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James Thomashttp://www.blogger.com/profile/01185262890702402757noreply@blogger.comBlogger140125
Updated: 1 hour 28 min ago

But What do I Know?

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 06:59


The novelty of hypertext over traditional text is the direct linking of references. This allows the reader to navigate immediately from one text to another, or to another part of the same text, or expose more detail of some aspect of that text in place. This kind of hyperlinking is now ubiquitous through the World Wide Web and most of us don't give it a second thought.

I was looking up hypermedia for the blog post I wanted to write today when I discovered that there's another meaning of the term hypertext in the study of semiotics and, further, that the term has a counterpart, hypotext. Thse two are defined in relation to one another, credited to Gérard Genette: "Hypertextuality refers to any relationship uniting a text B (which I shall call the hypertext) to an earlier text A (I shall, of course, call it the hypotext), upon which it is grafted in a manner that is not that of commentary."

In a somewhat meta diversion, following a path through the pages describing these terms realised a notion that I'd had floating around partially-formed for a while: quite apart from the convenience, an aspect of hypertext that I find particularly valuable is the potential for maintaining and developing the momentum of a thought by chasing it through a chain of references. I frequently find that this process and the speed of it, is itself a spur to further ideas and new connections. For example, when I'm stuck on a problem and searching hasn't got me to the answer, I will sometimes recourse to following links through sets of web pages in the area, guided by the sense that they might be applicable, by them appearing to be about stuff I am not familiar with, by my own interest, by my gut.

I don't imagine that I would have thought that just now had I not followed hyperlink to its alternative definition and then to hypolink and then made the connection from the links between pages to the chain of thoughts which parallels, or perhaps entwines, or maybe leaps off from them.

And that itself is pleasing because the thing I wanted to capture today grew from the act of clicking through links (I so wish that could be a single verb and at least one other person thinks so too: clinking anyone?). I started at Adam Knight's The Facebook Effect, clinked through to a Twitter thread  from which Adam obtained the image he used and then on to Overcoming Impostor Syndrome which contained the original image.

The image that unites these three is the one I'm using at the top here and what it solidified for me was the way that we can be inhibited from sharing information because we feel that everyone around us will already know it or will have remembered it because we know we told them it once before. I've seen it, done it and still do it myself in loads of contexts including circulating interesting links to the team, running our standups and reporting the results of investigations to colleagues.

As testers it can be particularly dangerous, not necessarily because of impostor or Facebook effects, but because we need to be aware that when we choose not to share, or acknowledge, or reacknowledge some significant issue with the thing we're testing we may be inadvertently hiding it (although context should guide the extent to which we need to temper the temptation to over-report and be accepting of others reminding us of existing information). It's one of the reasons I favour open notebook testing.

Note to self: I don't know what you know, you know?
Image: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
Categories: Blogs

The Sixty Second Team

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 12:53
One of my team recommended The One Minute Manager to me in a recent 1-1. It's a slim book, not exactly a one-minute read but not far off. It takes the form of a parable about a man in search of effective management who encounters the One Minute Manager and his staff and learns essentially this:
  • set clear goals and monitor progress towards them
  • provide clear and timely feedback
There are, of course, homilies along the way, including "We are not just our behaviour. We are the person managing our behaviour." and "The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people."  and the writing, not unlike the similarly-structured Quality is Free, can be cloyingly, clunkily patronising at times. Even so, the core lessons are sound enough and it does no harm for a manager to be reminded of them.

But the aspect of the book that I find most appealing is that the One Minute Manager's team members use the same techniques on, for and by themselves and are encouraged and expected to be independent and independent-minded. I like my teams to be this way which is why I'm delighted when they point me at a resource that can help me to do my job better.
Image: https://flic.kr/p/65eNhg
Categories: Blogs

The Sixty Second Team

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 12:53
One of my team recommended The One Minute Manager to me in a recent 1-1. It's a slim book, not exactly a one-minute read but not far off. It takes the form of a parable about a man in search of effective management who encounters the One Minute Manager and his staff and learns essentially this:
  • set clear goals and monitor progress towards them
  • provide clear and timely feedback
There are, of course, homilies along the way, including "We are not just our behaviour. We are the person managing our behaviour." and "The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people."  and the writing, not unlike the similarly-structured Quality is Free, can be cloyingly, clunkily patronising at times. Even so, the core lessons are sound enough and it does no harm for a manager to be reminded of them.

But the aspect of the book that I find most appealing is that the One Minute Manager's team members use the same techniques on, for and by themselves and are encouraged and expected to be independent and independent-minded. I like my teams to be this way which is why I'm delighted when they point me at a resource that can help me to do my job better.
Image: https://flic.kr/p/65eNhg
Categories: Blogs

Exploring Responsibility

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 09:10
 A friend, talking about running a project, said to me last week "it's like the partially-sighted leading the blind".

Ian Jack, talking about his dad, wrote in the Guardian at the weekend: "[As a child] I had no idea how new this was ... I imagined he had always known how to do these things ... of course he had to teach himself, listening to the helpful hints of [others] and reading books"

Yep, implementation in an environment where tasks are not simply rote reproductions is often like this, exploratory. You'll feel your way, based on what advice, experiment, evidence, research, intuition and experience you have. If you're sensible, and able, you'll set up feedback systems to help you know when you're going off track (and hopefully you'll know what on-track looks like).

When leading others through it too, I find that I want to be up front about the extent to which I feel like I know what I'm doing and be prepared to outline the alternatives I've rejected and why, and what kinds of success criteria and warning signs I'm looking for.

Away from the office I've just built some monkey bars out of tubes and joints from The Metal Store (great service there, by the way). It's a one-off. There's no prototype. I've never built anything like this before. I designed it on paper to fit the space I have and the desires of my kids at a price that works for us. My wife and kids were willing helpers for short periods of time and they just wanted to be told what to do at each step, and when it'd be finished.

I took on the initial research project - what is commercially available to fit the constraints I have? What alternatives can I find or think of? Who can I ask for advice? Struggling to find anything that suited our needs, I wondered whether I could do something with scaffolding. I spoke to a local scaffolding firm who couldn't help me, but suggested the materials I eventually used.

I took the final decision on the design - based on other monkey bars we'd seen and measured and what we thought might work, and on advice from the people who quoted us for materials about the relative strengths, capacities and so on for the parts and the design. I rejected some of the advice I received on various grounds, including aesthetics.

I took the decision on the order to do things, on how and where to put it together, to make it easiest to get together and into the holes, given how heavy it is and that I'd be doing most of it by myself.

I took the decision on how deep to dig the holes and how much concrete to put into them - based on what I'd read about installing fence posts. And when we'd dug the holes and put the frame in it, I left it standing there for a while so that I could visualise it in use. Then I took the decision to dig a bit deeper because it didn't look or feel in proportion and because in my thought experiments the poles were effectively massive levers that pulled themselves out of the ground when the kids hung or swung on the frame.

I took the decision on where and how to fix a swing - eventually drilling through the frame rather than attaching to it. I also fabricated some rubber seals out of an old inner tube to keep rainwater out of the holes. Who knows whether that will work or was even necessary?

I took what action I could to give myself confidence that things were right before irrevocable steps were taken. I measured everything before I started. I offered up the parts up against the ground and the holes. I asked my kids to climb on the individual bits as I put them together. I chose materials that give me some reconfigurability options.

And, while I'm happy I've done the best I can in those areas given that it was all new, I think the most important thing that I took was this: responsibility.

It was my idea, my plan, they were my decisions, my checks, my measurements, my estimates. If there was a question, it was to me, and I answered it. If it's not square or not level or if it falls over after some violent swinging or because 10 children jumped on it at once, that's on me. If the kids get bored of it or the dimensions don't suit them or it rusts in a year, that's on me too. If anything at all goes wrong, or needs changing, that's on me and I'll need to fix it.
Categories: Blogs

Cool Hunter

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 22:24
I was watching Stuart Hunter's What is Design of Experiments? (12) lectures this morning. They were made in the mid-60s for Westinghouse Electric and, after a demonstration of the exploration of a space to find the interesting location guided by a cycle of experiment, data collection and analysis, the final sentences run like this:
The purpose of statistics is to analyse the data in such a way as to lead to new conjecture ... the data are expensive and the data are variable and we don't know the true response function ... All of this is part and parcel of the arts of statistics. But they're really not very valuable unless we can call upon the experience that people such as [you, the audience] have which comes only from working in an industrial environment. And our real objective is to wed together your experience with the practical uses of engineering and production and development and research with the arts of statistics so that you will be more valuable to yourselves and you'll be more valuable to those you work with.I find this kind of inspirational.
Image: Youtube playlist of Hunter lectures
Categories: Blogs