2011 a year gone — 2012 a year of great promise.


2011 was a very busy year for me!  Being a father with my first kid now nearly three, I’ve seen almost all of my free time disappear.  You’ll probably have noticed this pattern in my blog contributions this year.  That being said, anything I have posted has had much more thought, time and consideration applied to it, so although contributions are down, a lot more people are coming to read what I have to say, which makes me feel much more inclined to get my good thoughts out there.

I could talk about all the good things I’ve learned this year and challenges I’ve faced, but the really good stuff which others can hopefully learn from as well, really needs its own space as separate posts to do them real justice.  So instead, I’ll quickly reflect on what you, as readers found interesting in 2011 and a little of what I have in draft for 2012 and things to look out for in 2012.

Top posts of 2011

What follows is the top 5 most viewed posts of 2011.

  1. Mind mapping 101

    Sitting at the top spot for the year, was my 101 style article on mind mapping which described how I applied mind mapping to testing and why it found it useful.  As the year has progressed, this has become more and more popular.  Initially when I first published it, I honestly didn’t think anyone would have liked it!  It felt a little rushed out on my part.  I’m really glad it went down well though and people enjoyed reading it.

    This article has also made appearances on the EuroSTAR blog and the Tea Time With Testers magazine.  It has also been included as reference material for the Association for Software Testing’s Test Design course.  For all three of these, I am truly humbled, especially the testing course inclusion.

  2. Tales from the trenches: Lean test case design

    At number two and actually from October of 2010, is one of my favorite blog posts: Lean Test Case Design.  The reason I like it so much, is because from this you can learn an actual technique that has been tried and tested, has worked and depending upon your context might well prove very useful for you too.

    Lean test case design made an appearance over two issues in the Tea Time With Testers magazine, mostly due to its length and was also with my Mind Mapping 101 post, one of two articles included as reference material in the Association for Software Testing’s Test Design course.  Again, this was extremely humbling and makes me more eager to share my thoughts with others.

  3. Essential mind mapping: Rapid test design

    Coming in third, was my article on Rapid Test Design, which covered among many things: how the mind works while mind mapping, test conditions vs. test ideas, good test design and several techniques and approaches to improve your mind mapping capability for test design.

    This is one of the few articles I’ve wrote that I was happy with prior to publishing, so I was really glad to see it get such good feedback from the community.  I hope the next two follow ups are just as useful.

  4. Test ideas for a login process

    At number four and actually not far behind third spot in terms of views for the year, was my few hours of brainstorming around test ideas for a login process.  This originally started out as a comment on a post by Santhosh Tuppad, but I quickly realised it would become too large.

  5. Tales from the trenches: Lean Test Phase Planning

    In at number five was my article on Lean Test Phase Planning.  As with all of the Tales from the trenches series, this explains a tried and tested technique or approach that aides testing in some way.  I enjoy using this approach, for teams who still adopt traditional test phases, as it allows a context sensitive plan to be developed and collaborated on for the entire team.  Much like the saying that there is no i in team, this follows a similar approach, by allowing management the opportunity to oversee, without too much restrictive interference, produce a real customer focused approach to testing.

Some of what to expect in 2012

2012 will no doubt be another year with very little free time for me.  What I do have in draft so far I find very interesting, so I really hope I will find time to write up most of it.


When many people meet me for the first time they often comment on my writings about mind mapping, sometimes saying rather flattering things.  If I had a true love in testing, I would probably say accessibility is it.  I hope to express this a lot more in 2012, showing people not just how guidelines should be addressed, but rather the concerns beyond that and the common design decisions that often directly impact this.

I hope to share my thoughts on using accessible markup to enhance screen reader experience and talk about the common mistakes made with JavaScript and CSS and how we as testers can help our development teams overcome these. I really want to showcase how building accessible websites is not just about ticking boxes and also involves a high degree of critical thinking to get it right. Much like we would test for usability, accessible sites and products needs to be usable for their target audience. A visually impaired user for example can’t be singled out as a single type of user, as just like users without accessibility requirements, their usage of braille devices, screen readers or magnification tools varies greatly from one person to another. There is lots on this subject I want to talk about so expect several posts.


I am a big fan of Lean Software Development.  Not in the sense of following its principles by the letter, but instead taking the useful aspects of it that fit my context and using them to provoke ideas to improve my testing and the testing of others around me.  I had planned to share in 2011 my thoughts on forms of lean test documentation, with examples of course.  This being a time consuming to write will now be pushed back to 2012.

Another documentation style post I had scribbled thoughts down on, was an evaluation of modern day knowledge bases.  I hope to critically analyse the flaws and failings of these; looking at the good, the bad and the downright ugly, before providing feedback on what we can do to improve these to meet the needs of our knowledge thirsty audience.  I’ve no doubt this probably won’t get read much by testers, but it is a very important aspect that we should all consider, and at least I know it will interest the one technical writer I know of that follows this blog (hi Gordon!).  Seriously though, if I had the time, I would research and critically evaluate everything that interests me!  There is nothing more satisfying for me and allows me to expose my knowledge to likewise critics who will help further my knowledge.


I had promised and still intend to (although rather late) post about my thoughts on EuroSTAR 2011.  I will share that soon! I promise.

Other events I might blog about next year, will probably be BBST Foundations (which I’m taking in March), the first Software Testing Club: Scottish Tester Meet-up, other meet-ups that I might be able to attend, EuroSTAR 2012 (If I can get a chance to go) and anything else that might turn up.

Mind Mapping

I have another two posts to write in the essential mind mapping series.  These I hope will provide further insights into how mind mapping can really enhance your testing capabilities.  The third in particular I hope will really blow your mind!

Usability / UX

Being back in the web business working for a digital agency, I really have no excuse to not share my thoughts on both usability and user experience.  In fact, I have already written so much on it in my workplace in bug reports, that I could probably just copy and paste a lot of that here!

I have planned a technique/ approach styled article for testing usability and gauging user experience, much in the style of my essential test design article, which covered various non traditional techniques and approaches to test design.

I had also hoped to engage in more fringe usability thoughts around things you might not actually have consider to think about.


I have lots of posts in draft, with ramblings I’ve scribbled down, the problem for me though, is that unless I get an opportunity to jump on the computer that instant and write them there and then, the passion and mindset to make them really worthwhile is often lost.  That being said, next year you might see some of my various other draft articles on communication, design, testability, test approaches and techniques and an oddly titled article called “Thinking in Paradigms” which has been gathering dust for some time, but really deserves to see the light of day!

Things to watch out for in 2012

So what can we expect from 2012?  I don’t know about you, but several things have already got me excited and show great promise for what should be another eventful year:


If I could attend any two conferences next year my first choice would obviously be EuroSTAR 2012.  Why?  Well next year is not only their 20th anniversary (so it’s bound to be huge), but they also have Zeger Van Hese acting as their programme chair, so it’ll no doubt be a very exciting series of talks and events.  My next choice would have to be CAST 2012, purely due to the quality of talks going on there last year and its very affordable price.  That being said, the newly formed European Context Driven testing conference Lets Test, also looks like fantastic value for money.

Scotland is finally going to have its own tester gathering on February 9th in Glasgow.  For me that’s pretty exciting, so I hope there will be a good turnout and lots of interesting chats!

Just like every year, you can fully expect many great things to come from our friends over at The Software Testing Club.  This year was fantastic!  I’ve no doubt that next year will be even better!

Michael Bolton and James Bach have been working away on a new Rapid Software Testing Course for Managers.  I expect this will be fantastic and fully hope to encourage my employers to send me on it at some point in the future (hopefully next year!).

New pens

Sadly not as often as I would like, do I find bloggers who write stuff that prompts fresh ideas into my head and get me excited to read more.  In 2011 two new pens came onto the blogging scene that did that for me.  Chris Chartier and Del Dewar have both written really interesting, inspiring stuff, consistently this year.  Let’s hope that there is more exciting new material to come from them in 2012.

Other scenes

You often read people saying that there is a lot to be learned about testing in other fields (some closer than others) and while I agree that is very true, perhaps the “testing is like a box of chocolates” style articles take that a little too far.  However here are some excellent resources to follow in 2012, to get a bit more in your mind about other aspects of testing.  I use Google Reader to follow all sites that interest me, should you not have a method of keeping up to date with websites, I would highly recommend this.

Critical thinking is an essential skill for any tester.  I find both Brian Dunning’s Sceptoid and the group panel run Sceptics Guide to the Universe both interesting and a way for me to learn of new alternative ways to critically analyse things.  Both are podcasts, which I generally find time for on my travels to and from work, or while driving in my car.

Usability and User Experience are two fields that us as testers can learn a lot about and directly use that to influence bad design choices in our workplaces.  A fellow Scot Neil Allison does a fantastic job of collating what he finds really interesting out there in both fields on his blog Usability Ed.  Further ashore Luke Wroblewski is one of the real stars in the real usability research world.  He writes a lot about good form designs and to a lesser extent site design.  If you have lots of free time and want to take a segmented approach to learning more about UX rapidly, join the UX stack exchange question list.  Even for those who know a lot already, you still get some gems and excellent research references to use when backing up claims.  Beware though, you can expect your inbox to grow rapidly, I think on average over a hundred questions a week are posted there.

In the Accessibility world WebAxe does a fantastic job of keeping you up to date with the latest goings on in this field, occasionally publishing the odd really useful reference style article, that you can always refer others back to when discussing certain issues.  Karl Groves is also another one to watch, he thinks critically about real accessibility issues and doesn’t just conform to suggested guidelines or follow the crowd.  That is highly important in providing beyond the basics accessible content.


I have no great plans for next year other than my blogging efforts and spending some quality time with my family, but I have made plans for 2013, when I hope that I should have enough free time, to tour a few test conferences with an eye opening talk, which might actually turn into a half day tutorial depending on how much time I get to work on it next year.  This is something I’ve longed to do for some time, so hopefully 2012 will also be about preparing for that and making it extra special.

To everyone who makes it over here to read my thoughts and all the kind people who subscribe and comment on them, thank you!  Really, I love writing about testing, but what I love even more is that others no matter how little, might find some use for it.  That honestly for me is extremely rewarding, so I thank you all kindly for that and with the exception of my yearly recaps I will continue to post only about what I think others could learn from, or recaps of events that I have attended.

All the best in 2012 and thanks for reading.

Related posts:

  1. 2010: A year in reflection
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