Thursday, October 15, 2009

when to use analogy

Analogy is a useful device when used to describe the things that we work on; but it is actively dangerous when used to describe our work itself.

When we're building software, it is useful to be able to say for example "it's like a library, where someone can make use of a feature and then stop using it so that someone else can use that feature" or "it's like a train, where there are just a few places where anyone can get on or where anyone can get off"

But when we use analogy to talk about our work, we invite misconception and misinterpretation. To say "writing software is like making a cake" invites misperception. Does writing software involve flour and sugar? Is there frosting involved?

Of course someone who says such a thing *probably* means that to write software one must do certain steps in a certain order-- but it is far better to describe the actual steps ("red, green, refactor" is not an analogy) than to invoke analogy, because analogy always misleads to some extent, and we have known for many years that the cost of failed communication on software projects is extremely high.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

CFP: Peer conference "Writing About Testing" May 21/22 Durango CO

CFP: Peer conference "Writing About Testing" May 21/22 Durango CO

I am organizing a a peer conference for people working in software testing and software development who write about their work in public. The conference will be organized LAWST-style, much like the recurring Austin Workshop on Test Automation or the Tester-Developer/Developer-Tester conference I helped organize in 2007.

The original proposal is on my blog here: http://chrismcmahonsblog.blogspot.com/2009/08/proposed-peer-conference-writing-about.html

There is significant demand for public information about software testing and software development and software process. This conference is for people who want to influence the public discourse on these subjects through public writing.

If you are interested in the subject, but not necessarily interested in the peer conference, there is a private mail list for writing about testing whose members include both writers and publishers. I (or any other member of the list) will add you to the mail list if you send us your email address. I am at christopher.mcmahon on gmail. Your email will be used for no other purpose than to join the list.

New voices are particularly encouraged to apply for the conference and to join the mail list. If we don't know you or your writing, please point out links to some public examples like blog posts, public documentation, conference papers, or similar work when you do so.

A number of prominent writers and also new voices in the software testing community have have expressed interest in attending the conference. In an effort to break down some of the wall between writers and publishers, at least two publishers of software testing material also have expressed interest in attending. The conference will have a definite agile slant, but I don't want to exclude great writers working in other situations.

This peer conference is run like many others: send a position statement saying why you want to attend, and what relevant material you would be prepared to contribute to the conference. Examples of relevant material might be a presentation, interesting experience, or even a really good set of questions. People will be invited based on those position statements. As of now, I will be the one evaluating these, but I will be sharing them freely with others on the mail list whose judgment I trust. Even better, join the mail list and publish your position statement there.

I may or may not cap attendance at 15. If we get a significant amount of great position statements, I might increase that number.

There will be no fee to attend, but you will be responsible for your own transportation and lodging. A discounted rate at a convenient bed and breakfast hotel within walking distance of the conference will be available for a limited number of rooms.

Here are the relevant dates:

Dec 1 2009
Deadline for position statements to be emailed to me or to be posted on the writing-about-testing mail list.

Feb 1 2010
Invitations to the conference sent. Waiting list established if necessary.

May 21 and 22 2010
Conference.

Durango has a lot to offer visitors. Attendees may want to arrive early and stay late. The Taste of Durango street festival is Sunday May 23, and we also plan to have an outdoor excursion that day. There will likely be a number of attendees driving from the Denver area Thursday May 20, so carpooling from Denver or Colorado Springs could be possible for the 6-8 hour drive. Direct flights to Durango are available from Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City, or the Albuquerque airport is a 4 hour drive in a rental car. Let me know if you need more detailed information about getting to Durango or about the conference itself.

UPDATE: I have just been informed that there is no longer a direct flight to Durango from Salt Lake City. United, Frontier, and USAirways fly to Durango from Denver and Phoenix.