25 September, 2011

Ramblings on Math and Testing

I was teaching math to one of my cousins who's about to get certified as a 10th grade pass out. I now figure pass out rhymes with drop out :-).

Math is an interesting subject. You have hundreds of theorems and corollaries, millions of formulae and lots of problems that appear like "Life and Death" problems to some of us at. I was looking into arithmetic progression in particular. There have been many theories based on which there is a formula that looks something like this :

Tn = a +(n-1)*d
In straight forward problems, students are asked to find one of the above parameters while giving away the rest. For e.g. Find Tn given a and d. What some students don't realize is that n is present in Tn itself. They go looking for n, get lost and leave the problem unsolved.

I was trying to simplify this for my cousin. First, I made her write down all given parameters, followed by some parameters known to her. I asked her to list out what her end goal (Tn) is. I asked her what more she needed to calculate Tn. And she did.

Trap Gods must be happy
Trap Gods are happy whether they trap you or lead you towards traps. One striking thing about my cousin was this. The moment I dictated one problem, she pounced upon the problem like a tigress on its prey. That is how some of us feel when we are working on math problems ;-). She didn't notice what's in the question, what is she supposed to find and how to proceed. All she did was to listen to one key term (Tn, in this case) and go looking for it. In short, she heard what she wanted to hear. Rest escaped into wilderness.

Why math class on a testing blog?
As I was helping her with her problems on problems , I figured how similar it is to testing.
  • We are given some problem to test(product).
  • We may know a few things about the product.
  • We may not know many things about the product.
  • Based on what we know, we go scouting for new things.
  • If we don't know anything about the product, we still need to figure out how to know (learn) the product.
  • Once we think we know at least a decent part of the product, we go figure new stuff again and again and again.
  • Every observation made, every direction taken leads to different paths which become solutions.
  • There is no one right answer, there could be a second right answer and even more.
  • There is no one time permanent solution unlike in math.
  • Every time, there is a new solution, there is a new breakthrough.

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher once said, "Expect the unexpected or you won't find it". Unless we look for the unexpected, we won't find it. If we do, we may not recognize it. It's good to calm down, relax and look for the unexpected. Often, we lose out on sometimes obvious things either because we are looking for something else or we don't recognize what we see.

 [ PS : I have been struggling to write this post. I wanted to write this because I am thrilled for some weird reason. At the same time, I am not too thrilled with the way I am struggling to think and write. Need to be writing more often. Until then, have a good time reading this post. Who knows, a few years down the lane, I may look at this post and proudly say, "Oh! My writing used to be so damn bad :D" ]

Update: My friend Dhanasekar asks, "Expect the Unexpected, how is this possible? You are expecting so it can no more be called unexpected". Me : Go read some of Heraclitus's writings.
Expect the Unexpected,

23 September, 2011

Experience Report : BWST 3

 Bangalore Workshop on Software Testing – 3

Theme : Personal Excellence and Skill Development

6th August, 2011 @ S hotel, Bangalore

T-shirt Sponsor: Moolya

Photo courtesy : Santhosh Tuppad

Ever since BWST 3 announcement was put up on Pradeep's blog, we got many registration emails and calls. The slots got filled really fast. When some of them got to know that, they started sending emails asking "What can we do to get a slot in BWST3". We are Anna. We don't accept bribes :-)

As you notice, this experience report comes very late. Some of you must know that Moolyavans have been very busy with many exciting things at Moolya. By the way, we must confess we are loving every single moment of being busy. Pradeep kept delaying posting it despite repeated reminders from Santhosh Tuppad and Me. I just broke the tradition and decided to post the experience report on my blog. Feels very good, you know why :-).

The D-day finally arrived. It started with participants coming in, registering and receiving Moolya T-shirts. Common friends started chatting up, first time participants started making new friends.

Rahul Verma was the facilitator. We were glad  Rahul accepted to facilitate as we have seen him facilitate many discussions – formal and informal on several occasions. He started the day with a Welcome note, briefed the audience about K-cards and rules for using them.

Theme : Personal Excellence and Skill Development

Anuj Magazine was the first presenter. He started with a sponge ball trick. He popped a sponge ball in one hand and tossed it around. As it changed hands, the sponge ball multiplied into two. The audience slided into a tizzy. He started speaking about his foremost influence towards personal excellence and skill development..........and that was reading.  He went on to say, "Just reading is powerless. One needs to absorb what's in there and act on it". He quoted from many books which influenced him early on in life.

Anuj highlighted how we could manage disappointments in life using a  24-hour rule – cry, crib and feel sad, but move on after 24 hrs. One another thing he mentioned about is to identify the difference between commitment and interest. Are you committed or plain interested?, he asked as he shook the audience a bit. He also emphasized on how self discipline and prioritization helps achieve personal excellence.

Throughout the session Anuj spoke about his journey towards personal excellence. It appeared as though everyone could kick-start a journey with what they have at the moment, which is true by the way. Towards the end, he appeared to ask, “Do you have it in you to get started, to initiate, to ask for a slap in the face?”. He concluded the session by saying,

The idea of Personal excellence goes beyond self

We had about 45 minutes for Q & A. There were many questions floating around on how one can read more books, what are the challenges in asking a slap in the face and many more. Many veterans in the room shared their experience with regard to personal excellence and skill development. An engaging session indeed.

Tea Break.

Next in presenter's line was Sudip Naha, Program Director – Testing at Mindtree. His presentation was titled “My problems, someone else's solutions”. Sounded interesting. He started with the Theory of contradiction, “When you want to punish, appreciate it. It could change the way things are done”.

'Tritz' principals remained the highlight of his presentation. This is a model borrowed from the manufacturing industry containing a matrix of problems and solutions. If a particular problem exists, there is already someone somewhere who has faced and solved a similar problem. Tritz suggests to check if an already existing solution can solve current problem on hand. It's about using existing solutions to solve problems instead of re-inventing the wheel by looking for new solutions.  Many in the audience disagreed that this must have worked for the manufacturing domain, but fails in IT. He quoted examples from his own team where it worked wonders on multiple projects.

As expected, there was a flurry of activity in the hall after Sudip's session. Many concerns were raised regarding adopting Tritz to software industry. Meeta Prakash politely disagreed with Sudip on how these will de-motivate testers further. For this, Sudip mentioned that these are just ideas that have worked for his team and a few others in his organization. He also emphasized that there could be teams where it may work exceptionally well and where it might not work at all. It all depends on how people in the team perceive and implement it. On a side note, Sudip's session reminded us of the book “Are your lights on?” by Gerald M. Weinberg. The session drilled down to one thing:

My solution may not be the best solution to your problem.

Lunch time.

Post lunch, Deepak from chennai presented on “Testing Seed”. This session was about how Deepak and his friend Santhosh figured different challenges in testing early on in their careers and how they overcame those challenges.

Deepak highlighted the importance of conscious learning. As he and Santhosh faced resistance to the improvement suggestions they had to test in their day job,  it became clear that they had to learn about a lot of other things that tick and provide complete information especially to the senior management. This helped them come up with the idea of live demonstrations where they actually demonstrated to the teams about their exploration from time to time. This instilled confidence in the senior management that things can be done differently and for the better.

Often in life, each of us are encountered with challenges that we don't know how to face and overcome. Only the tough get going under such circumstances. I was amazed by sheer hard work and enthusiasm that Deepak and Santhosh had put in to fight many hurdles in their team. Kudos to both of them.

Tea Break.

Lightning Talks
Over the years, we have noticed that many folks who have attended BWST have been working wonderfully well on their skill sets and putting their organizations ahead of themselves by delivering better than what is expected of them. This is of utmost pride for us and something that brings utmost satisfaction. After all, peer workshops are meant for just that – Empowering People.

How did BWST 3 go this time?
This time around, we wanted to provide more time for discussions after each presentation. This worked really well. Many people were happy with the time allocated for questions. There was enough time not just for questions, but also for getting inputs/suggestions from experienced testers and managers who threw light upon different aspects of personal excellence and skill development.

We intentionally provided lengthy tea breaks so the participants from different organizations could chat up with others, discuss testing and challenges they face in day to day life.

We had a good mix of fresh grads turned testers, experienced testers and managers in BWST3. This resulted in different perspectives on many topics discussed during the day. There are many times in life when we feel victimized. Having a few folks who can empathise with us and set a direction will always help. This is where Meeta Prakash, Rahul Verma, Rahul Mirakhur, Natarajan, Sudip, Anuj Magazine and many others' presence helped.

Rahul Mirakhur was very happy with how BWST3 was organized and arrangements were made this time around. Now, that's a huge compliment. From our side, we had a gala time setting up the whole event and we were happy that every participant went back home satisfied for a day truly well spent!

Party time!
We got clicked. One of the hotel staff was kind enough to take a group picture. Many kept saying, "click a few more" to ensure they looked their unusual best :-)

What's a workshop without beer and snacks, huh? :-). We checked out of the hotel at 5.30 pm and went to a nearby pub to hang out for some more time. We spoke, ate, drank testing until we got tired and got back home safe.

Vote of Thanks
Special thanks to Rahul Verma for facilitation and to every participant at BWST3 who made this  event successful. And if you wanna know who cut through this years' tough competition to be at BWST 3, here's the list :

Rahul Verma, Rahul Mirakhur, Meeta Prakash, Anuj Magazine, Smitha Maraliga, Natarajan Alagappan, Mohit Verma, Yeshwantrao (Madurai), Pawan Kumar, Manjunatha C, Ravisuriya, Nagaraj Adarsha, Sudip Naha, Santhosh (Chennai), Deepak (Chennai), Vithya J, Korauhanba Singh, Pradeep Soundararajan, Parimala Shankaraiah, Santhosh Tuppad, Sunil Kumar, Dhanasekar S, Sreenuraj Varma.

What's next?
Get ready for next years' BWST :)

(On behalf of BWST team)