Always On


So there we were, Josh Gibbs and I, enjoying our lunch break on a lovely sunny day at Centennial Olympic Park. As an Atlanta native, I was living here when the olympics came through town and have a brick in the park. We took a little stroll to visit it and then settled down by the fountain to enjoy the Fountain of Rings show that happened to be scheduled at that time.

As we sat there absorbing the novel touristy experience, trying to identify the musical strains that blared from the speakers, we started to analyze it. We couldn’t help ourselves. That instinct to see beyond the surface, to reverse engineer the system through a verbal exchange, was too powerful for us to just be in the moment. This is why we can’t have nice things.

However, as we gazed upon these new and shifting patterns of water jets set to music, we noticed a flaw in the system. One water jet was misbehaving. At first, it seemed like some sort of counterpoint to the carefully orchestrated flow, perhaps a harmony in the song that I couldn’t properly detect. As the songs changed and that jet continued to spray, it became clear that it was out of turn.

So we started looking for rules we could test to explain the behavior systematically. We speculated that the jet was always on, but when the song ended the water completely died away. We proposed that this little jet was always spraying water, always turned on but only as long as any water was emerging from the fountain. When some jets were performing but the jets around it were not active, this jet bubbled closer to the ground, but as the jets around it reached for the sky the broken jet struggled and failed to follow suit. So that rule seemed to hold.

We considered the historical context of this fountain. Constructed for the 1996 olympics, the initial design had to be created with technology available at that time. So what kind of controls were determining where the water flowed, how long the water flowed (to produce the varying effects from a water ball to a towering jet), how hard the pressure was (to provide a jet of a particular height), how quickly the pattern could change, and so on? Had the original system been maintained all this time? How would you upgrade a system like that? Was there a fixed playlist with predetermined songs and water choreography or could someone provide new inputs? If you could submit a new sequence, was it possible to hack the fountain? And if so, what was the risk involved (likelihood, impact)?

(This just in: The playlist changes and, yes, the computerized fountain accepts new inputs! “The computerized Fountain can be programmed with special announcements as well as a variety of water displays including low-pressure, walk-through “water curtains”, fog and misting.” )

I think we left with more questions than we answered, but it was still a fruitful conversation. It was a nice little trip down memory lane and forced me to confront the reality that testing is a way of life, a path that I am always on.

My stupid human trick

When I was growing up, my family and I would watch shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos that often involved montages of people showing off their ridiculous talents – sometimes inadvertently!

One of my earliest experiences in my testing career was participating in a planning meeting. The whole product development team migrated to the corner of our open workspace where a large board-room-style table sat lonely on most days. We all pulled up chairs, but I was one of the attendees who also pulled up a laptop. I started typing up the details of what I was hearing and began asking questions, like I do. The most exciting moment of that planning meeting was the developers noticing that I was still furiously typing their responses to the previous question while moving on to another. Apparently typing one thing and saying another was my amazing stupid human trick. My keyboarding teacher would be so proud.

To this day, my fast fingers continue to amaze, as many physically present and online lurking CAST 2013 attendees can attest. So what’s the secret to my Twitter dominance? The Micro Machines Man John Moschitta, Jr. described his rapid speech delivery as just allowing the words to flow in through his eyes and out through his mouth, so my analogue is in through my eyes and ears and out through my fingers – though I’ll allow the 140 character constraint does require some synthesis along the way.

(So, yes, Claire, we’re all very impressed with your speedy typing, but is it really all that important? Is there a point behind your stupid human trick?)

I find that content generation is a valued skill, even when it’s just providing information from someone else via social media. Helping others to feel present and included is part of my hospitality charism and I want to bring that to bear in the context-driven testing community. I started out as an online lurker and eventually became a participant, but now I have the opportunity to be an amplifier. I like to think of myself as an information radiator, bringing valuable information to light. Now what will you radiate?

The following graph of Agile2018 tweets is even funnier when you realize I was also @agilealliance (not just @aclairefication) #top2 LOL

Big Visible Testing Full Length

Here are the slides from my full length Big Visible Testing talk, presented at Agile2013 in Nashville, TN on August 6, 2013.

My experience report paper will be published by the Agile Alliance under the conferences archive as part of the proceedings of the Agile2013 conference. You can also download the PDF here: ClaireMoss-BigVisibleTesting-Agile2013

During the year and a half of experimentation that included the big visible charts that are included in this slide deck, I read over the following resources, only some of which would easily fit into the IEEE format. This is the full bibliography of my research, as far as I have been able to track down my sources. (At the time, I wasn’t expecting to cite them for anyone else, so I probably didn’t bookmark everything I read.) I hope the following links will prove helpful to you in developing your own big visible charts. Let me know how it goes! And please share any sources that you find helpful. I’m always looking for new inspiration.


My first dev team was an XP dev team that dogfooded our own digital signage product to display success/failure for the thousands of unit tests in the suite (i.e. single flag for whole suite red/green).
Other eXtreme Programming big visible charts

Extreme Feedback Devices summary – I loved this team’s “feel-around” approach to feedback!

Alistair Cockburn coined information radiator
Alistair Cockburn’s burn charts (burn up vs burn down)
Information radiator flash card
More information radiator stuff

Lisa Crispin’s whole team approach includes Big Visible Charts
Energized Work site map backlog
More from Lisa Crispin’s tour of Energized Work

Heatmaps (from code analysis)

Paul Holland’s Exploratory Testing charter Kanban board
Lanette Creamer and Matt Barcomb gave a presentation that included ET charter management in big visible charts; podcast preview of their session

Visualizing above the product team
Including faces of people/profiles in the big visible charts
I can’t remember whether I’d see this one at the time or not… it might have been something I discovered after my time on the team mentioned in my presentation: Visual management for agile teams

New inspiration

Although the above resources were all I knew at the time I began my experiments, as I prepared my IEEE paper for the Agile2013 conference proceedings, I was tracking down my sources and came across these other relevant pages & posts that have given me some great ideas of things to try next!

Gojko Adzic’s visualizing quality

Michael Bolton’s mind-maps

I like this greyhound chasing the rabbit decoy visualization Alistair made
Alistair’s projects (radiating)
Alistair’s collaboration cards

Lego representation of bugs

Other cool extreme feedback devices:

Clothesline wallboard contest entry – as an avid crafter, I adore this one!
Wallboard contest results

After some discussion in my session about suggesting solutions for distributed teams, I was looking for some digital implementations of big visible charts, but I don’t know how these would work out for you.

Atlassian on information radiators for extreme feedback (with broken image links – sad!)
Atlassian on information radiators
Greenhopper (Jira plugin) wallboard
More on Jira Wallboard

What I Did For My Summer Vacation – Part 2

For Science!

For Science!

Our geek gals weekend was quite a memorable one! We had an email thread going around discussing all of our excitement that culminated in:

Road Trip Retrospective


  • Beginning new friendships and rekindling old ones
  • WaHo, or Waffle House for you non-Southerners, is a road trip staple
  • Seeing the sights: art gallery, street musician, architecture walk, shopping
  • Active pursuits: plantation tour, petting zoo, bodysurfing
  • Keeping it mellow: drip castles, collecting shells, yoga, sunbathing
  • Team-building through cooking indoors & grilling out
  • Kitsch juxtaposed with refinement: deep fried peanuts and formal high tea
  • Bizarre medical poster discovery
  • Conversation: discussions of literature, science, and life
  • Creative outlets: lanyards, scrapbooking, board games, magnetic nail polish


  • Having pricing/rental agreements in writing is essential – but at least one of us was overcharged and our deposit wasn’t fully refunded
  • Foodie friends should always pick the restaurant
  • Crafting doesn’t come as naturally to everyone – but collaborative art is more fun!
  • Twilight is hilarious when read aloud with expression and voice acting
  • About 1 in 10 photographs come out the way I’d expect
  • Vintage gold lamé will cover you in glitter
  • I can disassemble a grill to light it when the starter is broken – but I didn’t expect a fireball when I opened the lid!


  • Roadside attractions
  • Strange food venues
  • Pest control (huge roaches landing in my hair? unacceptable!)
  • Respect from the rental agent who told me I was a b*tch on the phone (keepin’ it classy!)
  • Support from the rental agent to operate the hot tub that we were forbidden to adjust when it was tepid

Longed For

  • Working internet connection (seriously, who cuts a bunch of geek girls off?)
  • Privacy: long term renter walked his dog through our space each day
  • Functional bathrooms: inconsistent water pressure, toilets constantly running or clogged and leaking, shower door jammed, scalding hot water hurt a couple of us, and what’s with the toilet installed in the linen closet?!?
  • Stable floors: I fell through the deck once and nearly fell through another part of the deck a second time, squishy kitchen floor
  • Sturdy roofs: bedroom ceiling collapsed
  • Nighttime lighting out on the uneven decks
  • Ovens/grills that heated evenly and to the designated temperature
  • Cleaning crew: moldy air conditioning unit, dust, dirt, bug parts, expired cleaning supplies
  • Maintenance crew to shore up the framing and carpentry

So how did our product turn out? Our execution wasn’t flawless, but we have very fond memories of creativity, conversation, and survival. Nothing like a few disasters to remind us how fortunate we are.

Countdown to Agile2013!

I’m so excited about next week that I’m re-reading the schedule for next week with great anticipation (on a Friday evening. Yeah, I’m a big nerd. It’s cool.)

So in celebration, I’m counting down to my first full-length talk at the conference! See you there!

I’m on stage right now. Come join me![/tminus]

What I Did For My Summer Vacation – Part 1

With the First Day of School quickly approaching, it’s time for:

What I Did For My Summer Vacation – Part 1

Exploring Requirements

I get really excited about hanging out with people, especially friends, especially a combination of new and old friends. So it was with great happiness that I set about organizing a geek gal weekend.

Our first conversations centered around budget (fixed), deadline (fixed), and features (flex). We started talking over the various activities that different destinations could provide to entertain us. Then, I paused the conversation to bring the focus back to value: when we looked back on this weekend, how did we want to remember it? how would we feel about the way we spent that time together? would features even feature in these stories we would tell? Instead of features, we realized that functions (what the product was going to accomplish) and attributes (characteristics desired by the clients) mattered more. (Why yes I was reading Weinberg this morning. How could you tell?)

Vintage gold lamé (see that gaw-jus totally 80s animal-print metallic finish? oh yeah.)

Vintage gold lamé (see that gaw-jus totally 80s animal-print metallic finish? oh yeah.)

We wanted to relish the simplicity of being together, whether wearing goofy vintage clothes (gold lamé for the win!), cooking our own meals together, telling silly stories, or engaging in feminine activities with a geek spin (magnetic nail polish was not as simple as expected) that would be low-key and more about togetherness than busyness. We wanted to craft something lasting (collaborative artwork – packing the craft supplies was a must not a want!) and reinforce durable friendships that appreciated our differences.

With this clear focus in mind, suddenly the locale was much less important than inclusivity to maximize togetherness.

Planned For Sand

So we made an informal backlog of tasks to tackle researching options (beach vs mountains), reviewing results, and prioritizing options (beach!) before presenting our findings to the group for dot voting. (Typical agilists, I’m tellin’ ya.) Fortunately, we found a viable approach and went forward with making arrangements to execute this solution (road trip!), adjusting as we went to accommodate discovered needs.

How did it all turn out? Stay tuned for scintillating tales of laughter and danger in What I Did On My Summer Vacation – Part 2!

See you soon

I’m excited to announce that I will be speaking at two conferences this year!

If you’re on your way to Agile2013 in Nashville in August, please stop by my full-length Big Visible Testing session in the experience report track. I simply didn’t have enough time to tell you all the cool stuff in my CAST 2012 emerging topic.
If you’re excited about trying exploratory testing with some in-person coaching, Matt Heusser and I will be there for you.
Or catch up with me some time that week to say hi.





If you’re on your way to CAST 2013 in Madison in August, start out your conference with my Walking Skeletons, Butterflies, & Islands: an agile journey experience report.
I look forward to fielding your questions about agile testing!

Sadly, my talks will not be streamed online this year, but you might enjoy the webCAST lineup!

Ash-ceptance Criteria

Someone asked me for examples of testable acceptance criteria… Alright. Who wants some?

User story:
As Ash, I want to defend myself against deadites (undead creatures) so that I can retrieve pages from the Book of the Dead.

Acceptance criteria:
– defend from a distance
– defend at close range

Two distinct pieces of value, huh? Clearly, we need a story split here!

User story:
As Ash, I want to repurpose the stump of my right arm into a fearsome weapon so that I can defend myself against undead creatures at close range.

Acceptance criteria:
– portable
– well supported, weight-balanced
– hands-free operation
– use available materials
– holds up under stress
– close-range fighting

Technical implementation:
– leather harness
– chainsaw mounted on handcuff
– chainsaw pull operated via bracket on harness

User story:
As Ash, I want another weapon for my left hand so that I can defend myself against undead creatures at a distance.

Acceptance criteria:
– portable
– easy storage
– one-handed operation
– uses available materials
– distance fighting

Technical implementation:
– sawed-off shotgun
– uses right-hand-mounted chainsaw to saw off shotgun (story dependency or taking advantage of existing features?)
– convenient back holster

Bonus feature/discovered value:
– clever shorthand terminology: “Boomstick”

By now, the distinction between testable user story acceptance criteria focused on user value and the resulting technical implementation should be painfully clear. Groovy?

Tonight’s episode is brought to you by: the beauty of claymation, the number 2, and the words Klaatu… verata… n… Necktie. Nectar. Nickel. Noodle.

Image source

Bedside manner

This morning, stuck in the dentist’s chair again, I was contemplating with dread the work to be done. You see, I’ve had many dentists over the years and have only recently found one I like. It’s not the movie in the background to distract me, though that is nice. And it’s not the friendly manner of the staff, though that’s very important to me as well. It’s the deliberate communication.

Yesterday, at lunch, a friend and I were laughing at ourselves for having worked together in the past on a small team of 5 people and the communication problems that we had. While a larger team would certainly require more coordination, it is astonishing how easy it is for even a small, close-knit, co-located team to be deliberate about sharing information.

So back to sitting in this chair with the sound of the drill coming from the next exam room… When it is my turn, our 3 person team (dentist, hygenist, and patient) carefully coordinates the execution of today’s project with blow-by-blow commentary, making adjustments to each other as we go. And while the experience isn’t one I hope to repeat – you can bet my flossing will improve! – for the first time, I have complete trust in my dental team because they keep me constantly in the loop as a disciplined practice. And a little pain control doesn’t hurt either!

Image source