Category: General (page 1 of 2)

Help Linnea

“There is a saying that it takes a whole village to raise a child. Now we need a whole village to save our Linnea”

Linnea, Kristoffer Nordströms daughter, is five and a half years and comes from Karlskrona in Sweden. Her world revolved up until recently around My Little Ponies, riding her bicycle and popcorn… lots of popcorn. She who has one best friend: her beloved big brother Kristian.
That was her world – until a few months ago when she suddenly and shockingly became afflicted, and got emergency surgery for a brain tumor.
After the operation, we hoped that the bad news would end. But now the family lives in the hospital and has been told that the tumor is an aggressive variety called DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma). The short story is that there is a heart-breakingly minimal chance of survival using established treatments.

There is a possible treatment that we are now aiming for: one that means the tumor is treated through catheters implanted directly into the tumor. Studies and reports show that such a direct treatment gives Linnea the best chance of one day becoming healthy. The cost of treatment and the journeys are very high. Higher than the average person can pay for: £ 65.000 for the first operation and then £ 6.500 for treatments thereafter. In the current situation, it is unclear how many of these Linnea will need.

Please help Kristoffer and his family!

Update July 3 2017

Great news!! The treatment seems to work, Kristoffer writes on his Facebook:
We know a lot of people are waiting for this so me and Giedre want to give you the fantastic news.
Linnea had her third Intra Arterial treatment today and all went well without complications, this was the first time that we added the immunotherapy to the treatment, Linneas immune system is now being taught how to recognise and attack the tumor cells itself (Autologous Dendritic Cell Immunotherapy)!
The amazing news of today is that the treatment continues to do its job and we now see further shrinkage in the tumor from the last treatment three weeks ago.
The doctors see a distinct reduction in size since last time!
We now know that this is a treatment that is working for Linnea and for the other children here in Mexico, there are now over 30 families from all over the world here.
The treatment is very effective, but also very expensive, with the combined Immunotherapy and Chemotherapy the cost is 30.000USD (250.000SEK) every third week, later once Linneas immunesystem is trained the treatment will go back to chemotherapy only.
We realise we need to do this for an unforseen time going forward and looking at the costs of each treatment and our budget we need to ask all of you who have helped us get here to help us even further in saving our daughter.
Any donations, big or small, are more than welcome, you can help us at our fundraising site.
Thank you so much everyone who has helped us get here.
Swish donations from Sweden are also very welcome, the number is: +46 723 58 09 53

Too controversial?

On May 11 2016 TestNet (*)  held her spring conference with “Strengthen your foundation: new skills for testers” as the central theme. The call for papers that was send out made me frown.  It said:

“In the final keynote of the TestNet autumn event, speaker Rini van Solingen referred to the end of software testing as we know it. ‘What one can learn in merely four weeks, does not deserve to be called a profession’, he stated. But is that true? Most of our skills, we learn on the job. There are many tools, techniques, skills, hints and methods not typical for the testing profession but essential for enabling us to do a good job nonetheless. Furthermore the testing profession is constantly evolving as a result of ICT and business trends. Not only functional testing, but also performance, security or other test varieties. This presses us to expand our knowledge, not just the testing skills, but also of the contexts in which we do our jobs. The TestNet Spring Event 2016 is about all topics that are not addressed in our basic testing course, but enable us to do a better job: knowledge, skills, experience.”

I think that there are a lot of skills that are not addressed in our “basic testing course” where they should have been addressed. I am talking about basic testing skills! So I wrote an abstract for a keynote for the conference:

The theme for the spring event is “Strengthen your foundation: new skills for testers”. My story takes a step back: to the foundation! Because I think that the foundation of most testers is not as good as they think. The title would then be: “New skills for testers: back to basics!

Professional testers are able to tell a successful story about their work. They can cite activities and come up with a thorough overview of the skills they use. They are able to explain what they do and why. they can report progress, risk and coverage at any time. They will gladly explain what oracles and heuristics they use, know everything about the product they are testing and are deliberately trying to learn continuously.

It surprises me that testers regularly can’t give a proper definition of testing. Let alone that they are able to describe what testing is. A large majority of people who call themselves professional testers can not explain what they do when they are testing. How can anyone take a tester seriously if he/she can not explain what he/she is doing all day? Try it: go to one of your testing colleagues and ask what he or she is doing and why it contributes to the mission of the project. Nine out of ten testers I’ve asked this simple question, start to stutter.

What do you exactly do if you use a “data combination test” or a “decision table”? What skills do you use? “Common sense” in this context does not answer the question because it is not a skill, is it? I think of: modeling, critical thinking, learning, combine, observe, reasoning, drawing conclusions just to name a few. By looking in detail at what skills you are actually using, helps you recognize which skills you could/should train. A solid foundation is essential to build on it in the future!

How can you learn the right skills if you do not know what skills you are using in the first place? In this presentation I will take the audience back to the core of our business: skills! By recognizing the skills and training them, we are able to think of and talk about our profession with confidence. The ultimate goal is to tell a good story about why we test and value it adds.

We need a solid foundation to build on!

My keynote wasn’t selected. So I send it in as a normal session, since I really am bothered by the lack of insight in our community. But it didn’t make it on the conference program as a normal session either. Why?  Because it is too controversial they told me. After applying for the keynote the chairman called me to tell me that they weren’t going to ask me to do a keynote because the did want a “negative” sound on stage. I guess I can imagine that you do not want to start the day with a keynote who destroys your theme by saying that we need to strengthen our foundation first before moving on.

But why is this story too controversial for the conference at all? I guess it is (at least in the eyes of the program committee) because we don’t like to admit that we lack skills. That we don’t really know how to explain testing. I wrote about that before here.  It bothers me that we think our foundation is good enough, while it really isn’t! We need to up our game and being nice and ignoring this problem isn’t going to help us. A soft and nice approach doesn’t wake people up. That is why I wanted to shake this up a bit. To wake people up and give them some serious feedback … I wrote about serious feedback before here. But the Dutch Testing Community (represented by TestNet) finds my ideas too controversial…


(*) TestNet is a network of, by and for testers. TestNet offers its members the opportunity to maintain contacts with other testers outside the immediate work environment and share knowledge and experiences from the field.

State of Testing survey 2016


This survey seeks to identify the existing characteristics, practices and challenges facing the testing community in hopes to shed light and provoke a fruitful discussion towards improvement. The State of Testing survey  is a collaboration from the folks at QA Intelligence and TeaTime with Testers. Last year was very successful with almost 900 participants, and with your help they hope this year’s survey will be even bigger by reaching as many testers as they can around the world!

You can find the 2016 survey here.

If you want to know what this survey is all about, have a look at the results of previous years:


Why testers are not taken seriously…

5784a3e8c82ffdc1da395f1ded31eab6Some time ago I was invited to talk to a group of testers at a big consultancy firm in the Netherlands. They wanted to learn more about context-driven testing. I do these kind of talks on a regular basis. During these events, I always ask the audience what they think testing is. It surprises me each time that they cannot come up with a decent definition of testing. But it gets worse when I ask them to describe testing. The stuff most people come up with is embarrassingly bad! And it is not only them, a big majority of the people who call themselves professional testers are not able to explain what testing is and how it works…

How can anybody take a tester serious who cannot explain what he is doing all day? Imagine a doctor who tells you he has to operate your knee.

Doctor: “I see there is something wrong there
Patient: “Really? What is wrong doctor?
Doctor: “Your knee needs surgery!
Patient: “Damn, that is bad news. What are you going to do doctor?
Doctor: “I am going to operate your knee! You know cut you with a scalpel and make it better on the inside!
Patient: “Okay… but what are you going to do exactly?
Doctor: “Euh… well… you see… I am going to fix the thingy and the whatchamacallit by doing thingumabob to the thingamajig. And if possible I will attach the doomaflodgit to the doohickey, I think. Get it?
Patient: “Thank you, but no thanks doctor. I think I’ll pass

But it is much worse… Many testers by profession have trouble explaining what they   are testing and why. Try it! Walk up to one of your tester colleagues and ask what he or she is doing and why. 9 out of 10 testers I have asked this simple question begin to stutter.

How can testers be taken seriously and how they learn a profession when they cannot explain what they do all day?

albert-einstein-if-you-cant-explain-it-simply-you-dont-understand-it-well-enoughOnly a few testers I know can come up with a decent story about their testing. They can name activities and come up with a sound list of real skills they use. They are able to explain what they do and why. At any given time they are able to report progress, risks and coverage. They will be happy to explain what oracles and heuristics they are using, know what the product is all about and practice deliberate continuous learning. In the Rapid Testing class (in NL) we train testers to think and talk about testing with confidence.

How about you? Can you explain your testing?

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Yesterday the wonderful people from Lucky Cat Tattoo put a piece of art on my arm.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
This was the ‘farewell message’ of the whole earth catalog. It was placed on the back cover of the final edition in 1974. Steve Jobs used this quote in his famous commencement speech in 2005 on Stanford University. While writing this blog post I found this article by a neuroscientist explaining what the quote means…

Hungry points to always looking for more, striving to improve, being ambitious and eager. Everything I do, I do with passion. What keeps me moving is energy and passion. I need challenges to feel comfortable. I want to be good in almost everything I do. Not just good, but the very best. All that makes that my surroundings sometimes suffer from me because I always want to do more and do better. Fortunately, I have an above average energy level and that helps me do what I do. This video of Steve Jobs summarizes how I work.

Foolish points to taking risks, feeling young, being daring, exploratory and adventurous. Like a child learning how the world works by trying everything. It also reminds us not always do what people expect us to do and not always take the traditional paths in life.

I’m curious. This is an important characteristic in a software tester. Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize winner was a tester, though he was officially natural scientist. In this video, “The pleasure of finding things out” he talks about certainty, knowledge and doubt (from 47:20). Critical thinking about observations and information is important in my work! Richard Feynman never took anything for granted. He took the scientific approach and thought critical about his work. He doubted a lot and asked many questions to verify.

Because of my curiosity, I want to know everything. This has one big advantage: I want to develop and practice continuous learning. The great thing about my job is that testers get paid for learning: testing is gathering information about things that are important to stakeholders to inform decisions. I love to read and I read a lot to discover new things. I also ask for feedback on my work to develop myself continuously. Lately, experiential learning has my special attention. I wrote a column about why I like this way of learning. When it comes to learning, two great TED videos come to mind: “Schools kill creativity” and “building a school in the cloud“. These videos tell a story about how we learn and why schools (or learning in general) should change.

Think different!

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Besides I am a huge fan of Star Wars, the Jedi sign has a deeper meaning:
“Because testing (and any engineering activity) is a solution to a very difficult problem, it must be tailored to the context of the project, and therefore testing is a human activity that requires a great deal of skill to do well. That’s why we must study it seriously. We must practice our craft. Context-driven testers strive to become the Jedi knights of testing.” (source: “The Dual Nature of Context-Driven Testing” by James Bach).

I believe that learning is not as simple as taking a class and start doing it. To become very good at something you need mentors who guide you in your journey. I strongly believe in Master-Apprentice. Young Padawans are trained to become Jedi Knights by a senior (knight or master) who learns them everything there is to know. The more they learn, the more responsibility the student gets. That is why I am happy that I have mentors who teach, coach, mentor, challenge and guide me. And that is why I am a mentor for others doing the same. Helping them to learn and become better.

In 2013 I took the awesome Problem Solving Leadership aka PSL workshop facilitated by Jerry Weinberg, Esther Derby and Johanna Rothman. This amazing six day workshop gave me many valuable insights in myself and how to be a better leader by dealing effectively with problems (or as Jerry says it: enhancing the environment so that everybody is empowered to contribute creatively to solve problems). During the social event we visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center which also made a big impression on me. Here I bought a talisman stone with a bear engraved. In native American beliefs the bear symbolizes power, courage, freedom, wisdom, protection and leadership (more info on bear symbolic: herehere and here).

Heuristics for recognizing professional testers

Via Twitter Helena Jeret-Mäe asked this question: “What are your criteria for professionalism for testers in CDT community?”. Later via Email she updated her question to: “So the updated version of my question is what are the heuristics for recognizing professional testers in your opinion? I changed “criteria” to heuristics… it’s less categorical. And I’ll leave the term “professionalism” up to you as well – I don’t know exactly what you meant by it.”

In my talk “How to become a great tester” at ContextCopenhagen last January I talked about testers and their skills. I said that most testers don’t know what they’re doing and can’t explain effectively what value they add. I have seen many testers who use the same approach over and over again. If I ask them to name test techniques, they can only name a few. If I ask them to explain techniques to me or show how they work, I get no answers. I find that shocking and I cannot understand why testers who call themselves professionals know so little about their craft and do not study their craft.

That is why I make a distinction between professional testers (of which I think there are only few) and testers by profession. Of course I know and understand that there will always be people who have a 9 to 5 mentality, do not read books or blogs and only want to do courses when the boss pays for them. I accept that reality, but that doesn’t mean I want to work with them!

Let me now answer the questions asked, have done enough ranting for now…

Professionalism is what it means to be a professional and what is expected of them. Professional testing is complex and diverse and has several dimensions: knowledge, skills, experience, attitude, ethics and values. I wrote a blog post “What makes a good tester?” in 2011 on this topic and I have a broader view on this topic now although everything I wrote then still counts. In my earlier blog posts I didn’t mention values and ethics and I now think they are extremely important. James Bach writes about them in his blog post “Thoughts Toward The Ethics of Testing”. A great practical example of ethics and values is Rapid Testing. Look at the “the premises of Rapid Testing” and “the themes of Rapid Testing” both can be found in the slides of Rapid Software Testing.

It is hard to recognize professional testers. Every tester is unique and brings different characteristics to the table. Every project is different too and to be successful in finding the right professional tester for your project different characteristics may be important. There are many characteristics to be considered so to be able to recognize professional testers heuristics can be used. Heuristics are fallible methods for solving a problem or making a decision, shortcuts to reduce complex problem or rules of thumb. They are used to determine good enough feasible solutions for difficult problems within reasonable time. On Wikipedia I found this definition: “Heuristics are experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery that give a solution that is not guaranteed to be optimal. Where the exhaustive search is impractical, heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution via mental shortcuts to ease the cognitive load of making a decision.

My heuristics for recognizing professional testers:

1) They have a paradigm of what testing is and they can explain their approach in any given situation.
Professional testers can explain what testing is, what value they add and how they would test in a specific situation.

2) They really love what they do and are passionate about their craft.
Testing is difficult and to be successful, testers needs to be persistent in learning and in their work. Passion helps them to be become real professionals. Watch this video where Steve Jobs talks about passion

3) They consider context first and continuously.
To be effective testers need to choose testing objectives, techniques and by looking first to the details of the specific situation. They recognize that there are no best practices but only good practices in a given context.

4) They consider testing as a human activity to solve a complex and difficult problem that requires a lot of skill.
Testers recognize testing is not a technical profession. Testing has many aspects of social science since software is built for humans by humans.

5) They know that software development and testing is a team sport.
Collaboration is the key in becoming more effective and efficient in testing. Software development is a team sport: people, working together, are the most important part of any project’s context. A great tester knows how to work with developers and other stakeholders in any situation.

6) They know that things can be different.
Professional testers use heuristics, practice critical thinking and are empirical. They know that time to test is limited, systems are becoming increasingly complex and thinking of everything is hard. Therefore heuristics are a very helpful “tool” for testers. They also know that biases and logical fallacies can fool them. They practice critical thinking to deal confidently and thoughtfully with difficult and complex situations. Testers have to accept and deal with ambiguity, situational specific results and partial answers.

7) They ask questions before doing anything.
Testing depends on many things and what is the context of the stuff I am looking at? What is the information we need to find? What is the testing mission? Giving a tester an exercise in an interview can easily test this. If he or she starts working on it or gives you an answer without asking questions, this tells you something.

8) They use diversified approaches.
There is no approach or technique that will find all kinds of bugs or fulfil all test goals. Different bugs are found using different techniques. In order to be able to do this, testers need to know many techniques and approaches. This demands training, practice and some more practice.

9) They know that estimation is more like negotiation.
Have a look at some blog post by Michael Bolton:

10) They use test cases and test documentation wisely.
The context determines what test documentation you should make and what kind of documentation is useful. Quite recently a great (and long) article by James Bach and Aaron Hodder was published in Testing Trapeze “Test cases are not testing: Toward a culture of test performance”. Also Fiona Charles has written some interesting stuff about test documentation in her article the Breaking the Tyranny of Form.

11) They continuously study their craft seriously, practice a lot and practice “deliberate practice”.
Deliberate practice is a structured activity with the goal of improving performance. According to K. Anders Ericsson, there are four essential components of deliberate practice. It must be intentional, aimed at improving performance, designed for your current skill level, combined with immediate feedback and repetitious.

12) They refuse to do bad work, never fake and have the courage to tell their clients and the people they work about their ethics and values.
Testing is often underestimated and many believe “everybody can test”. I have experienced project managers who tell me how to do my work. Professional testers know how to push back and are able to explain why they do what they do.

13) They are curious and like to learn new things.
Testers find pleasure in finding things out. A good read is the curious behaviour by Guy Mason: “a curious mind is one that could be described as an active, engaged and inquisitive mind. Such a mind frequently seeks out new information, enjoys discovering what there is to discover and enjoys the process that comes along with this goal.“

14) They could have any of the important interpersonal skills mentioned in the list below. As stated earlier it depends on the context which skills are most important.

  • Writing skills (like reporting, note taking and concise messages)
  • Communication skills (many different like listening, story telling, presentation, saying no, verbal reporting, arguing and negotiating)
  • Social and emotional skills (like empathy, inspiring, networking, conflict management and consulting)
  • Problem solving skills
  • Decision making skills
  • Coaching and teaching skills
  • Being proactive and assertive

15) They have excellent testing skills:

  • Thinking skills (critical, lateral, creative, systems thinking)
  • Analytical skills
  • Modelling
  • Risk analysis
  • Planning and estimation
  • Applying many test techniques
  • Exploring
  • Designing experiments
  • Observation

Have a look at the Exploratory Testing Dynamics in the RST appendices where several lists of skills are listed.

16) They have sufficient technical skills.
There are many technical skills a tester needs like being able to use tooling, coding skills or willingness to learn what they need to know about the technical structure of the application they are testing. Test automation skills like scripting and SQL skills to work with databases, being able to configure and install software, knowledge and skills to work with the platform the system under test is on (Windows, Linux, Mobile, etc.).

This list is probably not complete. It is very well possible that I have made some mistakes. So please let me know if you have any contributions or improvements. Also: being a professional doesn’t mean you are an expert on all mentioned skills. Have a look at the Dreyfus model to learn more about expert level. A real professional knows what he or she can do and when to ask for help. They do not fear to learn and they are not afraid to make mistakes. I guess that would be the 17th heuristic in the list.

BTW: I googled “code of ethics software testing” and found the ISTQB Code of Ethics for test professionals. I wonder if people who pass the exam know about these AND more important practice them… What about you?

More information

Some more posts that discuss great testers:

And last but not least: have a look at the Testers syllabus by James Bach. An awesome document which lists many important skills and areas of knowledge. It inspired me read about and study different areas.

So you think you can test ….

Recently I saw this tweet: “a lot of testers don’t consider alternatives because they don’t know them”. It was a reaction in a discussion about a Dutch article with the title „The days of the ‘Dutch school of testing’ are over”. Jan Jaap claims that Dutch testers suffer from “Law of the handicap of a head start“. Really? I don’t think it is the handicap of a head start. Did we (Dutch testers) ever had a head start? I think it is something that is called “The Dunning-Kruger effect“.

Dunning KrugerThe Dunning-Kruger effect, named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University, occurs when incompetent people not only perform a task poorly or incompetently, but lack the competence to realize their own incompetence at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. Put more crudely, they’re too stupid to realize they’re stupid. The inverse also applies: competent people tend to underestimate their ability compared to others. (Source: Rational Wiki)

In the words of Dunning and Kruger: this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.

I think many testers don’t realize that they actually know very little about testing at all. And that is why they don’t do anything to get better. They are also not encouraged much by their colleagues. Testing is often underestimated. I guess everyone has examples of managers who do not value testing as much as we would want them to. Testing is often devalued as “pushing buttons” and “everybody can test” is believed by many. I have seen companies who use testing as education, a first step in an IT career…

But there is more… I have worked as a selling and hiring manager and I experienced that there is a lack of competence in spotting talented testers. If you have the right certificates, people believe that you are a good tester. Because they simply do not know how to spot an excellent tester. In my recent job search nobody asked me to SHOW them my testing skills. We only talked about it.


Popular blogs for testers

blogsTo help the Dutch community evolve to learn, think and do more skilled testing I want to advocate interesting stuff to read to the community. But what should a tester read? Earlier I published a list of popular books for testers. In my search for good books to read, some people replied that they only read blogs and other on-line content. On this blog I recommend great articles and on-line stuff in my great resources list. For testers blogs you can check my colleagues list.

But what do other testers recommend? My curiosity kicked in again and I sent out another email to my tester friends around the world to ask for their favourite blogs.

This is the “top 19” of most mentioned blogs. In the list are all blogs that got more that 2 votes. I am thrilled to be in this list at all. But it must have been the “availability heuristic” that got me on the 3rd place! Thanks guys 😀

Rank # votes Name URL
1 26 Michael Bolton
2 23 James Bach
3 12 Huib Schoots
4 11 Cem Kaner
5 10 Michael Larsen
6 9 Markus Gartner
  9 Elisabeth Hendrickson
8 8 Alan Page
9 7 Andy Glover
  7 The Test Eye
  7 Zeger van Hese
12 6 Pradeep Soundararajan
  6 Matt Heusser
14 5 Iain McCowatt
15 4 Jurgen Appelo
  4 Keith Klain
  4 Pete Walen
  4 Rob Lambert
19 3 Adam Goucher
  3 Adam Knight
  3 Anne-Marie Charrett
  3 Bob Marshall
  3 Eric Jacobson
  3 Gojko Adzic
  3 James Christie
  3 James Lyndsay
  3 Ministry of Testing
  3 Parimala Hariprasad
  3 Seth Godin

180 different blogs where mentioned by 41 participants. The full list of blogs can be found here. An overview of all participants and their personal lists can be found here.

If this isn’t enough, you can check these listings of tester blogs:

Popular books for testers

I love to read and I own many books on testing, software, management and other stuff that relates to my work.

But what should a tester read? On this blog I recommend several books in my great resources list. And what do other testers recommend? My curiosity kicked in and I sent out an email to my tester friends around the world.

Every year the Dutch association for software testers TestNet organizes two one-day conferences. This year TestNet has chosen context-driven testing as the theme for their autumn event in October (call for papers is here). To help the Dutch community evolve to learn, think and do more skilled testing I want to advocate some interesting books to the community. Here I need your help! Please send me your personal top 10 of best books testers should read. It can be any book, it doesn’t have to be a book on testing… I will collect the submissions and create a list of most popular books amongst testing professionals. Please send me your list of favourite books! Hope to hear from you soon.

testerbooksOne of the testers replied that he could not send a list. “What you should be reading depends on what you are ready to learn about next, and that varies from person to person”. And I agree with this statement. This list of books can be useful when used as a list to inspire. Another tester replied: “the reading that has been most helpful in my career has been centered around blogs and twitter far more than it has been around books”. For testers blogs you can check my colleagues list. Maybe creating a list of most popular testers blog will be my next project 😀

Anyway, this is the top 10 of most mentioned books:

  1. Lessons Learned in Software Testing – Cem Kaner, James Bach, Brett Petticord (31 votes)
  2. Perfect Software and other Illusions about Software Testing – Gerald M. Weinberg (19 votes)
  3. Agile Testing – Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory (14 votes)
  4. Thinking fast and slow – Daniel Kahneman (12 votes)
  5. How to Break Software – James A. Whittaker (11 votes)
  6. Tacit and Explicit Knowledge – Harry Collins (10 votes)
  7. Explore It! – Elisabeth Hendrickson (9 votes)
    Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar – James Bach (9 votes)
    A Practitioner’s Guide to Software Test Design – Lee Copeland (9 votes)
  8. An introduction to general systems thinking – Gerald M Weinberg (6 votes)
    Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams – Timothy Lister & Tom DeMarco (6 votes)
    Quality Software Management Vol. 1 Systems Thinking – Gerald M. Weinberg (6 votes)
    Secrets of Consulting – Gerald M. Weinberg (6 votes)
    Testing Computer Software – Cem Kaner, Jack Falk, Hung Q. Nguyen (6 votes)
    The Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (6 votes)

180 different books where mentioned by 43 participants. 15 (!) different books by Jerry Weinberg where mentioned. The full list of books can be found here. An overview of all participants and their personal lists can be found here.


This blog post was originally written as an column for (English) and (Dutch).

Did you have a chance to see the webinar “Thinking Visually in Software Testing” by Alan Richardson at the EuroStar Virtual Conference May 16th last? If not I suggest you do that now before you read this column. Also very interesting is the great blog post Fiona Charles has written about this topic with the beautiful title “Breaking the Tyranny of Form”.

Alan explains that simple techniques and tools you can make your thinking visual. It makes your thoughts visible what benefits the feedback to yourself, but also the communication of your thoughts to others. In the webinar Alan shows some simple drawings that made his thought process transparent. The webinar also shows some simple tools that can help you.

Fiona is annoyed by documents where the form is more important than the content. These documents are driving and constraining our work. She explains that templates limit thinking and creativity. In her article she shows some examples of visual representations that helped her in her work.

Text is boring and not very creative. It lets your brain run at half power, only the left part of the brain is put to work. Using images will also put the right part of your brain to work. People remember images easier. In addition, images often impress us more. A text normally needs many pages to describe what a single picture can say. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is really true! A single image can transfer a complex idea fast and easy. Visualization allows us to quickly absorb large amounts of information.

Collaboration through effective communication

Visualization makes your work easier! Through visualization, communication is richer and that makes our work easier. Understanding each other is often the first step to successful collaboration. To clarify the added value of different forms of communication, I often show this picture:

This picture makes clear that communication is enriched with visualization. For who ever bought a new house, you know: graphics were the deciding factor. The plans and artist impressions gave, before only one stone was built, an impression of how the future house was going to look like. The visualization of the house to be built, informed your decision. Could text do the same?

But why do testers still produce so much text in their work? The creation of “traditional” test plans, test reports and test cases is very time consuming. And I think they do not add a lot of value. Have you ever wondered how many people actually read your test plans arising from the use of a 21-page template? And if somebody would have read it, how much useful information is in there for the reader? And what will he ultimately remember?

Mind Maps

Nowadays mind maps are very popular. I use them almost daily for various purposes: insight into situations, problem solving, summarizing, making records, creating plans, develop ideas or report status. I even created a mind map of my resume. The possibilities of mind maps are endless. The theory behind mind maps is fairly simple and making them stimulates the creative side of our brains through visualization.

On the back of a napkin

The drawing of (simple) images can be of great value. In my search for literature on creativity and visualization a few weeks ago, I walked into a book by Dan Roam called “The back of a napkin, Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures“. In this book Dan Roam describes how a simple drawing can help. I’m not a great artist and the simple drawings in this book appealed to me immediately. Ultimately it just requires drawing of simple shapes: lines, rectangles, smiles and stick figures.

His philosophy is that every problem can be solved with a simple drawing. In his book he introduces four steps of visual thinking, five questions that help focus and six ways of seeing. Try it and see if it helps you.


I hope these examples inspired you to try to use more visualization. Try writing a test plan with a mind map or visualize your test strategy and scope with images. Why not put your thoughts on paper using a few sketches? Don’t let the thought that you can’t draw stop you. The creative process is much more important than the final result. Furthermore, you will see that it isn’t really that bad!

Awesome examples
Finally, I want to share some great examples of visualizations, two beautiful animations. The first is Steven Johnson – Where Good Ideas Come From:

And the second is Dan Pink – Drive. The surprising truth about what motivates us:

This Dutch example by Avans Hogeschool also shows how powerful visualization can be:

Gojko Adzic uses simple but very powerful pictures in his presentations that help me understand and remember his message easy.

The last example I like to share is a blog post about visualizing strategy, concept and design which shows some good examples of visualizations and has a few interesting links at the end. Good luck!

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