Project Management Blogs

by Graham Email

Now that I am studying for the PMP certification, I am working on understanding the difference between the Version 2 of the PMBOK and the Study Guide, which I used in 2003, and Version 3, which was adopted in 2007. In the process of examining this issue, I have found a number of web sites that look to be useful sources of information.

I.T. Toolbox Blogs - Project Management.
Herding Cats - a general project management blog.

I passed my ISTQB Foundation examination on Monday...

by Graham Email

...with a score of 85%. I can now use the letters ISTQB after my name. When I was growing up, it looked like a good idea to go into one of the following three areas of endeavour; the military, civil engineering or medical, since in all of those areas it seemed to me that you got to collect a large number of impressive-sounding letters after your name.
For the time being, I'll take ISTQB. Now I am gong to return to the completion of the PMP study that I never completed back in 2003.

This week's Testing links

by Graham Email

Here are some links about software testing that I have been looking at in the last 2 weeks:

1. STAR East and STAR West
Here is a blog entry from a Microsoft attendee of STAR West 2007, with a summary of the events.

2. General Software Testing
This site has interesting articles about a variety of testing topics.

3. Testing Consultancy and Tester web sites

Compendium Development
Coley Consulting
Exampler. The consulting company of veteran test leader Brian Marick. He also has a weblog here.
Sticky Minds. A testing consultancy.

4. Testing Standards

BS7925 Part 2

5. ISTQB sample exams
I found a sample exam and links to other exam samples here.
This is a sample exam book and testing package (expensive).

6. Other articles
Testing Non-testable programs - a discussion of the Oracle Assumption and how it can be shown to be invalid

Interesting paper from Martin Fowler about Design

by Graham Email


This paper, originally written in 2000, but updated several times since, attempts to discuss the role of design in sofware solution delivery. As is the norm from anything written by Martin Fowler, it contains a number of insights and forces you to think...

My new focus on Testing

by Graham Email

I have now moved to the Global Testing Practice for my employer. This creates a whole new set of learning challenges for me, but it also returns me "to my roots" in a way, since I entered the I.T. industry in the Summer of 1978 as a maintenance programmer and tester. I cut my teeth on testing and debugging other people's code. I still carry in my head a small list of names of people who I would like to encounter one day in a stuck elevator so that I can indulge in what diplomats call "a full and frank exchange of views" concerning their grossly defective coding practices. But I digress...
I am currently researching the state of the art in software testing. The Extreme Programming paradigm has led to a number of thought leaders trying to advance the art of software testing. Kent Beck himself popularized the concept of Test-Driven Development, and I am currently working through his book on the subject.
Ward Cunningham, who was one of the founders and popularizers of Wiki, and who at various times in the past few years has worked for Microsoft (as an Architect in the Patterns and Practices group) and the Eclipse Foundation (heading up the Committer group process), and who is now the CTO for AboutUs, has also done work on testing automation in the past. Some of the testing automation work is visible here.
I have also been looking into other possible testing approaches, as defined here and here. I also found what approximates to a manifesto for the concept of context-driven testing. Some of this is fairly and basically obvious (like the observation that the sort of testing that one does for the control software for the Space Shuttle might be different than the testing for a spreadsheet application), but it never hurts to remind oneself that sometimes there is no "one size fits all" solution approach to a wide variety of problems.

Road Warrior notes - January 2008

by Graham Email

I flew to the UK for the annual gathering of the clans (pictures of the trip can be viewed here).
When trying to decide what seats to select, I now use SeatGuru, which has excellent diagrams of all of the major airlines' planes, showing which seats are good, which seats are bad, which have laptop power etc. Since I have a 35 inch inside leg, I avoid some seats like the plague, especially those with limited recline capability.
On the way back from the UK, I checked in at Gatwick for the return AA flight. When you check in at the AA counter in Gatwick, there are no kiosks available (unlike at DFW or other US domestic locations). Instead, you are first interviewed by a person asking the full collection of baggage questions ("is this your bag?" "did you pack it?" "did anybody give you something to put in it?" etc. etc. ) and a collection of journey questions ("did your journey originate here?" "is Dallas your final destination?"). The screeners appeared to be using a laptop computer to provide the questions and record the answers. All of this was accompanied by the usual examination of passports, green cards etc.
The challenge with this process was that the number of screeners was insufficient to balance the number of checkin counter personnel. There were 3 AA checkin agents with around 1.5 persons' worth of work, and a very long checkin queue in front of the screeners. There were 3 screeners, but there were 5 screening stations. They should have upped the number of screen questioners.
I felt rather sorry for the guy standing next to me at the adjacent screening station. He was a US military contractor. The Q&A started off as follows:

Screener: Did your journey originate here?
Guy: No. Dubai
Screener: Was that the start point of your journey?
Guy: No.
Screener: What was the start point of your journey?
Guy: Baghdad.

Needless to say, the guy was detained far longer than I was...he was 1 ahead of me in the queue, but when I went through the security screening, he was a long way behind me...
I made an interesting discovery during the screening question process. I was checking a bag, and intending to take my "office in a bag" and my travel guitar as carry-ons. The screener initially told me that I would have to check one of the bags. When I pointed out that AA had let me march them onto the plane in DFW a week or so earlier, he responded "unfortunately the UK is one of the countries that still strictly enforces carry-on limits". He also warned me that my "office in a bag" might fall foul of the carry-on size limit, to which I responded that I would simply scrunch it up to make it fit. Then he said..."is that a musical insrument?", referring to the travel guitar. When I confirmed that it was, he told me that musical instruments are exempted from the carry-on limit. So, I breezed through check-in, inspection and the departure gate with 2 bags.
I must remember to pack the cello next time...

Estimating Games

by Graham Email


While researching I.T. solution delivery productivity (a topic which has denuded entire forests, but which seems to still suffer from a lack of up-to-date data), I found this paper from an Australian consulting company. It provides an amusing (but all too true) overview of various dysfunctional estimating techniques, and makes the point that estimating failures often have little to do with poor mathematics and bad data, and usually are influenced more heavily by political and management dysfunctionalities.

Interesting Post about code names

by Graham Email

Road Warrior notes - January/February 2007

by Graham Email

Since mid-January I have been working on a project in Seattle. This has resulted in my becoming a road warrior again. I have not worked "on the road" to any significant degree since my consulting days in the 1990's with JMA, Texas Instruments and Sterling Software. Following that phase of my life, I moved to Dallas and started a more "rooted" job. Since 1997 a lot of things have changed, supposedly for the better. Or so I thought...
Here are some subjective personal observations about travel between Dallas and Seattle.

1. Airports

Airports in the USA are still mostly structured as unfriendly, dislocatory conrete jungles. Most of the seating is hideously uncomfortable, and the cynic in me wonders if this is deliberate, so that people will feel obliged to walk around and, well, buy or eat stuff...
Road Warrior Issue #1 - the lack of power points for laptops. There are next to no power sockets in gate waiting areas in most airports, other than the power sockets used by the airlines' gate equipment (and most of those sockets are fully used). This results in a few road warriors all clustered around a single small collection of power points. Further adding to distress is the fact that a significant number of the power points do not work - at D/FW one day I found that 2 out of the 6 points at one gate area were dead.
Road Warrior Tip #1 - pack a multi-point adaptor. This will allow multiple people to use a power socket instead of 1, and you will be instantly popular with your fellow road warriors.
At Cincinnati airport this past weekend, I was pleased to see that Delta has recognized the issue and set up power point clusters near some of their gates. Other than that however, I have seen no evidence that airports or airlines are addressing the power point issue.
Road Warrior Issue #2 - variations in wi-fi coverage. Some airports have free wi-fi, some have charged wi-fi, some have no wi-fi at all. This is a further aggravation.

2. Security checks

Despite the fact that they have had over 3 years to get used to it, a number of folk are still huffing, puffing and having mini hissy-fits over the security and baggage checks. There is only one phrase: Get Over It. Coming from Europe, where nobody is ever allowed to walk up to the gate area without a boarding pass, I do not find the security checks to be that awful. A minor nuisance perhaps, but the TSA folks are as nice and friendly as they can be. However, some passengers are not helping themselves by Doing Dumb Stuff. Like trying to carry their toiletries as carry-ons. That results in most of the bottled substances being left behind due to the new stringent liquid carry-on rules.

3. Airlines

I have flown on a number of airlines since January. Here is my current league table, with comments:

#1 Frontier Airlines
I already posted about Frontier understands that flying should be fun. They have fun planes (the animals on the tail and winglets) and fun flight crews. The seating is good on the planes.

#2 Delta
Delta has well-fitted out planes with adequate legroom in coach, and they have good time-keeping. This past Sunday I arrived in Seattle 45 minutes early from Cincinnati. Delta also is addressing the road warrior power supply issue.
The only minus is that the flight crews mostly look like they would rather be undergoing a root canal than helping the passengers.

#3 American
American has no great points, but no really bad points either. Legroom in standard coach is not good, but the seats are reasonably supportive. The crews tend towards the Delta Airlines "I would rather have a root canal than do this job" approach, but perhaps this is the inevitable result of an industry with appalling labor relations based on mutual antipathy between leadership and front-line staff, where the leadership have been forcing the front-line folks to swallow job and salary cuts for years.

Last United
Where to start? Here are some of the issues:
legroom - unless you pay extra for Economy Plus, the legroom in coach is disgracefully non-existent. After 90 minutes you are moving around constantly to prevent cramping. This is also true on their Embraer executive jets, which have superficially nice leather seats, but those seats have no support whatsoever, which results in you sliding down in the seat very quickly. The cynic in me wonders whether the economy seating is configured to force all passengers to buy the upgrades, thus eliminating coach as we know it.
boarding - the gates are under-manned and the gate agents look harrassed and disorganized.
time-keeping - all of the flights I have travelled on were delayed, for reasons that were not immediately apparent. Bad weather delays I can understand, but not good weather delays.

4. Traveller Etiquette

Many airline travellers would benefit from some sort of course in how to avoid becoming a human chicane during thir travel. Here are some of the egregious dumb-ass things that drive us road warriors nuts:

- Blocking aisles while getting seated
If you are in row 24 of a 33 row aircraft, you often do not need to stand in the aisle while unpacking the stuff you will be using on the flight. It is perfectly possible to stand in front of your seat and unpack, thus letting people past to the back of the plane. This simple action, if consistently done, could reduce boarding times by a massive amount.
- Fidgetting in your seat
Moving around constantly in a coach seat while in flight usually impinges on your next-seat neighbors and the person in front.
- Occupying no-mans land in the aisle after arrival
Once a plane arrives at the gate, many travllers will stand up to remove their overhead luggage. This would be ok, except that they then stand in front of their aisle east in a way that prevents the other passengers outside of them in the row from getting to the overhead bins. I recently tried to get past a woman who was doing this, only to be severely admonished for being rude. WTF? She was being obstructionist by standing in front of her seat, pointedly failing to notice that she was preventing me from getting to my hand baggage. (I did apologize to her, after swallowing hard, but she still failed to move and appeared to be determined to be a horse's ass).

A great blogcard design...

by Graham Email


..from Gaping Void. They have some great designs. I especially like the one with the guy saying to the girl "how was it for you" and she replies "read my blog"...(NOTE to any current and future girlfriend - I promise not to ask that question if you promise never to respond with that answer...)

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