Steve Rowe's Blog

Ruminations on Computing - Programming, Test Development, Management and More

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  • Blog Post: The Data Driven Quality Mindset

    "Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer's problem." - Mark Cook, VP of Products at Kodak I've talked recently about the 4th wave of testing called Data Driven Quality (DDQ). I also elucidated what I believe are the technical prerequisites to achieving...
  • Blog Post: Try.Fail.Learn.Improve

    Try.Fail.Learn.Improve. That has been the signature on my e-mail for the past few months. It is intended to be both enlightening and provocative. It emphasizes that we won't get things right the first time. That it is okay to fail as long as we don't fail repeatedly in the same way. Try.Fail.Learn.Improve...
  • Blog Post: Plan Intentionally

    I previously wrote about being intentional , but focused mostly on intentionality in execution.  Being intentional is also important in planning.  When planning a new product or the implementation of a feature, it is important to explicitly consider all aspects.  It can be a temptation...
  • Blog Post: Five Books To Read If You Want My Job

    This came out of a conversation I had today with a few other test leads.  the question was, “What are the top 5 books you should read if you want my job?”  My job in this case being that of a test development lead.  At Microsoft that means I lead a team (or teams) of people whose job it...
  • Blog Post: Why You Get Nothing Done When You Have So Much Free Time

    Interesting musings on a subject I can attest to be true. Why is it we get so much done when we're on a tight schedule but then fail to get anything done when we have a long vacation? The same applies to work too. Give someone a long time to get a project done and it will still come in late. Give them...
  • Blog Post: Code Review Options

    There are many ways to conduct a code review.  Here are a few ways I've seen it done and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Over-the-Shoulder Reviews Walk over to someone's office or invite them to yours and walk them through the code.  This has the advantage that the author can talk...
  • Blog Post: Code Review Rights and Responsibilities

    Code reviews are an important part of any project's health.  They are able to find and correct code defects before making it into the product and thus spare everyone the pain of having to find them and take them out.  They are also relatively cheap.  Assuming your team wants to implement...
  • Blog Post: 10 Pitfalls of Using Scrum in Games Development

    Interesting article about using scrum to manage game development. Many of the pitfalls are true beyond games development. The article is well balanced and has advice for how to overcome the pitfalls. I don't agree with all of the advice, but it is thought provoking. For example, the article makes a good...
  • Blog Post: Get Rid Of Your Security Blankets

    A while ago I took a class on Scrum and Agile Project Management. During the discussion on Scrum, it became apparent to me that there are several unchallenged assumptions in many peoples' minds that make accepting Scrum difficult. People assume that Scrum/Agile takes away something they have, but in...
  • Blog Post: Two Software Development Worlds

    I was recently listening to an interview with Joel Spolsky . The main subject is interviewing and hiring, but in the course of the interview Joel touches on an interesting point. He says that there are two major types of software: Shrinkwrap and Custom (listen around the 40 minute mark). These have very...
  • Blog Post: Always Question the Process

    Let me recount a story from the television show Babylon 5 . In one episode there is the description of guard posted in the middle of an empty courtyard. There is nothing there to protect. When one of the characters, Londo, questions why, he finds that no one, not even the emperor, knows why. After doing...
  • Blog Post: Keep Process Simple

    Year ago one of our Software Test Engineers was tasked with documenting our smoke* process. It should have been something simple like: Developer packages binaries for testing Developer places smoke request on web page Tester signs up for smoke on web page Tester runs appropriate tests...
  • Blog Post: The Need for a Real Build Process

    Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror has a good post about how " F5 is not a build process ." In it, he explains how you need a real centralized build process. F5 (the "build and debug" shortcut key in Visual Studio) on a developer's machine is not a built process. At Microsoft, we have a practice of regular...
  • Blog Post: Helping Groups Succeed

    or What to do when you aren't in control but neither is the leader. A while back I wrote about providing clarity as a leader. As part of that essay I mentioned some techniques for keeping groups on track. Those are well and good if you are the leader, but what if you aren't? What if the leader of your...
  • Blog Post: Tacit Approval Often Isn’t

    Most of us have found ourselves in situations where we need someone’s approval to get something done, but we can’t seem to get them to respond. It would be okay if they said no. It would be better if they said yes. We just need an answer yet we can’t get one. One tactic is to just go ahead and do what...
  • Blog Post: Scrum Meetings for Test

    A year and a half ago I talked about how I was running scrum meetings with my team. Since then, we've refined the process but have consistently held scrums on a regular basis. Note that I'm not running a full Scrum system with sprints and product backlogs and such but rather just adopting the scrum meetings...
  • Blog Post: Hofstadter's Law

    Good advice for all project managers. Hofstadter's Law : It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.
  • Blog Post: The Three Stonecutters

    Lots of interesting quotes in Dreaming in Code. This one is the story of three stonecutters. Each is asked what he is doing. The first answers that he is, "making a living wage." The second says, "I am doing the best job of cutting stones in the entire country." The third, "I am building a cathedral...
  • Blog Post: Avoid 3-Card Combinations

    I used to play collectible card games. I attended Whitman College during Richard Garfield 's tenure there as a math professor so I got into Magic: The Gathering near its inception. For those of you who don't play these, the basic system goes something like this. You buy packs of cards--not unlike baseball...
  • Blog Post: Trade Accuracy for Understanding

    I found myself giving this advice to two people today. It came in the context off preparing a presentation for upper management. The desire was to communicate an understanding of what (and why) we are creating a piece of technology. The difficulty was in trying to convey the information without overwhelming...
  • Blog Post: Duplication of Effort Is Good?

    I was in a meeting the other day deciding what to do next in our testing efforts. Several times during the meeting someone made a suggestion which was countered by a statement something like this: "Shouldn't we let the centralized team handle this?" or "Could we write this in a more generic fashion so...
  • Blog Post: Bug Taxonomy

    When you get toward the end of a product, you have to make the tough calls about what gets fixed and what doesn't. Most bugs fall into one of two obvious buckets: Must Fix - Something is really bad here. We cannot ship the product without fixing it. Won't Fix - The problem is minor, hard to get to, etc...
  • Blog Post: Prescriptive Advice For Successful Unit Testing

    At the beginning of the Vista (then Longhorn) project our team decided that we would implement unit tests. This was the first attempt in our locale to try to use them. We had some successes and some failures. Out of that I have learned several things. This is an attempt to codify what I have learned...
  • Blog Post: Friendly Reminder: Utilize Source Control

    I just finished talking to someone who lost 1 1/2 weeks of work due to an inadvertent key stroke. It's not only hard drive failure that may get you. With hardware stability quite high these days, we sometimes feel invincible. It is easy to get complacent and forget that we are fallible. All it takes...
  • Blog Post: Experimenting With Scrum Part 4

    This is the last post in my "experimenting with scrum" series. After our bug smash time, we went into a period of more serious product development. Recall that we were not implementing all of scrum but rather just the scrum meetings portion. This works acceptably in the development scenario, but not...
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