Visual thinking with sketchnotes

I’m a visual learner. I like to draw things as I absorb information. I enjoy doing sketchnotes while I’m at a conference. See Australian Testing days and Agile Australia as examples of these sketch notes in practice. It helps keep me in the moment and focused on the talk material. It’s also a nice thing to hand to the speakers as they get off the stage.

Everyone can draw

You brain is a pattern recognition machine and will turn almost anything into something you recognise. Even your random squiggles can turn into birds. Try this squiggle birds exercise out as a warm up:

Mindmapping

Mind mapping is a good way to start with visual thinking. You have your central idea in the centre of the page and all of your ideas related to that idea radiating out if it:

Source: https://www.mindmeister.com/blog/mind-maps-essay-writing/

 

Sketchnotes

you can do sketch noting without drawing. You can start with lettering and things like bullets, frames and connectors:

 

I use banners everywhere

You can even find youtube videos for doing these banners

Build up a library of icons

There are many common icons you’ll use. I often draw light bulbs, locks, poop emoji’s and tools (what does that say about the state of technology?). 

Use colour to highlight ideas

It might feel like you are back in primary school colouring in borders but I love adding shadows and some colour highlights to my sketchnotes to really make them stand out/seem more 3D.

Practice your stick figures

people are often used to communicate abstract ideas. There’s lots of different styles out there and you will find your own.

Give it a go

The next time you are watching a lecture/presentation on youtube, try and take some sketch notes and let me know how you go.

Australian Testing Days – Sydney Conference Overview

I had a blast at Australian Testing Days Conference in Sydney on Friday. It’s always good to get reconnected with some colleagues and to make new connections. First up we had Jennie Naylor go over how to use OKR’s to drive the Quality Onwership:

Using OKR's to grow quality ownership - sketchnotes

The OKR (Objectives and Key Results) framework has been in use since the 70’s and is used by companies such as Google, Uber and Facebook to set their organisational goals. OKR is a framework that can be used at any level within your organisation. This presentation mention how to use OKRs to help improve quality and ownership in a team.

Key Takeaways

The key takeways I got from this talk was how to use OKRs to determine if experiments are successful or not and getting the whole team involved in quality and product ownership.

AI and the impact on QA

Given by Chhavi Raj Dosaj who proposed the question, can AI can the landscape of testing?  Chhavi had a big topic to fill. I think his main point was a little lost because he spent too much time going over the basics and he wasn’t able provide compelling examples of where AI could benefit the QA process.

One of his examples was using an unsupervised learning algorithm to select the top manual test cases to execute in the next testing cycle based on past performance of said test cases. Anyone who primarily uses test cases to manage their testing work and reporting is using a pretty dated testing practice that doesn’t scale or make sense in the Agile world. You can read more about my thoughts on the end of manual testing. I also wish he asked me for feedback on his slide design before he got up on stage. There were some presentation sins committed in his slide deck.

dev Ops Testing Strategy

DevOps Testing strategy by Amit Kulkarni fell victim to the old bait and switch presentation sin. The title didn’t match up to the content. My key take away from this talk was, “there are tons of tools out there you can use in a continuous testing way”. There wasn’t any DevOps in this talk at all. 

Performance Testing in CI

Andrey Pokhilko gave an engaging talk on Performance Testing in CI using opensource tools. I learnt the name of a new tool; Taurus. Which can be used on top of JMetre and is a little easier to use than the good old JMetre.

State of BDD

As I’ve already done Gojko Adzic’s spec by example workshop offered through YOW! a few years ago, I already had a decent idea where this talk would go. Bria Grangard was engaging and gave a good update on the state of this field.

Transforming Testing

Bruce McLeod gave an engaging talk in business strategy and how it will transform testing. This was one of my highlights of the conference. Bruce goes over how testing needs to change from a culture of “protection” to a culture of experimentation using the Netflix chaos monkey as an example. 

Ditch that intro slide

Australian Testing days is off to an awesome start. I always enjoy the community vibe at these events. However there’s tons of poorly designed slide decks out there. Here’s some advice. Ditch the intro slide with your picture on it. The audience doesn’t care and we know what you look like. You are standing right in front of us.

Chhavi Raj Dosaj gave a good introductory talk on “on practical AI for the tester”. I have the sketchnotes here:

However, I just wish I could have walked him through my workshop material on giving better technical presentations before he got up on stage. This type of mentoring is something I offer for free. I love helping people improve their technical presentations. It makes every conference experience better for everyone involved. His slide deck could have been better. For example;

This intro slide

We don’t need a slide with your picture on it. You are standing right in front of us. We know what you look like. Keep this for the offline version for sharing if you like but you should never have a slide with your picture on it when standing in front of a crowd. This is my personal opinion, but do you think this adds any value?

There are too many words on this slide

Can you read what’s on this slide from that photo? no? me neither. Only the people in the front row would have been able to read this. Anyone further back in the crowd can’t. Also when people read they stop listening to what you are talking about. Think of your slide deck as a good user interface, your goal is to teach us something new. Not cause us to be distracted from reading your words when you want us to focus on what you are saying. Wordy slides are good for offline sharing. They aren’t needed in a physical presentation. Slides are free. If this content is important use the slow reveal technique to build up. If not, dump it. You have already established you credibility. the audience doesn’t need your words to figure out you are competent on stage and that you know the material you are presenting. You are already standing in front of us and we are already seated. Waiting to hear your insights on the topic.

Don’t put anything important on the bottom third

Only the front row can read this content. Everyone else has to strain or just completely ignore any information you put here.

In summary, ditch that intro slide. The audience already knows your name; it’s on the schedule. We are already convinced of your value; we are sitting in the audience. The audience just wants you to get to the learning material. Want a challenge for slide design? Try the Takahashi minimalistic slide design or a presentation using only images, it will force you to focus on your story over your slides.

Agile Australia 2018

On Tuesday the 19th of June I spoke at Agile Australia on how to get more people involved with testing. You can access my slides; The bug hunt is on. I proposed 5 activities to help get more people involved with quality:

  1. Bug Bashes
  2. Bug Bounties
  3. Dog Fooding
  4. Knowledge sharing practices
  5. Soap Opera testing

Sketch notes

Here are all of my sketch notes on the presentations I attended;

My personal highlights where Nigel’s talk on “Agile is the last thing you need”:

And Martin Fowler’s talk on “the state of Agile in 2018”:

Steven gave an interesting talk on visual strategy maps:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting up on stage

I enjoy performing. Don’t ask me why. I can’t explain it. You could say it’s something to do with the rush, or the perception of adding value or entertainment for other people. I want to tell you a few stories about my adventures in performing. Do you want to improve your performances? I’m available for free consultations on improving technical presentations.

During High School

I was involved with nearly every extra curricular activity I could sign up for. I was in the school concert band; I played trombone. I can legitimately say, “this one time in band camp …”. I was the fat kid in school, there weren’t many other kids fatter than I. I once got up in front of my whole school dressed up in a Santa suit and played Jingle Bells on the trombone. Talk about a nerve racking, getting out of my comfort zone experience. I got a laugh at least. I was in an Auslan signing choir (Australian Sign Language) and a singing choir too. In the signing choir we would often perform to retirement homes in the area and our signature song was, “I believe I can fly” by R Kelly. I could still sign to that song. What does a signing choir performance look like? Check out this example on YouTube;

Watching that makes me want to sign up to an auslan class and pursue deaf poetry.

I was also in a musical. It was called Wolfstock, it was a 1950’s themed musical about a 16 year old boy called Jay, his parents had sold his soul to the devil and had to get to wolfstock (aka woodstock) before the next full moon or else he would remain a warewolf. I played Wolfman Jack in act 2; a character based on the DJ host by the same name, I even had my own song. I’m sure the musical was terrible. My mum has it on tape somewhere. I’m sorry mum for putting you through all of my horrible performances in school.

During Uni

I ran my own radio show on a community radio station called, “chat with an engineer”. I would interview engineers in our community and chat about the work they did. It was to help raise the profile of Engineering. I didn’t have the budget for the training course so I asked Engineers Australia if they’d paid for me to do the course. They did and I’m forever grateful for that. My biggest success was interviewing 2012’s Young Australian of the Year; Marita Cheng. She was visiting a high school as part of a Robogals visit and we were able to organise an interview.

I also started the Robogals Chapter in Tasmania. Robogals is a student run group who promote engineering and technology to young kids through lego robotics workshops with the goal of increasing female engineers. I taught robotics to over 1000 kids in tasmania in the 1.5 years I was involved with Robogals with next to no funding and while going through my first bout of chronic depression. I can’t understand how I was functioning, I wasn’t passing uni so let’s just say I wasn’t functioning very well. Teaching is another type of performance that I enjoy.

Professional Presentations

During my professional career the main performances I’ve been involved with are presentations. My most nerve wracking experience was getting up in front of the whole company during an all hands and talking about my struggles with depression. Getting that venerable in front of such a large crowd is another one of those big, “getting out of my comfort zone” experiences. It’s definitely made giving technical presentations easier. Interviews are another performance. A lot of people hate interviews, in a weird way I enjoy them. Having that opportunity to talk about my passions in software testing is what I enjoy. I am narcissistic. I remember doing a first year psychology 101 personality test during uni, I scored very highly on the narcissistic scale and I’m ok with that. It’s only an issue when it’s combined with a lack of empathy.

I’ve been involved with a few community bands since moving to Sydney. The Sydney homotones and Sunday Assembly being the main ones. I’m not actively involved with any now but I would love to join a community swing band. Or do some taiko drum classes. Or learn how to play the double bass. Garhhh, I can’t decide.

My favourite presentation has been my talk at YOW! Connected last year on using robots for mobile testing;

I was able to combine my passion for music, robots and mobile testing. #Winning at life.

I’ve collected a bunch of hints and tips on giving presentations. Reach out to me at sam[AT]thebughunter.com.au if you’d like a free consultation.

Diversity in conferences

are you struggling to attract diverse speakers at your tech conferences?

take a leaf out of Katie Conf’s book and challenge yourself to find those female speakers. All of the speakers at Katie Conf have names that are based on the name Katherine and are actively involved with their tech communities. If they could organize a theoretical conference with only Katie speakers, you can easily find a few women to talk at your conference.

If you are still struggling, maybe you could approach speak easy, this group help mentor potential speakers who come from diverse backgrounds.