Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Learning: Twitter, LinkedIn and Other Communities

I find it fascinating how many little testing communities there are.  There are those in who love to tweet to each other, those who like to use LinkedIn either to simply create networks of testers or the forums.  There is Matt Heusser's community, James Bach has a following and does Skype coaching sessions.  There is the offer Isaac received to write for TestHuddle.  There is StickyMinds, STP, Professional Tester, Tea Time with Testers.  There is the top 100+ blog list.  This is not nearly all the data being generated about testing but it is a start.

The offer from TestHuddle brought up a discussion between Isaac and I.  Isaac has received credit for a few blog posts I have done, mostly likely due to the fact that Isaac's name can be found in Twitter where as I don't have a Twitter account.  I am not angry or bitter over that.  I hold Isaac in high regard and even though he posts less often, he often helps edit my blog posts.  It is a true collaboration, so credit isn't at all a concern.  However, I do find it interesting that testers often miss the detail of the "Posted By" at the end of each post.  The fact that these folks don't notice who is doing the posting suggests that they don't filter by who did the writing.

So What?

Everyone gathers information in different ways, but I suspect many people don't seriously consider the community and how they choose their community. Different people have different amounts of effort they wish to put into their profession, even when they do more than on the job training.  Even as prolific a reader as I am, I have not read even 1% of that content on testing.  In my writing on this blog, I try to reach a particular audience, those who have some advanced knowledge and particularly with interest in automation.  However, I also spend a good third of my posts to think about the community at large, that is to say either the CDT community or the entire testing community.  What I want to examine isn't just my own views, but to help get you on the road to thinking about the communities you help create.  To help you see that knowing who wrote something is important in deciding whether to spend your valuable time reading it or not.

For me, I am not well enough known to continuously hold a place in the entire testing community's consciousness, but occasionally I write something that gets some attention.  I sometimes write comments on other people's blogs.  I write for StickyMinds on occasion if I feel the content makes sense for that community. I co-run a user group.  However, I refuse to get on Twitter or accept LinkedIn invites from people I don't know.  In fact, this and email are basically the only reliably consistent ways I communicate to the outside testing community.


What I want to address is the reasoning behind this and what strategies you can use to filter the data you get.  First of all, using the Dreyfus model of skills, I would label myself as an expert within automation/tools and proficient with in the world of manual/exploratory testing.  I am only competent with handling social situations outside of my interactions with technical people.  This is of course just a self evaluation with approximate labels, but you too can evaluate yourself (but beware the Dunning-Kruger effect).  What is it you bring to the table, what is it you value?  What gives you energy and what annoys you?  As a quick example, if you read my writing often, you might notice I don't speak much of my personal life.  I prefer being private in that regard.  I don't enjoy registering my email over and over again.  I often use mailinator to avoid registering with my real email.  These are both for personal privacy reasons and because I hate being spammed even more, zapping even more life out of me.

With this in mind, many communities feel invasive to me.  They want to force me to sign up.  Twitter is pretty bad about this.  I do have a LinkedIn account, but I use that to maintain contact with people I know, not as a social network.  I have limited time and energy, and while I will respond to reasonable questions to my work, I can't be everything to everyone.  I don't want a huge set of people I don't know giving me endorsements when they can't truly know my skill set. For me, I want to get deep into a topic and I want to hear from other people who will deep dive into interesting and hard topics.  I don't care about the fluffery of social networks and I dislike the corruption LinkedIn encourages.  Why spend my time annoyed at people for claiming I have skills that they can't possibly know?

There is one other thing that I mentioned earlier that I think is of value.  I write both here on this blog and on StickyMinds.  In part because my work gets more exposure, but more importantly, the people who read StickyMinds are a different audience.  The level of knowledge and expectations on what they have come for is different.  If I started writing about national politics in this blog, I would lose audience I have and perhaps would get a different audience.  Knowing how the communities you 'live in' are seen by the outside can help tell you what sort of content the outside world is likely not discussing in the community you are in.  For example, I would not talk in detail about my multi-threaded load test implementations in StickyMinds.  Having that level of source code would not likely be published, much less be helpful in that community.

What you can learn!

So what do you value and how can you improve your signal to noise ratio?  I have found very few blogs that are always useful.  Instead I look to see if at least one in the last few posts has been useful.  Those that I personally don't find useful, I will ignore.  I would define useful for me in this context as something that is challenging.  I don't mind if I ultimately disagree with the conclusion.  In this post, I hope not to convince you that my opinions are correct but rather that you should develop your own.  I sometimes listen to youtube videos to see if the speaker can provide me with insights I would otherwise not have.  If it seems like that might be the case, I then will actually watch the video.  I find that the firehose of data can sometimes introduce me to new bloggers who I get value from.  The way I do that is by looking to see if there is a topic I want to read about.  Then I glance at who wrote it and if I don't know them, I will read it.

I wrote previously wrote about leveling up your skills in which I suggested nearly a dozen different ways to gain new skills or level up your existing skills.  The question is, what do you value and thus what skills do you want to work on?  Go find the sort of blog that will help you.  Or maybe you want more videos.  Go look at youtube.  There is plenty to learn there.  Or use pod casts.  That is partly about presentation and how it fits into your life (and how you learn).  The other question is what sort of content do you want. It might ultimately become clear that our blog is not the sort of blog you want to read.  That's okay.  Perhaps you need more data around a wiki based acceptance testing framework like FitNesse.  You probably won't get that from here, so find a blog or community that will help you.  Sometimes learning should not have a goal, and if you only do goal-based research, it might be valuable to try looking at something you wouldn't normally read about.

One of the major goals I have in teaching others is getting them to think for themselves.  I may use myself as an example to consider, but I am just an example, not necessarily the model you should follow.  In a sense, this post is about getting people, such as yourself, to be more reflective in your learning.  If you learn to learn just a little better, that will be a gift that will keep on giving for the rest of your life.  So spend a little time and reflect on how you gather information and learn.

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