50% of my career in technology now and have settled into a routine. Working from home isn’t a novelty for me, it is how I prefer to work and helps me to design a life that I want to live. Offices are wonderful for some people, they provide a format and structure for every day, as well as some forced social interaction.

Getting to the point where working from home requires time so you can acclimate, and also building something that resembles a usable office space. I want to quickly describe what my office looks like and how it got that way.

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December 15, 2017  10:05 AM

What Does Good Product Management Look Like?

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Developers, Product management

My favorite product manager I have ever worked with treated the development group with a sort of benign neglect. He spent most of his time outside of the office talking with customers. Randomly, he came back to home base with a blast of feature ideas. Some were well thought out and describe, others were a sentence or two. These ideas got passed on to a developer to turn into software. Somehow, he was usually happy with the results whether we knew what he wanted or had to make guesses. After that, he was off for another round of customer visits and generally inaccessible during that time.

He was my favorite product manager to work with, but probably not the best. So, what makes a good product manager?

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December 7, 2017  1:39 PM

The Skill Development Myth

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
"Work-life balance", Programming

I was at an important cusp about a month ago. One big contract was ending and I had till the end of the year to get something new lined up for 2018. Nothing was in the queue and it was stressing me out. There is low demand for non-technical testers working mostly remote and traveling to work on-site occasionally. I am somewhere in-between. I can learn an API, build page objects, and write automation code, but I’m not a full blown SDET type person that can also write tools on the fly. Currently, at least.

I talked to some people and they suggested I learn a new skill, programming in javascript or python, at night after my workday. Actually, it was phrased more like this. Hey, can’t you just learn to program at night?

The idea that someone can ‘just’ go off at night and learn to program, or any new skill is a myth. This goes for contractors and full timers alike. Let me explain.

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