My 2014-2018 blog posts, recapped

TL;DR - I used to host a different blog on this website. This is a summary and retrospective of the key points from those old articles. πŸ“š

This isn't my first venture into the world of blogging! After discovering the online testing community in 2013, and attending my first-ever TestBashes, I began writing blog posts on this URL (you may even have arrived here from a broken link which references one of those old articles).

By 2018, I'd come a long way, and been through a lot of changes in my personal and professional life. I'd launched two podcasts which were keeping me pretty busy, and I didn't have much time free for blogging. I was using a platform which was costing me $10 a month, and decided that I couldn't justify keeping that blog running any longer.

Thankfully, prior to shutting down my blog, I exported a backup which contained all of my articles. I've opted not to import them here, as there's probably not a huge audience for "things that Neil was thinking about seven years ago" to make it worthwhile. However, as an exercise for myself, I thought I'd summarise each of the posts that I'd made, pick out some key points, and reflect on whether my thoughts still held true on each post.

2014 articles in brief πŸ’¬

  • 30-Mar-14: The TestBash 3 Story. A review of TestBash Brighton 2014. My second TestBash Brighton, but the first where I was actively taking part in social events, including the Pre-TestBash Run, and was looking for potential candidates to hire (we did hire somebody that I talked to). I had my first on-stage mention, courtesy of Richard Bradshaw's 99-second talk. And it gave me the fuel to start a blog!

  • 1-Apr-14: Things are the way they are… Echoing a quote from Weinberg's Secrets of Consulting, I shared a couple of stories about times when my teams had shown reluctance to change something because "they've always been done that way". (The scenarios related to Japanese path separator characters, and Windows drive mountings; both things that I haven't had to think about in a long time!)

  • 8-Apr-14: Crafting an elevator pitch. Reflecting on the challenges of summarising what we do as testers/companies when we're courting new candidates at meetups. I shared the current 30-second pitch that I was using, and why I had arrived at that version in particular. This was an interesting and fun one to write - I've added it to my backlog to revisit on this new blog!

  • 13-Apr-14: Black Ops: Stealth Mode Debrief. This was an experience report of an exploratory testing exercise that had been set for an online Black Ops Testing session. I shared some of the bugs that I'd found, and the tools that I'd utilised to explore and capture my findings. (It was my first time encountering LICEcap, a GIF capturing tool which I now use on a daily basis!)

  • 22-May-14: My First Encounter(s) with bugs in games. My first blog post to gain serious traction online, including a somewhat curt email exchange with one of the creators behind the game series in question, who demanded corrections. (I'll avoid mentioning the full title of the game because he's clearly got a Google alert setup for its keywords, but the article title should allow you to identify the game.) It was a game that I absolutely adored in the mid-90s, despite multiple game-breaking bugs which I just assumed were part of the game, but the full story is quite juicy. I eventually incorporated its story into my "Patching our way to lower software quality?" event talk.

  • 25-May-14: Let's Test 2014 in review. Oh yes, now I remember - I wrote the preceding article from Sweden, where I was attending my first international conference. The format and structure of Let's Test was a revelation to me, with its campus feel, and I miss it greatly. I made myself known to a lot of international testing figures, and garnered a reputation for leading group exercises and generally being a non-stop source of questions. It also unlocked a major volunteering opportunity in my career, as you'll see from the posts that follow.

  • 26-May-14: The time I did bad work. Continuing my post-Let's Test article flurry; I'd learned about the concept of "bad work" from Huib Schoots, and shared a story about a time when I'd been guilty of it. It's a story that I recently recapped on Racket, in MiniDiscs #13: I Could Have Lied.

  • 23-Jun-14: Sometimes you just need a big red button. A tale of how I'd managed to make our team interested in learning more our automated installation and regression test process, simply by hooking it up so that it could be triggered by a programmable big red 'emergency stop' button.

  • 5-Jul-14: What can the Hotel Hippo debacle teach us about testing? This was my first time being contacted by a company's PR department, who wanted to add a statement to my article. I was adding my thoughts to an article by security researcher Scott Helme, who'd identified major flaws in a minor hotel booking website, and I was conducting a post-mortem on how their problems could have been missed.

  • 5-Jul-14: WTA-52 Experience Report. Following conversations at Let's Test, I'd agreed to co-host for the European chapter of Weekend Testing (which, as the name suggests, is a group of volunteer facilitators who meet online at weekends to help coach testers). Prior to taking the reins, I participated in one of the American sessions, to see what I could learn from their format.

  • 13-Jul-14: Weekend Testing Europe relaunches this week. I spent several years as co-host of WTE, and this was the story of how it began: a simple tweet asking as to whether the European chapter of Weekend Testing was active, and a simple "why don't you resurrect it?" response. (This article was a call for participants, as much as anything else.)

  • 21-Jul-14: WTEU-47: A facilitator's report. We had 28 attendees for our comeback session (a new record!) which was a lot of people to wrangle, back in the day when running online video/chat sessions wasn't an everyday occurrence. This article summarised some of my learnings of the challenges, and I also shared a few of the things that I'd uncovered about the application that we'd tested.

  • 24-Jul-14: Don't lose sight of the problem you're trying to solve. Several stories about the dangers of fixating on the wrong thing, including a story of a bug that a tester first showed me which only happened when restarting the application after they'd caused it to crash. (They missed the bigger bug - why was the application crashing?!)

  • 6-Aug-14: Putting testability into practice. I was relatively new to the concept of testability (or at least, to knowing there was a word for it). This was a story of how I added observability into a Python-based cricket simulator that I was building, to help me to establish whether the randomness that I'd built into the simulator was generating realistic scores. (This game was, in itself, a rebuild of a BASIC-based equivalent that I'd built with my grandfather in the early 90s. I think it might be due a version 3 in the near future!)

  • 18-Aug-14: WTEU-48: Test Reporting. An experience report of our second Weekend Testing discussion, which generated lively discussion and a variety of different (and equally compelling) examples of test reports from our attendees.

  • 20-Aug-14: Forming a resistance against ISO 29119. I largely steer clear of drama these days, but ISO 29119 was (and maybe still is? I haven't thought about it in years) an attempt to strictly codify the art of testing in a way which didn't reflect my real-world experiences. Those of us who spoke out against it were pillioried in certain circles - we were accused of "book burning", which is fun - so this article was my statement against the standard.

  • 10-Sep-14: Regression Testing: Down the Rabbit Hole. An overview of a talk I gave at the MEWT 2014 peer conference, my first time giving a public presentation; the slides for this talk are still available online.

  • 15-Sep-14: Re-evaluating the "book burners" accusation. As ISO 29119 blundered onwards, by complete coincidence I found myself reading Fahrenheit 451 for the first time, and I pulled-out a few passages where the novel's "firemen" - literal book-burners - seemed to be behaving much more like ISO 29119's defenders.

  • 4-Oct-14: Reflecting on 2014 with a letter from myself. At the end of Let's Test, we were asked to write ourselves a letter with our goals for the months to come, which would then be delivered to us several months later. Mine arrived, and I reviewed whether I'd achieved what I'd set out to do: largely, yes ("Blog more", "Speak at an event" and "Resurrect Wekeend Testing Europe" were all big ticks).

  • 3-Nov-14: I'm part of the EuroSTAR 2014 media team. An exciting announcement - I'd been hired to be part of the blog team for the 2014 EuroSTAR event in Dublin, which meant a free ticket to the event and a lot of chances to meet speakers and attendees.

  • 6-Nov-14: Hear me on the latest Testing In The Pub podcast. My first appearance on a podcast - I've come a long way since! Amy Phillips and I were interviewed about our work with Weekend Testing. The episode doesn't seem to be available online any more, but I've got a copy of it which I treasure to this day.

  • 8-Nov-14: Ministry of Testing: Autumn 2014 events review. A 10-day(!) jaunt to Brighton, doing ALL OF THE THINGS. There were many workshops to attend, and I also interviewed for a new job while I was there. But most of all, I was there for the conversations with testers, which reinforced just what a huge year 2014 had been for me.

  • 10-Nov-14: Top 10 tips for testers on Twitter. One of my most-viewed articles of all-time, some tips for how to get the best out of Twitter (to help find things you want, and hide the things you don't want to see).

  • 2-Dec-14: A quick EuroSTAR 2014 wrap-up. Tales of my time spent blogging from Dublin, and a few of the opportunities that it had unlocked, including some big 2015 speaking opportunities.

  • 2-Dec-14: Why test it? Because it's there. Taking a quote from Mallory about Everest, a fun tale of the day that I experimented with the EuroSTAR tweet wall (displaying #EuroSTAR tweets on the main stage between conference sessions) to see what it was (and wasn't) capable of displaying.

  • 9-Dec-14: Does it always have to be about the drink? Something that I'm still passionate about (although pandemics have prevented it from being a problem for a while now), the constant framing of evening networking events around free booze, and how this could lead to some people feeling excluded.

2015 in a nutshell πŸ₯œ

  • 18-Jan-15: Unleash your coding superpowers in your free time. A drum I've been banging for over five years, it seems. I like to find good excuses to create throwaway automation to help solve everyday problems, and in this particular example, I produced a Selenium script to quickly iterate over fifty years' worth of "on this day" data to help identify a pattern of broken pages. I'd like to specifically revisit this example, so I've added it to my blog backlog!

  • 5-Mar-15: Everybody tests! An extract from a book that I'd read from the creators of the Fighting Fantasy series of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, describing the many complex systems that they had to construct to test whether their book could be completed: these looked like hand-drawn mind-maps on acid.

  • 14-Mar-15: I'm presenting a workshop at TestBash 2015. A preview of my first time running a workshop for paying guests, titled "Supercharging Your Bug Reports". The post contained a preview of the material, and some of my hopes (and fears!) of my public debut.

  • 27-Mar-15: The TestBash 2015 Story. And with that, a year after my first blog post from the previous TestBash Brighton, some reflection on how far I'd come, what I'd learned from my workshop, and my first 99-second talk.

  • 17-Apr-15: Testing in the Dark: Lessons in Cross-Site Communication. Details of my talk from the third gathering of MEWT, which unfortunately I was unable to attend. The slides are preserved for posterity here, and the issues that I was talking about are more relevant than ever with the sudden spike in remote working around the world.

  • 17-Apr-15: I care about bugs! A follow-up to a thread that was raised during my TestBash workshop around bug advocacy: while I'm happy to "let go" of a bug if the product team decides not to fix it, there's value in making sure they understand the relative importance (or not) of the problem. It's a subject I revisited in a recent Racket - MiniDiscs #17: You Can't Always Get What You Want.

  • 28-Apr-15: Using puzzles to improve your scripting skills. Continuing my "coding is awesome" challenge, I demonstrated how I could answer a clickbaity LinkedIn "name a country without an A in the name" question with a Python script which iterated through the name of every country in the world, and identify edge cases (for instance, "United Kingdom" doesn't contain an A, unless you consider its formal name of "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland").

  • 10-May-15: WTA-61: Accessibility in action. Attending the latest Weekend Testing Americas session, where Michael Larsen took us through a primer on accessibility. In this blog, I outlined why accessibility matters.

  • 13-May-15: Taking the Weekend Testing story on tour! A preview of my upcoming talk about Weekend Testing at Nordic Testing Days, in which I shared my experiences of going from knowing nothing about Weekend Testing, to being at the helm of its monthly sessions.

  • 19-May-15: Testing for Dark Patterns. Following on from our Weekend Testing session on the same topic, a guide to understanding, spotting and preventing Dark Patterns when building our products.

  • 28-May-15: Watch me discussing bug advocacy on the Dojo. Another milestone: my first published on-demand training material, converted from my "Supercharging Your Bug Reports" workshop, into two videos which are still available on the Dojo (and haven't eroded too badly, if I do say so) as part of the Bug Reporting 101 course.

  • 6-Jun-15: Nordic Testing Days 2015: Meeting the Agents of Change. Another conference experience report (I sure got around a lot in 2014 & 2015!) about my time as a speaker and attendee in Tallinn, where I also gave my first-ever livestreamed lightning talk.

  • 6-Jun-15: What's wrong with 9-to-5 testers? A summary of my NTD2015 lightning talk, which was a partial rebuttal of a popular term that I still hear, "9-to-5 tester", used to describe a tester who doesn't advance their career outside of working hours. I wanted to stand up for introverted personalities (having recently read "Quiet" by Susan Cain) who might not feel comfortable in post-work social settings, and people who might have other personal responsibilities which have more pressing needs on their time (2021 Neil says hello).

  • 17-Jul-15: Talking about patching in Nottingham and Brighton. Taking my next conference talk on tour, "Patching our way to lower software quality?"; the Brighton version is available to watch on the Dojo, and remains one of the most purely joyous talks I've ever given.

  • 13-Aug-15: The Whiplash approach to motivating testers. I was massively moved by Damien Chazelle's film Whiplash, which compelled me to write an article about the destructive traits of teachers which I'd also observed in the testing community, and whether they were justifiable. We subsequently covered this in the Whiplash episode of the Screen Testing podcast.

  • 8-Nov-15: Why the plight of rural gamers should concern web developers too. Beginning originally as a rant after purchasing the digital version of Fallout 4 (all 24GB of it) and trying to download it from my sleepy village with a 1MB connection. While extreme, I drew parallels to the challenges of accessing content over mobile, back at a time when 4G was considerably less widespread than it is now.

Words written by me in 2016 ✏

  • 9-May-16: Creating my first Slack bot with Heroku. After a six-month blogging drought, I was compelled to share the story of a fun and helpful Slack plugin that I'd built for my office: our meeting rooms all had obscure names which didn't have helpful names (e.g. The Basement was on the top floor), so I wrote a bot that you could query with the name of a meeting room, and it would give you directions to find that room. Others forked their own version and built upon it, so I must have done something right!

  • 9-Jun-16: CAST 2016 preview: A tester's guide to Vancouver. While holidaying in Vancouver in early 2016, I discovered that the CAST conference was coming to the city in the summer, so I resolved to make a second trip back to attend. I shared a view of my tourist tips from the first visit! (I subsequently posted four daily diaries during the conference, which I'll skip below because this is already running pretty long.)

  • 29-Jun-16: Taking the 30 Days of Testing challenge. The Ministry of Testing now run regular "30 Days of <insert speciality here> Testing" months, but I believe this was the first, covering a broad variety of subjects over thirty days. I updated this post every day throughout the month, explaining how I'd tackled each day's challenge.

  • 22-Jul-16: PokΓ©mon Go bugs: Gotta catch 'em all? Proving that I could use the cultural zeitgeist to create good clickbait links, I wrote about how the newly-launched PokΓ©mon Go was proving to be an immense success despite numerous bugs, relating it back to my previous bug advocacy discussions and suggesting that quality can be determined through more than just counting bugs.

  • 24-Jul-16: Lessons learned from my first live webcast. As the title suggests, for the two-year anniversary of our Weekend Testing revival, Amy and I opted to present live on-camera rather than just in our usual text chat. We've all come a long way in the five years since, and streaming is pretty much a thing we all do at some time or other, but a lot of the key points that I learned in 2016 (Get your lighting and audio right! Designate somebody to moderate the chat!) are still relevant now.

  • 21-Aug-16: Being a force for change (a CAST 2016 introspection). Here, I looked back on some of my previous job changes, and the reasons behind some of those changes, to analyse whether I'd tried hard enough to enact change in my organisations before deciding that they weren't for me. This led to a discussion about taking agency of your situation, through respectful debate.

  • 21-Aug-16: On trust, respect and integrity (a CAST 2016 introspection). Clearly I had a lot of free time in the airport lounge! Here, I dug deeper into some of the after-hours discussions at CAST around ethics and behaviour, after witnessing some heated debate which sometimes stepped too far over the line of being respectful. I also took cues from Richard Bradshaw's lightning talk, which was titled "Automation in Testing" - and AiT is now its own fully-fledged business πŸ™‚

  • 10-Sep-16: Breaking into testing: 2016 edition. I received a private message from someone on LinkedIn who was looking for some advice on how to get their first role in testing. I decided to answer in public, so that others could benefit from this; five years later, I've added this to my backlog for an upcoming rewrite.

  • 23-Aug-16: A tale of my first foray into security reporting. Following the shutdown of a small Microsoft-backed games studio, I decided it was finally safe to share the story of some major security flaws that I'd found when testing one of their games in 2014, and the challenges associated with putting those concerns in front of somebody who could act upon them.

  • 6-Oct-16: On drama. A written adaptation of my CAST 2016 lightning talk, I talked about conflict on social media, how I would often remove myself from the conversation to protect myself from negativity, and how I would feel guilty for not standing up when I saw others being attacked. These days, I tend to give Twitter a relatively wide berth; I discussed this a bit in MiniDiscs #16: Toxic.

  • 18-Oct-16: Hear me on the latest episodes of Let's Talk About Tests, Baby. Bringing together a few of my content strands from the year, my second-ever podcast appearance found me talking to Gem Hill (and meeting her for the first time!) about burnout, mental health, defending 9-to-5 testers, and sharing stories about failed attempts to motivate myself and others. The episode is archived online here.

  • 23-Dec-16: On positivity. Rounding out the year by sharing one of my greatest discoveries: Shawn Achor's TED Talk, and his book The Happiness Advantage. After going through the most gruelling 12 months of my personal life, I learned really useful advice about spotting (and avoiding) "unchecked negativity" and, in the five years since, am almost literally a different person from listening to his advice.

And then it was 2017 πŸŽ‡

  • 11-Feb-17: Screen Testing preview: Deepwater Horizon. As I prepared to launch my first podcast venture with Dan Billing, I blogged about why Deepwater Horizon (predominantly positioned as a dramatic real-life action film) is actually a film about testing, test reporting, and learning to communicate effectively with management. That episode can be found here.

  • 26-Feb-17: Lessons learned from editing my first podcast. Prior to recording our Deepwater Horizon episode, Dan and I had a couple of attempts at an introductory "episode zero"; the first attempt was a write-off, due to not knowing what we were doing with our audio gear. This post was an attempt to prevent others from falling into similar traps!

  • 4-Apr-17: The TestBash Brighton 2017 story. My now-annual roundup about my favourite little testing conference, which in 2017 included the Open Space, a live episode of Screen Testing, and my first-ever conference vlog.

  • 14-Apr-17: Make limits and rewards a part of your development plan. Something that's still so meaningful to me that I made a Racket about this exact subject.

  • 22-May-17: Practical Automation: Cinema listings to my inbox. I was still searching for a phrase to describe this kind of scripted solution that I like to create (nowadays, I just settle for attributing credit to "Automation in Testing"). This example of Practical Automation is one that I still use today: monitoring a Cineworld API endpoint so that I can find out as soon as tickets go on-sale for forthcoming movie releases.

  • 18-Aug-17: New podcast announcement: Testers' Island Discs. And it's still going strongly, four years and fifty episodes later! This introduction outlined my idea behind the conference (which came while binge-listening to Desert Island Discs at the Bluedot Festival) and my gratitude to Ministry of Testing for offering to host and promote the show.

  • 25-Oct-17: Recruitment as an exercise in trust. A story of my most baffling hiring experience to date: the time that a candidate tried to secretly get a freelancer to complete their tech test for them. I've republished this story in audio form on Racket.

  • 31-Oct-17: Friday deployments needn't be scary. To coincide with Halloween (and an admittedly-funny Twitter photo about a pumpkin with "Deploying on Friday" carved into it), my thoughts on why we should be building our software so that we can release safely and with confidence on any day, at any time.

  • 11-Nov-17: Lessons learned from six months of refining a presentation. The latest in my fun-to-write "lessons learned" series, covering the lifespan of my "Continuous Quality" presentation which I gave at TestBash Philadelphia 2017 (and which I trialed at a couple of UK meetups beforehand). Resources for this talk can be found here.

Last but not least, 2018 πŸŽ–

  • 28-Jun-18: Hear me on the latest episode of The Guilty Tester. Now pretty busy with my own podcasts, I still managed to find some time to be the first guest on Dave Duke's podcast, in an episode which can be found here.

Phew, that was a much longer list than I'd anticipated! I've flagged a few of these for "redux" versions in written and/or audio format, but if there's anything in the list above which particularly catches your eye, just get in touch with me and I'll try to prioritise it. πŸ™