Let’s Test Oz changed me

It’s Friday afternoon, September 19th 2014 and the Boeing 747 from Thai is full to the limit with children, teenagers, parents and businesspeople.

I am sitting in a middle seat in the window row on the right side of the airplane just in front of the wing. I have my Bose noise cancelling headphones on and I’m thinking.

I am leaving Sydney, flying home from the first Let’s Test Oz.

The Jumbo accelerates along the runway, then takes off. With engines whining, babies crying, people chatting and teenagers cheering, we head for the skies. The sounds are damped inside my Bose’s.

I’m alone with my thoughts, but not alone in the World.

I catch a glimpse of the pacific and the Sydney skyline. Then, the plane turns in over the Australian continent.

Australia and Let’s Test Oz has changed me.

Picture form Let's Test Oz workshop with Fiona Charles on test leadership.
Picture form Let’s Test Oz workshop with Fiona Charles on test leadership.

In democracy, debate changes politics

I participated in a political workshop a few days ago. It was organised by the Danish minister for social affairs, who is seeking input to his political campaign. We’re facing a parlamential election in 2015 and the danish democracy is waking up. I’m not a candidate or even a member of a political party, but I’m going to work hard to put social politics on the agenda.

Participating in the workshop was interesting. I shared some of my knowledge, learnt a bit and even got a few new contacts.

Let’s Test Oz was like that, except it was three days of sharing, learning and connecting about my profession: Software testing.

Innovation in testing

I think most people in the Context Driven Testing communicty percieve themselves as innovators. But not everything going on in the projects, companies and organisations we’re working in, is innovative. A lot is standardized, dull and repetitive work controled by machine bureaucracies.

Some testing is even political.

Politics is about power, and knowledge is power.

Testing, being a knowledge producing performance, is therefore a political instrument. Testing is more than that of course, but it’s always potentially a political instrument, and sometimes it’s even used as one.

Politics is applied psychology, and whenever there are humans, there is politics.

In public politics, the political processes are more or less visible and open. In projects, politics is often hidden or kept away from testers and tech people.

I’d like to see more testers (and tech people) getting into the political games. We shouldn’t just trust managers who know little about testing to control us. The game is just too important to miss.

That was, more or less, the message of my presentation at Let’s Test. James Bach, who was presenting at the same time as I was, saved me from having a large audience, but the room was well filled and we had a good discussion afterwards. I shared and learnt.

I’m in love with democracy and I have always and will always vote. Yet, voting is just the smallest part of our political democracy: It’s the debates that really change the world.

And to me, the most fantastic thing about the Context Driven Testing community is the debates we’re having. Through these debates, we’re changing ourselves, each other, and the world. To the better.

Leaving home for a conference

My family depends on me. That’s the short story. The slightly longer story is that I have four children and a wife, and neither of them fit well in our society. We struggle with a daily fear of stress, anxiety, depression, paranoia and even psycosis forcing it’s way back into our lives.

The Danish welfare system supports us, but I’m indispensable to my family. I’m not that stress sensitive.

Before I went to Sydney, I had decided not to feel guilty that I was leaving them for a week. I knew that, my wife had deliberately not thought about MH 17 having been shot down over the Ukraine a few months earlier carrying people going to a conference in Austrailay, and while I was away, she had also deliberately ignored the terror threats in Sydney.

So had I.

I enjoyed myself enormously at Let’s Test Oz and in Sydney.

The problems in our family are symptoms of autism but they’re also symptoms of society’s reaction to the collective anxiety over the post cold-war world:

Everything is possible if you dream it, yet diffuse threats surround us everywhere.

Fears and anxiety

I was a teenager in the 1980’s and back then we knew that the civilised world would cease to exist if war broke out. We were living with the fear.

Compared to anxiety, fear is easy: You can talk about it.

Fear and conflict unites us against something or someone.

Anxiety is a demon that slowly sucks energy out of you. Anxiety seperates people from each other. Collective anxiety kills humanity.

No doubt, there’s anxiety in Austrailia, but there’s a human side to the culture, which I sensed very strongly. I wrote a long essay about it in Danish which has been very well received. Returning home, I have found hope that Denmark could be changing to the better: A less anxious and more humane culture.

Struggeles for testers

However, the problems testers in Austrailia and New Zealand are struggeling with seem to be the same as here. Managers require enless rows of silly estimates, defects are counted, information is kept away from people needing it, and software quality is something everyone is talking about, yet few are doing anything seriously about it.

It’s not surprising that workers in our industry suffer. Some are working in hell-machines, and while we can have a civilised discussion about it over a steak and a sip of quality Austrailian redwine, or even a row of beers, many in the instry still need to calm themselves on a daily basis with hard exercise, alcohol or just lots of coffee. Or medicine.

The Context Driven Testing community is trying to change all this.

We debate. And we are becoming political performers.

Thank you

Let’s Test Oz had a track of ”testing influencing management”, which I shared my thoughts on, but also gave me lots of inspiration. The whole conference was a blast!

I’m very grateful that the programme commitee accepted my proposal and challenged me with the invitation to Sydney.

The trip around the globe changed me and gave me a deeper understanding of our testing community and humanity as such.

Thank you Let’s Test Oz and everyone there!

Sydney Skyline
Sydney Skyline
Reklamer

Welcome to Oz

It’s fun to arrive in a new country and get a sense of the culture. This is my first time in Austrailia.

”What do you want, mate?”, said the guy in a kebab bar in Sydney. And he looked me directly in my eyes. That blew a fuse in my brain!

If someone in Denmark looks me in my eyes and say: ”What do you want?”, I know I’m in trouble and should get away quick. But I was in Sydney and the kebab guy was just a helpful Australian. He made me a great kebab with fries, which was just what I needed for my jetlagged body.

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Australians are wonderfully helpful… and very direct. A woman asked me if I needed help with my bag when I was walking down stairs. A guy approached me to offer directions for me. ”Thank you”, ”No worries, mate!”

I’m down under, what on earth should I worry about?

I’m here to attend and speak at Let’s Test Oz 2014 taking place in Blue Mountains outside Sydney. What a setting! What a conference! I’ll have to come back to that in a blog post after the conference. For now, I’ll just share my immediate impression of Australian culture.

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Words make a difference. Americans love words of latin origin, I think it makes them feel important. They have ”view points” in the landscape. Aussies call things what they are: Lookouts.

Europeans have ”colleagues”. It makes us feel smart. Aussies are ”workmates”.

“Mate” is a funny word. In the animal world, mates are sexual partners. Dictionary.com lists ”partner in marriage” as the first of seven definitions of “mate”. The word is of German origin, coming from ”gemate” which just means someone eating on the same table.

A porter in Australia will say ”After you, mate” and look you in the eyes, whereas a porter in the UK will say ”after you, sir” and look down.

Walking down to the Opera House on Sunday morning, I saw the sign in the photo below. Note that the someone changed the text, but even if it hadn’t, I’ve never before seen a public sign telling people what kind of language to use:

”The following is prohibited… Use of obscene or indecent language… Penalties apply”

What if someone takes a megafone and starts shouting obscene and indecent language (it’s ok to use your imagination here) from the coast? Would that be ok? I should try, shouldn’t I? After all, I am a tester.

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In Denmark, we would never put up such a sign. We’d just silently push people off the wharf and leave them to drown in the water if they don’t talk nicely and behave according to our unwritten rules. Yes, we might be the happiest people in the world, but that’s only because we’re ready to exclude anyone who isn’t.

Is there a flipside? I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve seen and heard enough to notice that testers have the same problems in Australia as in the rest of the world. Also, I’ve been told that organisations are strictly hierachical, according to colonial tradition. Coming from a culture in which organisations are flat and everyone usually has very direct access to managers on all levels, and where colleagues appraise each other for speaking against the manager, that always surprise me.

There may be more to it, however. I’m not sure.

Enough for now. Enjoy Let’s Test Oz if you’re here! I know I do.