What we can learn from the great Osamu Tezuka

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(IMPORTANT: If you think comics are for children, please contact me on Skype before you continue reading. I’d like to have a clarifying chat with you. My ID: ilarihenrik)

Osamu Tezuka has drawn a lot in his short life that unfortunately lasted only 60 years. The mangas and gekigas above are from my Tezuka section and they represent only 8.2% of what he has created in his lifetime. Osamu Tezuka is one of the most incredible practitioners, not only by the standards of the manga industry.

We test software, Osamu Tezuka draws stories. Is there anything to learn from the great man? Or is this just some forced analogy? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s see if there is something we can make use of.

Do it every day
Osamu Tezuka has drawn every single day of his life. There was no day where he just sat around idly. He has drawn more than 700 tomes of manga with a total of about 150’000 pages and he was involved in countless films as well.

Shouldn’t we consider practicing our craft every single day? What have YOU done software testing wise today? Regular practice is the key to greatness.

Be a good story teller
Reading Tezuka makes you aware of his incredible story telling abilities. Some of his mangas stretch over more than 2500 pages (e.g. the great Buddha series — on the picture above on the lower right corner), and there are simply no passages that are boring. His stories are fantastic.

In order to practice bug advocacy, you essentially need to be a good and convincing story teller. Testing still often needs to be “sold”. The better you can come up with a convincing story of why it is important, the better your life as a tester will be.

Assemble people who help you
In order to keep up the pace, Tezuka had a big group of people who helped him with his stories by doing the blackening or the application of patterns or drawing the less prominent characters in the background. Tezuka acknowledged that he could not do everything himself and that it is helpful to have friends in his proximity who not only helped with the texturing but also criticized his work.

I believe that is something which makes the context-driven school of testing very strong as well. We tend to watch ourselves and give constant feedback while pushing ourselves to become better every day. It is a value we should be aware of.

To have some additional educational background is helpful
It might be a lesser known snippet of fact that Osamu Tezuka was a medical doctor. Although he never practiced as a physician, he has actually graduated as a doctor. This resulted in him being able to draw physiologically correct and fascinating details in some of his stories. I can highly recommend his collection of short stories about the outlaw doctor Black Jack. These short stories are outstanding. And they are outstanding because Tezuka included a second skill into his art. The fusion resulted in something far more remarkable.

That’s why it would make sense for us testers to educate ourselves in a wide variety of other topics. We should read about social sciences, immerse ourselves in ethnological methods of qualitative data gathering, psychology, cognitive sciences and of course mathematics should become our friends. And a lot of other matter, too.

Not being certified allows you to be great
Ha! Who would have thought that Tezuka is with us in this regard. Again, his outlaw doctor Black Jack is NOT CERTIFIED. And he does not even want to be certified because he has trained his skills to become the greatest surgeon on the planet.

Mushi Production
Well, the translation of the name of his animation studio - Mushi Production - is: bug production.

(An irrelevant yet interesting side note: While writing this post, my editor constantly tried to correct “mangas” to “mangos”, which I found hilarious because of my automatic spell checker’s complete unawareness of context)

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Major Consensus Narrative, Asking Supposedly Hyper-Smart Questions and Being Context-Driven

conspiracy
image credit: http://j.mp/JSuYkO

As the title might suggest, there is a mix of different ideas and questions in this post. We may even have Virginia Satir coming for a short visit. But at the end you will see - I hope - that everything is connected.

Very recently

I am not the only one who is convinced that reality is a social construction. There is no truth as such in pure form. Or as the saying goes, there are 4 truths; mine, yours, “The Truth” and what really happened. For those among you who understand German, I highly recommend episode 23 of the excellent Alternativlos podcast. You may listen to “Verschwörungstheorien, die sich später als wahr herausstellten” here.

What concerns me, is the major consensus narrative. It is what the majority has agreed on to be true. To link that to the context-driven school of software testing: Are we in love with the idea of having found “The Truth”? Do we run in danger of reciting self-enforcing mantras that might be wrong? How do we know if we wander astray?

These are important questions that need to be asked. Martin Jansson - on the other hand - reported on his test lab experience at Let’s Test conference and told how some of the more seasoned testers almost brought his efforts to a halt by not stopping to ask questions. Paul Holland told the story of James Bach having become an unstoppable questioner at a peer conference.

Is it always good to ask questions? How long and how many? When do I stop? Is it a “Just because I can” attitude to prove that I am hyper-smart? I have a potpourri of questions I recently asked myself:

1. Is there a moment when asking questions becomes counter-productive?
a) If yes, when exactly and what does happen then?
b) If no, how do you know?

2. Does puzzle solving make you a better tester?
a) If yes, what exactly is the mechanism?
b) If no, is the effect neutral or negative?

3. Should we bash certified testers who are proud of their certifications?
a) If yes, what do we want to achieve with that action?
b) If no, why do we let these people spread ideas about bad testing?

4. Is having a high intelligence level a prerequisite for being a good context-driven tester?
a) If yes, what definition of intelligence is applicable?
b) If no, how can it be substituted and by what?

5. Is it true that many tester struggle with what a heuristic and an oracle are?
a) If yes, what is your explanation that it is so?
b) If no, where is your data?

6. Can YOU give a quick explanation to somebody who doesn’t understand the concept?
a) If yes, how do you know you were understood?
b) If no, what part are you struggling with?

7. Is there a subject/topic that has no relevance whatsoever to the context-driven software tester?
a) If yes, can you give an explanation that entails detailed reasons of its inapplicability?
b) If no, how come?

I have my answers to the questions. But, please, my friends, post YOURS in the comments below. I would love to see a variety of reasonings.

You may have asked yourself at the beginning of this post what the fragment “Very recently” was doing there without culminating in a full sentences. That is a valid question. You might even have formed a hypothesis about what it was doing there. “Just an editing error”, “probably a section title”, “haven’t noticed”, “maybe it is clickable”, “semantic ambiguity of hypnotic language” could have been some of the guesses.

I promised in the entry sentences that at the end everything will be connected. Actually, it is not at all; this post is very messy. Please, don’t shout at me because of that. And Virginia Satir might be in one of the next posts. I’d definitely like to talk about her.

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What Is the Secret Sauce that Made Let's Test Such a Great Conference?

letstest_organizers

Many of us have put on weight during Let’s Test because of a combination of fantastic nordic cuisine and an abundant availability of Swedish micro-brewery beers. For me it has been an overwhelming experience and I feel very privileged to have been part of the first Let’s Test conference.

But, what is it that made it great? What’s the secret sauce?

One approach could be to list elements such as:

  • fabulous location and facilities
  • good food
  • great beers
  • interesting sessions
  • format of the sessions with facilitated discussions
  • cool people
  • the nicely foldable program
  • perfect WIFI coverage
  • friendly approachable organizers
  • the sunny weather

Only that I don’t think that explains anything. In order to perceive it as great, there must be something else. And I think it is the dynamics created by a combination of factors. Like a tasty sauce, it is the balanced combination of ingredients in interaction with each other, which makes it mouth-watering.

Many of us know each other on Twitter, we have had conversations on blogs and discussed stuff on a Skype chat. At Let’s Test I have met many of my tester peers for the first time in person. There was already a lot I knew about these people. Some of them had sessions and my excitement about it was already great before they started. Also, during a session it was well possible to have e.g. my BBST Foundations instructor Ru Cindrea to the left and Anne-Marie Charrett, with whom I have discussed Skype coaching a lot, to the right. Hence, it was like a family & friends gathering.

A unique aspect was the extensive evening program with art tours, test lab, social gathering, XBox games, free beer and a mind blowing band that played some sort of beautiful eastern style klezmerish music and had a violin player who made my jaw drop. Now, this was combined with having taken place in a room that looked like a massively oversized living room with candles on the tables. At the same time there were Oliver Vilson’s metal and wood puzzle making turns among the people. Hence, it was like a family & friends gathering.

Free beer can help to become sociable. The guy at the bar was a friendly tall Swede with a goatee and oversized earrings. I am no longer in my 20s, but Let’s Test made me behave like one who is. Long, beer-saturated nights that created difficult mornings, where people were glancing at each other knowingly. Oh, man, what a laugh we had during the late night conversations. Hence, it was like a family & friends gathering.

If you gather a group of people and everybody just wanders off after the sessions, then there is no soul to it. Runö is somewhere out in nowhere and it kept the whole group together. Interaction was inevitable. Wherever one walked there were people to meet. Smiling was a facial activity that was used extensively. Hence, it was like a family & friends gathering.

Are there dangers for the future?

I guess there were roughly 150 people at this year’s conference. Many of them will go back to where the come from and tell their friends and colleague about their positive experience at the conference. People following the #LetsTest hash tag on Twitter also mentally constructed their impression of the conference. They will all want to come to next year’s conference. In my opinion the success of Let’s Test may become a liability.

Why so?

I think that what I perceived as the soul of the conference - a friends & family gathering - may get lost if there were twice or three times more people. I am not sure if bigger is always better. The conference would suddenly become more anonymous and that could destroy the dynamics mentioned above.

How to avoid it?

Surprisingly there is a beautiful and straightforward solution to it: Do it at Runö again. Just checked their website and it says there are 228 beds, which quite effectively limits the number of participants.

Anyway: Ola, Henke, Henrik, Tobbe, Johan & all participants, I love you all for having made this conference possible. You guys rock, and hopefully see you next year.

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Let's Test Conference - Update #5

paulholland

Have a look at Paul Holland’s facial expression. it makes you chuckle, doesn’t it? That is because Paul has not had a long enough rest. And that is because we had a joyful night at Runö. Let’s continue this post with some images and have the text for another time.

benkelly2

Ben Kelly had a both very entertaining and troublesome presentation on the testing dead.

alanrichardson

Alan Richardson talking on testing hypnotically.

coaching

Anne-Marie and me injected a coaching session into the test lab assignment.

runo╠łoutside

Runö is such a beautiful place.

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Let's Test Conference - Update #3 + a bit of Update #4

startLetsTest1

I initially planned to write this update before the conference started but I achieved to deactivate my alarm clock at 7am when it rang and fell asleep again. That resulted in me waking up again at exactly 9am. That’s the official starting time. I jumped in my jeans, grabbed my messenger bag with my stuff and ran. I managed to arrive exactly at the time when Ola started talking.

Yeah, well, who is perfect. Perfection is unappealing anyway, isn’t it? To have shortcomings is what makes us human.

Alright, we had a very good Sunday. Oliver Vilson brought some cool puzzle gadgets to play with and Runö started to fill up with testers. We seem to have the whole compound for our sole use and it is a beautiful place because it does not feel like a cold conference center at all. It’s more like being with friends at a holiday retreat.

We discovered that Henrik Emilsson is my unknown brother. Have a look at both of us here:

HenrikEmilsson

Paul Holland gave a group of us a very useful introduction into LAWST-style facilitation. Every session will be facilitated and I am looking forward to the session on Wednesday I am going to facilitate. Great, haven’t done that before.

Later on Sunday many of the people I converse a lot on Twitter and Skype, etc., arrived. Hello my tester friends:

Huib Schoots
Simon P. Schrijver
Tony Bruce
Anne-Marie Charrett
Michael Bolton
Duncan Nisbet
Markus Gärtner
Joep Schuurkes
Christin Wiedemann
Scott Barber
Zeger Van Hese
Alexandru Rotaru

Exellent conference and especially the food deserves an honorable mention.

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Let's Test Conference - Update #2

runo╠ł

My flight had a very interesting route display. Zurich has suddenly changed its name to Düsseldorf and Antwerpen was relocated to somewhere in the south. I just hope there is no connection between the passenger display and the pilot’s navigation system.

flightdisplay

Anyway, we arrived well in Stockholm and I met James and Dessi Lyndsay at the airport. We shared the taxi to Runö. So, that’s the start of Let’s Test then. Runö is a nice and quiet retreat on the country side and I think it is the perfect location for a conference.

We had a nice dinner with Ola Hyltén, Henke Andersson, Henrik Emilsson, Tobbe Ryber, Johan Jonasson, James and Dessi Lynsey, Ben Kelly, Julian Harty, Paul Holland, Chris and … hm, what was his name again? (UPDATE: Thanks, Neil. Yes, it’s Neil Thompson. My memory would like to apologize for not remembering)

Honoring the Scandinavian tradition we proceeded to drinking and had a a lot of fun as can be seen in e.g. Ben Kelly’s Tweet:

benkelly

After midnight I had some BBST Foundations work to do and I had a very hard time reading and understanding the text of the quiz. Shouldn’t do that likewise for the next deadline.

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Let's Test Conference - Update #1

lounge

Checked in at ZRH and the check-in machine shut down with an error message while printing out my baggage tags and my boarding pass. At the baggage drop the lady asked me where my third suitcase is. No third suitcase. She apologized and said there was something wrong with the computer system.

Then going through the scanners, placed my boarding pass, my ID card and my flat cap in the bin for the scanner. After the scanner my ID has miraculously disappeared. Strange kind of bug. Disappearing objects. The security people helped me search for it but then the ID card reappeared; it was between my flat cap and my head. Embarrassing, but happy it was not caused by a bug.

Now waiting in the lounge for my plane that takes me to Let’s Test. Oh man, cannot wait.

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