Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Collaboration across the nation … *

Yesterday I was a profitable day.

I've been collaborating with a colleague in Auckland.  We're both trying to study a book on test management, and have formed a study group.  Though there were originally 6 of us, we're now just down to two.  But I have to say it's been a very positive experience.  And much better than reading the book on my own!

Basically every two weeks we take a chapter and we talk around the concepts.  More importantly we ask each other questions, and bring to the table our own experience of some of the issues.

I guess together we're brainstorming.  It's interesting because it takes us places I wouldn't have thought mentally to go.  As well as helping in my own mind to reinforce the bits that seem important.

What really surprises me is it also makes me have to think about my own experience, and I'm surprised the knowledge that comes out from me when my study partner asks questions.

It reminds me very much of something I read in Michael J. Pont's book on software engineering.  It's a slightly unknown book, but to me was THE book which taught me everything I know.  I'm still using bits of it.

In a section he talked about how collaborating with our peers when we hit problems can often bring out the answers from ourselves.  It's a bit like going to see a therapist, who doesn't tell you what's bothering you, but by being a good listener will ask the right questions, and before you know it, you're telling him what's wrong.

Just ten years ago, software was a very solitary activity.  You still had kind of “cave troll” programmers who would have their own cubicle cave, which you'd have to stop by with a mighty +1 defect (this is Dungeons and Dragons speak for the non-geek).

Today projects and environments are too big and complex to be kept in one persons head.  It's a more of a team activity, and as hinted at yesterday, the best teams are the ones who communicate to each other – yes even in Rugby with a gumshield.

Likewise, I've been talking to another colleague about the importance of social media to that ability to communicate to other testers, and hear other testers stories.  It helps sometimes to know how other people solve similar problems you face.

Heck sometimes it helps to just know it's not just you feeling like you're put through the wringer!

*  That title makes me smile – it was a song someone wrote in teaching college ...

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