Friends of Good Software - September 2022

The Friends of Good Software (FroGS Conf) had its sixth edition on Thursday, 8 September. I was eager to have it on a Thursday myself to have a real weekend, and include people who could never attend on a Saturday, but it had me a bit nervous about the number of attendees. Luckily we held strong by my measures of success: active participants, a full screen of faces, enough concurrent sessions that people were jockeying for different spots, and a retro full of requests to do it again. We will. :)

I ran the morning marketplace to determine our sessions. And I had the energy to attend a session in each of our five slots.

Heather Reid - Logs, usage stats, and how you use them

A FroGS newcomer but not at all stranger Heather Reid proposed a session building on her recent blog post about what the "highly-requested" part of "highly-requested feature" really means. She wanted to hear how other product teams were approaching data-driven decision-making.

Along with a list of tools, we identified the hardest part about using data: the shift in mindset required. It's a journey to go from decisions based on your experience to decisions based on your customers' experiences. Identifying the baseline and framing things as small experiments can help get the ball rolling.

Sanne Visser - Continued improvements to my planning system

I'm always interested to hear how Sanne's very elaborate planning system grows and compares to the simpler set of annual directions and weekly tasks I have.

Sanne uploaded some photos of her physical notebooks, gave examples of what she's striving towards, and gave a us a realistic look into what pieces and goals fall by the wayside when shit hits the fan. Sanne was kinder to Samuel Nitsche than he was to himself as he confessed he had no planning system at all. "What gets done now without a system?" she asked. Sanne's looking to shift her thinking from goals to habits in the coming months, focusing on outcomes rather than outputs.

Career trajectory - two separate sessions

I will refrain from publishing the personal details of my two fellow testers who are both at different "what do I want from my job?" points in their careers. I'm delighted to see that along with ensemble programming and database migration questions, FroGS has become a good place to support and advice during a time of reflection and contemplation. These topics bubbled up in both sessions:

You create your own luck

Our careers may seem like 98% luck. But continuing to connect our skills and values to the work we do puts us in more and better situations to keep building our careers. We can value the individuals on a team more than the mission of a company, or vice versa. Finding what we want more of is a years-long and perhaps continuous process.

You are more than your career

There is more to life than software, duh! We can make tradeoffs in our work to support the way we want to live our lives. That may mean rejecting the "hustle culture" of wanting that next promotion, and recognizing that staying as an individual contributor, getting satisfaction (or money) from a side-gig, or cutting down on working hours to pursue a passion.

Sanne Visser - Choosing not to access the system under test

After an intriguing experience report at LLEWT a few months ago, I was curious for an update from Sanne. I did not literally say "You are putting yourself in incredible pain" but someone did.

Sanne made an intentional choice to not be the person fixing things, to solve underlying problem instead, by not getting the required training or hardware necessary to perform testing herself. "I have been so frustrated with myself very, very frequently," she confessed. Some data setup would have been so much easier if she could just access the system. But Sanne's colleague who joined the session agreed it would have been too much on top of what Sanne's already responsible for.

Sanne's taken on shortening cycle time as her main goal. From the "multi-headed dragon" of problems she notices, she's been getting the team to vote on which experiments to try. Her improvements to stability, predictability, and planning have already made an impact. In the end, she gave herself permission to identify exit criteria for this experiment.

Thanks to everyone who attended FroGS Conf, and especially everyone who took notes. It allows participants who joined a different session to still share in some of the takeaways. And as noted by Heather, it helps people in the session who've missed a particular word or point, and builds the feeling of a collaborative community working together.

Based on the retro and who was able to join us, it appears that some people can only do weekends and some can only do weekdays. It's likely that we'll implement Sanne's suggestion of switching off between those options. Starting an hour later (10am instead of 9am Central European Time) worked better for us in the middle of Europe, and much better for our friends in the UK, Ireland, and Portugal. We'll keep that innovation.

Shoutout to the NS for going on strike and ruining the day we wanted to get together for drinks! And apologies to our co-organizer Cirilo Wortel for scheduling this event on a weekday during what turned out to be your busy time leading up to a big release. The rest of the organizers (Sanne Visser, Huib Schoots, Joep Schuurkes and myself) have our own retro later this week. We'll see how we can incorporate the rest of the feedback from the retro into our next editions.