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UK Software Testing Retreat

After an absence of a few years I have signed up to attend the next UK Software Testing Retreat being held in The Netherlands.

It will be good to catch-up with some old friends, and make some new ones.

I am looking forward to some stimulating discussions that will no doubt generate several blog posts, conference presentation ideas, and maybe some build project inspiration, so watch this space . . .

Instructional Games for Software Testers


The educational world has now recognised that we learn best when we are relaxed, enjoying ourselves, and have the freedom to experiment and learn through making mistakes.


This workshop engages the participants in playing, developing and understanding how instructional games will help them, as testers, test leads and test managers, to better comprehend the power of communication, and improve their communication skills.

Test Concept Charades

The first game we will play is ‘Test Concept Charades. This is where we have to explain common testing concepts without using some key words. Sounds simple until you try to explain complex technical concepts in plain language.

Throw in a little competition between teams and this quickly becomes quite fun 🙂

Ten Hundred Words

upgoerfiveThe second game, the ‘Ten Hundred Words‘ game, is based on the #upgoerfive concept explained at

We use this concept to describe complex technical stuff, although software testing isn’t quite rocket science, by only using words on the Ten Hundred most common words list – by the way thousand is not on the list. This helps us to communicate testing and test concepts effectively, whilst not confusing our audience with technical double-speak (or jargon).

After playing each game the delegates will work on developing the game and creating their own ‘specific’ variant suited to their organisational situation. We will then examine when it is appropriate to use the games, and what the desired outcomes are.

Both games combine to help us learn new and enhanced ways to communicate more effectively with others, and especially with those who may not have the same level of technical understanding that we do.

Afterwards & Takeaways

Back in the office attendees are able to develop and use the games with their colleagues to demonstrate the learning points from the workshop. They will also be able to test their own versions developed in the session and be left with a deeper insight into how to communicate with non-technical people.


PowerPoint Show     Powerpoint Show (2.3mb)

Presented at:

1. Test Management Summit, London. Apr 2016.
2. EuroSTAR 2016, Stockholm, Nov 2016.


  1. Up Goer Five
    The original Up Goer Five concept by Randall Munroe.
  2. Saturn 5 Rocket described in Up Goer Five
    Well worth a visit just to marvel at the ingenuity 🙂
  3. The Up Goer Five text editor
    Give it a go yourself?
  4. The Ten Hundred Words List

EuroSTAR 2016 Discount Code

As a speaker at this year’s EuroSTAR conference, the organisers have sent me a discount code (badge), that ‘colleagues / friends / followers’  or just about anyone, can use to get a 10% discount. It might not seem like much, but every little helps.


PS. If you were wondering, I do not get anything for promoting this. I do so in the hope that it might help someone 🙂

BCS SIGiST Mentoring Program

BCS SIGiSTI have just joined the BCS SIGiST Mentoring Programfor the coming year, as a mentor of new speakers.

The mentoring program, established by the current BCS SIGiST Programme Secretary, Isabel Evans, is designed to mentor new speakers through the whole conference / seminar speaking ‘process‘. This will take the mentee right from the early steps of developing an abstract, through talk design and preparation, and all the way to speaking on the day.

I am sure that many people would like to share their testing experiences, but might be put off by not knowing; where to start, how to go about submitting, getting a talk together, and then standing up on the day in front of your peers. This can sound quite daunting (apologies if I am making it so), and that is where the mentors are here to help. We are all experienced conference speakers so have a wealth and depth of knowledge to draw from in order to; advise, guide and assist testers who are just starting their speaking journey.

I am in illustrious company, the other mentors being; Dorothy Graham, Mieke Gevers and Julian Harty.

BCS SIGiST New Speaker Mentors

BCS SIGiST New Speaker Mentors

The successful candidates will be speaking at the BCS SIGiST on December 7th this year. I am definitely looking forward to the event and I hope that you are, either as new speaker and mentee, or just as a member of the audience along to give your support 🙂

If you would like to know more, then as a candidate, check out the mentoring program here, or as a potential mentor, please get in touch with the BCS SIGiST Program Secretary here.

DNS Servers – A Lesson Learnt

The internet in our house hasn’t been working well for a while now. It works fine when you are connected, and throughput tests show, stable, high speed upstream and down. But leave your device alone for a while and it may struggle to reconnect. Turn a tablet on next to a laptop, and they both lose the connection. Even the wired connection devices were losing the network.

For those with a short attention span I can report that the problem is now solved. If you wish to know more, and find out how, then please read on.

This problem has been steadily developing. It used to be sporadic and last Thursday it became a permanent situation!  There was no connectivity for all devices for over half an hour. BT were not reporting a fault, and our Home Hub 3 still had the Blue, connected, lights on.

Question MarkI am a tester, so I always ask “What has changed? What made this happen?

Thinking back, on Wednesday I received an e-mail from Amazon asking me to upgrade the software on my old Kindle. We both have 2 old Kindles. I charged them up. Downloaded the new software and updated them. All was fine.

A few days before I had bought 2 new Raspberry Pi 3 computers. These come with Ethernet and on board WiFi. So I tested both. All was fine.

I suppose I have a somewhat more extensive home network than many. We have a BT Broadband Infinity 2 connection and a BT Home Hub 3. The Home Hub is connected into a switch, and also connected is a Netgear Wireless Router. We have a separate wireless router because of the enforced positioning of the BT Home Hub, near the phone socket at a front corner of the house, does not provide a good wireless signal to the whole house, so we have positioned a separate Netgear wireless router more centrally. It is also a much better wireless router, but that is by the by.

BC Network

I am sure that this setup is not actually that unusual. The Home Hub 3 has some limitations, like only having one gigabit connection. Whereas the rest of our network is all gigabit. The only setup change that we have made is to disable the WiFi on the Home Hub 3.

Where we tend to depart from the usual is that we do have a lot of devices connected. Although I suspect that this is in no way extraordinary. This is becoming the norm in the modern connected and ‘always on‘ home. So we have desktop computers, laptops, phones & kindles. There is PC stuff, like printers and NAS. And finally some home entertainment connections; media PC, satellite box, smart TV, & remote control. I also have a number of Raspberry Pi computers. 17 all told. These are not all connected, but have been, and some WiFI dongles that I can use with the Raspberry Pis.

I added this up, and including guests who had recently visited, I came to the grand total of 74 different connections through our Home Hub 3 in the recent past.  This is probably a lot.

TelephoneOn Saturday I bit the bullet and called BT to report the fault!  This is always a painful process. It takes hours on the phone. You are treated like a complete idiot. And as with all 3 calls on Saturday the problem went unresolved. I was actually cut off with all 3 calls. It seems to me that there is a 25 minute time limit on a call. If your problem is not solved in that time you are just cut off. Even though, all 3 times, they had my number, I was not rung back. I call that ‘customer disservice’. You may have a different name for it.

The upshot was that after the line testing, all of the Agents pronounced that my connection was fine. But we still couldn’t view webpages

However, one question all 3 agents asked was “How many devices do you have connected?”  Now I was saying 20, or 30. Actually I should have said 100+. I did wonder why this was relevant.

My last resort was to search the internet – maybe this should have been my first?. There I found a few comments about Home Hub 5 not working properly with a large number of connections, and an obscure link about the quality of the BT DNS servers, and an alternative solution using Google.

I began to piece things together. We have a large number of connections. The actual error we were getting, which I had reported to BT, was ‘DNS_Probe_Finished_No_Internet‘.

Now call me old fashioned, but here were all the clues. The article about the BT DNS servers also mentioned switching to use the Google DNS servers . Unfortunately this setting can’t be changed on the BT Home Hub 3. It is hardwired to use the BT DNS servers. So you have to configure each individual device on your network. Every computer, phone and tablet that can be changed – about 40 devices in all! And this isn’t so straight forward on some Android devices!

Of course, begin a good tester, I changed just one, and waited to see what happened …

About half an hour later, an unchanged tablet failed to connect, whilst my changed laptop kept working. There was evidence of success. So we changed all of the devices that were to hand – 10 so far. And to date we have not had a recurrence of the DNS failure. Yey 🙂

I ran 4 changed devices, sitting next to each other on the kitchen table, to check that everything was still working. They all worked just fine. Previously this had not bee possible.

However, as a good tester, I know it has been less than 24 hours, that this may only be a temporary fix, and that further problems may lie headed. In the meantime though, we will luxuriate in a return to speedy and stable internet access across our many connected devices.

And if anyone from BT ever reads this then here is a personal plea,

Fix your DNS servers, fix your Hubs, update your help desk scripts to cover this topic, stop cutting callers off after 25 minutes, and if you do cut them off, have the courtesy to ring them back!

UK TMF Summit Discussion Session

UKTMFI will be presenting a discussion session entitled “Instructional Games for Testers, Test Leads, & Test Managers” at this year’s UK TMF Summit on 26th March.

If you are interested in attending, or just want to know a little more, then check out; the session, the Summit program, or the UK TMF here.

My Digital Life #12,768

The last few weeks have been interesting, digitally, as a software tester.

Part 1: NHS Kiosks

NHSKioskRecently I went to a local hospital for a check-up, a regular planned visit, so nothing to worry about 🙂

When I arrived I headed to the self-registration check-in kiosk. I entered my details, as I have done many times previously. The terminal seemed to have a problem, and looped back 3 times to the same questions – The dialogue checks all of your details, presented in the form of ‘Yes’, ‘No’ options for changes. I pressed ‘No‘ to all of the change options, but after three times around I was presented with the message:

An unexpected error has occurred. Please use one of the Kiosks either side.

I was in a rush, being tight on time for the appointment, so didn’t get my camera phone out and take a picture, which is usual practice when encountering an error like this in the wild. I was also a little in shock. As a tester my mind was racing. So the terminal either side might have a better chance of success? Really? And what was actually wrong? An error message might be helpful, so I don’t make the same mistake again – although I couldn’t work out what I had done wrong. But settled on the thought that making a helpful suggestion might actually be, err . . . . helpful. Maybe ‘Use another Kiosk‘ was actually the most helpful suggestion?

I was successful in using the kiosk to the left (there wasn’t one to the right!)  And made a note not to use that specific kiosk again. Maybe it didn’t like me. Maybe I pressed the screen too hard or something?

Part2: Google Chrome

ChromeI really do like Chrome as a browser and have used it for many years. Yes I know that Google are (allegedly) stealing all of my personal information for their own gain, but Chrome works well, is smooth, looks good, and just, err, works.

Well in the last few days it hasn’t. Worked that well that is. About a week ago, subconsciously I noticed that my laptop battery life had taken a dip. I seemed to be recharging it more frequently. It was low on power when I thought it would be ok. That sort of thing. After about 4 or 5 days I heard the fan kicking in and wondered what was going on.

First stop is Task Manager to see what is actually consuming all of the resource. It turned out to be Chrome, and an .exe called nalc64.exe. Hitting 30% plus cpu, when Chrome was loaded.

So problem identified. Now for the cause? A quick internet search identified nothing of use – there were lots of sites offering me a ‘download‘ tool to fix my problem, ‘Yeah, Right!‘.

I resorted to my backup in these cases, which is to use another browser. IE and Edge seemed fine (btw I am using Win 10.) I quickly imported my latest Chrome favorites and continued as before. The hope being that Google will identify the problem and sort it quickly.
(I also ran a full virus and malware scan, just in case, even though these run in the background as a matter of course.)

I checked every day, and four days after I stopped using Chrome the problem is magically fixed. My personal view is 50/50 that: either Google messed something up and have now fixed it, or Microsoft changed something, which messed up Google, which Google have now fixed.

Part 3: GlowBugs

GlowBugContinuing my adventure with CodeBug, I bought some GlowBugs to connect to my CodeBug. “GlowBugs are full colour LEDs (with over 16 million possible colours!). They are really easy to control and use in your projects and this activity will show you how to use them with a couple of simple blocks.” – CodeBug

Programming the CodeBug is immense fun. Try it sometime. So the GlowBugs must be just as fun?  I wired up the 10 GlowBugs, each connected with 3 croc clip wires.  Then downloaded a simple program to find out how to address the LEDs.

I then started to write my own program, a simple little thing, that would light up the LEDs in sequence, depending upon which CodeBug button I had pressed. Some 4 hours later, when I had ironed out the subtleties of Blockly, we – for Chris had joined in the fun – had a working version of the program.

Along the way I encountered a bit of a problem with web browser, Chrome, running Blockly. At one point all of my blocks just disappeared. My code went AWOL! Fortunately I had saved frequently. I was also getting spurious results from counter settings.

I put this down to the fact that I hadn’t refreshed my browser for a while, and that there was a memory corruption, of some sort that Testers don’t understand. Fortunately, when I reloaded the browser the code had been saved to my account, was still there, and worked just fine.

It was like computing in the 1980s and 1990s. Save a little and often. So, if you think the browser has corrupted, then don’t carry on, but reload from your checkpoint.

ZX81My first computer was a ZX81, way back in . . . 1981. a 1K computer, with a 16K ram pack on the back, secured with blu-tack. Plugged into a portable 14″ TV, and a cassette recorder, for saving and loading programs. I had been coding away for several hours one afternoon. It had gone dark. So someone else came along to turn on the light. Unfortunately I had unplugged the light to connect, ZX81, Tape Recorder, and portable TV. Well the inevitable happened – bang – the TV went off, the ZX81 stopped dead, and my code disappeared into the ether, never to be seen again. Only back then there wasn’t an always on, instant Internet, Cloud Save option available . . . . .  I learn’t that lesson the hard way.

It is that time of year again – Hints and Tips

Yes, it’s Conference Submission Time.

cycleThere is a cycle to conferences. For the larger ones, i.e. EuroSTAR, ATD, etc., then it may even start before the last conference has taken place. The conference chair needs to be appointed. The venue and dates chosen – conference halls have to be booked well in advance.

When last year’s conference finished next years will be introduced. The new chair will set a theme, and post a call for papers.  This is going on now for the EuroSTAR 2016 conference (Call for submissions closes on 5th Feb 2016).

TipHere are some Hints and Tips for submitting to conferences.

I was lucky enough to be on the EuroSTAR 2011 program committee and I wrote a post about tips for submitting here. The current EuroSTAR program team have done the same so don’t forget to check it out if you are considering submitting.

There were 460+ submissions that year, 2011, and only 50 or so successful candidates. It isn’t as simple as saying “Well that is a one in nine chance, so I will put in nine submissions!”  Carefully read through all of the advice, then craft your proposal.  And remember, if you don’t submit, then you definitely won’t be successful.

If you aren’t successful in winning a speaking slot at your chosen conference, then do not despair. There are loads of things that you can do, for free, in the interim, to a) develop yourself, and b) increase your chances of submission success for a future conference.

Here is my How to educate yourself in Software Testing for Free plan. Try it for a year, and get your ‘money back’ if it doesn’t work.

There is loads of free software testing stuff out there on the internet just waiting for you, so take advantage of it.

BlogBlogs:  Lots of software testers blog – you are reading one now – so check them out. I wish it was as simple as telling you which ones to read. It isn’t that easy. Follow the links to interesting blog articles. The bloggers you like will become favourites. But don’t forget that there are also interesting posts from people you may not have heard of.
Tip: Try reading blog posts that you disagree with. It may not change your mind, but you will get another perspective.

PowerPoint ShowPresentations: Amazingly, almost all of the conference presentations can be found online. You can see the slides, read papers, and supporting material. Start by browsing the Resources section of this site 🙂  So you still get to read the presentations even if you didn’t go to the conference.
Tip: Check out Twitter for announcements of posts and uploads.

ebooke-books:  A lot of software testing authors write shorter e-books which are freely available. It doesn’t take long to search for them. Surprisingly, some of them are actually worth reading!
Tip: Try reading them on your daily commute – as long as you don’t drive. Or put away one hour a week to read e-books.

WebinarWebinars: Which are online presentations. These are great. I have done several myself which you can find in the Resources section. Basically you get to hear the presenter as well as see their slides. This adds an extra dimension to the presentation, and can give you further detail not available from just reading the slides.
Tip: Many of the major conferences arrange webinars throughout the year.

YouTube2Live Days: Some conferences will actually broadcast a live day. They select presentations throughout the day that give a positive representation of the conference. These may even be videoed which will give you a real feel for the event.
Tip:  You don’t always have to listen live. They are sometimes available after the event for later viewing. Great for conferences in different time zones.

Armed with all of this information, if nothing else, you will have gained a wider understanding of what is going on around you in the software testing world, and you may have learned a few things on the way.