Tuesday, December 10, 2013

WHOSE up for a little skill?

A Brief Summary:

I went to WHOSE, a workshop with a mandate to create a list of skills and am now back.  I want to briefly summarize my experiences.  The idea was generated by Matt Heusser to attempt to have a list of skills that could be learned by anyone interested in a particular skill in testing.  The list of skills was to be put in a modern format and presented to the AST board.  In part I did it because I felt like the CDT community had too little organized detail on how to implement the activity of test.

WHOSE worked on this thing?

I was not present for the first few hours, so I missed out on giving a talk.  When I got there I met my fellow WHOSE'rs:

Jess Lancaster, Jon Hagar, JCD (me), Nick Stefanski, Pete Walen, Rob Sabourin, David Hoppe, Chris George, Alessandra Moreria, Justin Rohrman, Matt Heusser (facilitator), Simon Peter Schrijver (facilitator), Erik Davis (facilitator).

It was a blur of new faces and people I had read from but had not gotten to meet before.  Later, Doug Hoffman showed up.  I was made late when my plane did not actually make it to the airport, having been rerouted.

WHOSE line is it anyway? (Day 1)

This being my first conference, my initial reaction was to keep silent and just observe.  The group had about 200 cards on a table with a bunch of skills semi-bucketed (skills that 'felt' similar).  The definition of a skill was unknown to me still, in spite of the fact that I had researched and considered this problem for hours.  I had also looked into how to model the information, I had considered the Dreyfus model and how it might be used

Many of the blog posts I have written were in fact considerations of skills, such as my reflections post, to help prepare me.  I had debated what a skill is with my fellow testers, and even created a presentation, and now I was standing facing what felt like 200 or so skills.  How do you organize them?  Outside of that, what questions do I ask and who do I ask?  Sometimes when a tester doesn't have a lot of answers and no one obvious to ask, who has the time, you just poke around and that is what I did.  I created a few skills I saw were missing and possibly a few that might not be considered skills, or at least not as written.  For example, I wrote out Reflections, Tool Development both which I thought were reasonable and XML which I thought was questionable.  For some reason, as a young tester I found XML to be scary because I didn't understand the formatting and so XML seemed to belong, yet did it?  Eventually the task moved to grouping which seemed to happen while I was still behind a little.  Clearly my impromptu skills were a bit lacking.

WHOSE cards are these?

I wanted to take on the technical piece since I feel like that is the part I can provide the most feedback.  I had written in the airplane a hierarchy of technical skills in the hope that they could use, but feared might be too technical, too 'computer science'.  Having mentioned this, no one seemed enthused to combined the two lists, which I'm not sure if that is for better or for worse.  Having Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) without going into the depth of typing, generics, etc. and how that is useful in testing much less automation or tool smithing seems incomplete.  Coding as the only technical skill involving programming is clearly too small.  Is OOP a good stopping point?  I would have chosen more depth, but I also know there is a limit to what 15 or so people can get done in a few days.

We started through the cards and skipping my list, I acted as a sort of wiki gate keeper (a role I didn't much like) while other people did research on the definition of the skill as well as resources for the skill.  Some people seemed interested in very formal definitions and resources while others liked informal 'working' definitions and web blogs.  I mean no criticism on any particular view point, but I tended towards the informal side.  We ended with a show and tell of our work which seemed interesting.  One group had a lovely format.  Another group had extensive research and a third group had lots of definitions completed.  I noted that if we moved each definition onto its own page no gate keeper would be required.  We closed up feeling a little bit dazed by the amount of work left.

WHOSE on first? (Day 2)

Rob S. had emailed Matt H. over the night suggesting we change the format a little.  Why not make these into a more CDT style.  Instead of having very formal works move to a context-based definition set of skills.  That is to say, skills based upon stories of how we used a skill.  While Matt generated a proof of concept around this, we observed the formatting and tool usage.  Once it was understood, we started writing up skills based upon our interests.  We wrote and we wrote and we wrote.  The question of what skills belong where and what is a skill was pushed aside for a more formal editing process.  XML as as skill was removed even though the original list of 'skills' was saved in a deprecated area.

I wrote somewhere between 10-15 skills over the course of a day.  I know my skills as a writer were stretched that day.  I heard warnings about the flame wars and anger we might see from this venture.  I expect that, people in testing have a habit of finding bugs.  I still have lots of open questions on where this goes next.  I wonder how we will edit the skills.  I wonder a lot about how this process will be managed.  I wonder where this will be posted and how it will be viewed.  Those are still open questions.  Questions I hope to be resolved at some point.  After writing until our fingers bled, we finally went to dinner.  Much thanks to AST for bribing...er... treating us to dinner. :)

WHOSE going to finish this? (Day 3)

We as a group attempt to finish off with figuring out who will finish which skills.  I have a lot of skills still needing finishing.  I know others do too.  I signed up to help deal with the format shifting question so when this comes out it'll be readable in useful formats.  I appreciated Matt's openness in considering methodologies and talking through 'what is next'.  I maybe slower to blog for a while as I work through my WHOSE backlog.  Truthfully, I was not as 'on top of it' the last day as I was the previous two days.  I think exhaustion had finally hit, so I'm glad it was just a half day.

WHOSE missing from this narrative?

This was a rather interesting experience.  I have never been to a workshop before.  I never saw any 'LAWST-Style' workshops before so I didn't have that to compare to.  I have worked with a bunch of bright people before, but not some of the 'experts' of the world (even if they would reject that label...).  That is a little humbling.  Seeing Rob write is amazing.  Watching the speed Matt can break out an article is...well... something to be seen.  In fact, in the spirit of that, I have written this entire article straight and will attempt to limit my editing.  Sorry, poor readers. :)  

The group as a whole had some nice philosophical discussions, but no one got angry, and overall I think that helped make the content better.  Is the content useful?  I honestly don't know, I'm not an oracle, but I hope so.  Is the content done?  No, I hope this to be a living document and that others will get a chance to help contribute to this and grow.  I hope they too can understand that their context and usage of a skill will be considered just as valuable as our context and usage of a skill.

I would like to make a special thanks to Matt, Eric and Simon for setting up this conference.  Also thanks to the AST and Doug Hoffman for feeding us.  Thanks to Hyland for hosting the conference.  For other perspectives, see the following blogs: here, here, here, and here.  One last piece I would be remiss to neglect to mention.  At the airport afterwards I got to have a long chat with both Rob and Jon.  That was a great conversation which I really enjoyed.  I'm still considering some the questions Rob posed to me.  Expect some future blog posts!

UPDATED 12/27: Added more blog post links.

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