Skip to main content

Something of Note

The Cambridge Tester meetup last week was a workshop on note-taking for testers by Neil Younger and Karo Stoltzenburg. An initial presentation, which included brief introductions to techniques and tools that facilitate note-taking in various ways (Cornell, mind map, Rapid Reporter, SBTM), was followed by a testing exercise in which we were encouraged to try taking notes in a way we hadn't used before. (I tried the Cornell method.)

What I particularly look for in meetups is information, inspiration, and the stimulation of ideas. And I wasn't disappointed in this one. Here's some assorted thoughts.

I wonder how much of my note-taking is me and how much is me in my context?
  • ... and how much I would change were I to move somewhere else, or do a different job at Linguamatics
  • ... given that I already know that I have evolved note-taking to suit particular tasks over time
  • ... further, I already know that I use different note-taking approaches in different contexts. But why? Can I explore that more deeply?

Is this blog post notes?
  • ... what is a note?
  • ... perhaps this is an article? It doesn't feel like a formal report, although perhaps it could turn into one
  • ... but it's more than simple aides memoire
  • ... but it's not exactly full sentences 
  • ... but it started as notes. Then I iterated on them and they become a draft, of sorts
  • ... but how? Why? According to who?
  • ... and when do notes turn into something else?
  • ... and when should notes turn into something else?

By writing up my notes for this post I have remembered other things that aren't in my notes
  • ... and thought things that I didn't think at the time
  • ... and, a week later, after discussing the evening with Karo, I've had more thoughts (and taken notes of them)

I showed my notes from CEWT 3 to one of the other participants at the event
  • ... and I realised that my written notes are very wordy compared to others'
  • ... and that I layer on top of them with emphasis, connections, sub-thoughts, new ideas etc

What axes of comparison make sense when considering alternative note-taking techniques?
  • ... what do they give over pen and paper? (which scores on ubiquity and familiarity and flexibility)
  • ... what do they give over a simple use of words? (perhaps transcription of "everything" is a baseline?)
  • ... what about shorthand? (is simple compression a form of note taking?)
  • ... is voice a media for notes? Some people use voice recorders
  • ... sketchnoting is richer in some respects, but more time-consuming

What advantages might there be of constraining note-taking?
  • ... Rapid Reporter appears to be a line-by-line tool, with no editing of earlier material
  • ... the tooling around SBTM enforces a very strict syntax
  • ... the concentration on structure over text of mind maps

How might contextual factors affect note-taking?
  • ... writing on graph paper vs lined paper vs plain paper; coloured vs white
  • ... one pen vs many different pens; different colour pens
  • ... a blank page vs a divided page (e.g. Cornell)
  • ... a blank page vs a page populated with e.g. Venn diagram, hierarchical structure, shapes, pie charts
  • ... scrap paper vs a Moleskine
  • ... pencil vs fountain pen pen vs crayon vs biro

Time allocation during note-taking
  • ... what kinds of techniques/advice are there for deciding how to apportion time to note-taking vs listening/observing?
  • ... are different kinds of notes appropriate when listening to a talk vs watching an event vs interacting with something (I do those differently)

What makes sense to put into notes?
  • ... verbatim quotes?
  • ... feelings?
  • ... questions?
  • ... suggestions?
  • ... connections?
  • ... emotions?
  • ... notes about the notes?
  • ...
  • ... what doesn't make sense, if anything? Could it ever make sense?

I am especially inspired to see whether I can distil any conventions from my own note-taking. I have particular contexts in which I make notes on paper - meetups are one - and those where I make notes straight onto the computer - 1-1 with my team, for instance, but also when testing. I make notes differently on the computer in those two scenarios.

I have written before about how I favour plain text for note-taking on the computer and I have established conventions that suit me for that. I wonder are any conventions present in multiple of the approaches that I use?

Good thought, I'll just note that down.
Image: https://flic.kr/p/djNq4b

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Can Code, Can't Code, Is Useful

The Association for Software Testing is crowd-sourcing a book,  Navigating the World as a Context-Driven Tester , which aims to provide  responses to common questions and statements about testing from a  context-driven perspective . It's being edited by  Lee Hawkins  who is  posing questions on  Twitter ,   LinkedIn , Mastodon , Slack , and the AST  mailing list  and then collating the replies, focusing on practice over theory. I've decided to  contribute  by answering briefly, and without a lot of editing or crafting, by imagining that I'm speaking to someone in software development who's acting in good faith, cares about their work and mine, but doesn't have much visibility of what testing can be. Perhaps you'd like to join me?   --00-- "If testers can’t code, they’re of no use to us" My first reaction is to wonder what you expect from your testers. I am immediately interested in your working context and the way

Meet Me Halfway?

  The Association for Software Testing is crowd-sourcing a book,  Navigating the World as a Context-Driven Tester , which aims to provide  responses to common questions and statements about testing from a  context-driven perspective . It's being edited by  Lee Hawkins  who is  posing questions on  Twitter ,   LinkedIn , Mastodon , Slack , and the AST  mailing list  and then collating the replies, focusing on practice over theory. I've decided to  contribute  by answering briefly, and without a lot of editing or crafting, by imagining that I'm speaking to someone in software development who's acting in good faith, cares about their work and mine, but doesn't have much visibility of what testing can be. Perhaps you'd like to join me?   --00-- "Stop answering my questions with questions." Sure, I can do that. In return, please stop asking me questions so open to interpretation that any answer would be almost meaningless and certa

Testing (AI) is Testing

Last November I gave a talk, Random Exploration of a Chatbot API , at the BCS Testing, Diversity, AI Conference .  It was a nice surprise afterwards to be offered a book from their catalogue and I chose Artificial Intelligence and Software Testing by Rex Black, James Davenport, Joanna Olszewska, Jeremias Rößler, Adam Leon Smith, and Jonathon Wright.  This week, on a couple of train journeys around East Anglia, I read it and made sketchnotes. As someone not deeply into this field, but who has been experimenting with AI as a testing tool at work, I found the landscape view provided by the book interesting, particularly the lists: of challenges in testing AI, of approaches to testing AI, and of quality aspects to consider when evaluating AI.  Despite the hype around the area right now there's much that any competent tester will be familiar with, and skills that translate directly. Where there's likely to be novelty is in the technology, and the technical domain, and the effect of

Testers are Gate-Crashers

  The Association for Software Testing is crowd-sourcing a book,  Navigating the World as a Context-Driven Tester , which aims to provide  responses to common questions and statements about testing from a  context-driven perspective . It's being edited by  Lee Hawkins  who is  posing questions on  Twitter ,   LinkedIn , Mastodon , Slack , and the AST  mailing list  and then collating the replies, focusing on practice over theory. I've decided to  contribute  by answering briefly, and without a lot of editing or crafting, by imagining that I'm speaking to someone in software development who's acting in good faith, cares about their work and mine, but doesn't have much visibility of what testing can be. Perhaps you'd like to join me?   --00-- "Testers are the gatekeepers of quality" Instinctively I don't like the sound of that, but I wonder what you mean by it. Perhaps one or more of these? Testers set the quality sta

Postman Curlections

My team has been building a new service over the last few months. Until recently all the data it needs has been ingested at startup and our focus has been on the logic that processes the data, architecture, and infrastructure. This week we introduced a couple of new endpoints that enable the creation (through an HTTP POST) and update (PUT) of the fundamental data type (we call it a definition ) that the service operates on. I picked up the task of smoke testing the first implementations. I started out by asking the system under test to show me what it can do by using Postman to submit requests and inspecting the results. It was the kinds of things you'd imagine, including: submit some definitions (of various structure, size, intent, name, identifiers, etc) resubmit the same definitions (identical, sharing keys, with variations, etc) retrieve the submitted definitions (using whatever endpoints exist to show some view of them) compare definitions I submitted fro

Build Quality

  The Association for Software Testing is crowd-sourcing a book,  Navigating the World as a Context-Driven Tester , which aims to provide  responses to common questions and statements about testing from a  context-driven perspective . It's being edited by  Lee Hawkins  who is  posing questions on  Twitter ,   LinkedIn , Mastodon , Slack , and the AST  mailing list  and then collating the replies, focusing on practice over theory. I've decided to  contribute  by answering briefly, and without a lot of editing or crafting, by imagining that I'm speaking to someone in software development who's acting in good faith, cares about their work and mine, but doesn't have much visibility of what testing can be. Perhaps you'd like to join me?   --00-- "When the build is green, the product is of sufficient quality to release" An interesting take, and one I wouldn't agree with in general. That surprises you? Well, ho

Make, Fix, and Test

A few weeks ago, in A Good Tester is All Over the Place , Joep Schuurkes described a model of testing work based on three axes: do testing yourself or support testing by others be embedded in a team or be part of a separate team do your job or improve the system It resonated with me and the other testers I shared it with at work, and it resurfaced in my mind while I was reflecting on some of the tasks I've picked up recently and what they have involved, at least in the way I've chosen to address them. Here's three examples: Documentation Generation We have an internal tool that generates documentation in Confluence by extracting and combining images and text from a handful of sources. Although useful, it ran very slowly or not at all so one of the developers performed major surgery on it. Up to that point, I had never taken much interest in the tool and I could have safely ignored this piece of work too because it would have been tested by

Am I Wrong?

I happened across Exploratory Testing: Why Is It Not Ideal for Agile Projects? by Vitaly Prus this week and I was triggered. But why? I took a few minutes to think that through. Partly, I guess, I feel directly challenged. I work on an agile project (by the definition in the article) and I would say that I use exclusively exploratory testing. Naturally, I like to think I'm doing a good job. Am I wrong? After calming down, and re-reading the article a couple of times, I don't think so. 😸 From the start, even the title makes me tense. The ideal solution is a perfect solution, the best solution. My context-driven instincts are reluctant to accept the premise, and I wonder what the author thinks is an ideal solution for an agile project, or any project. I notice also that I slid so easily from "an approach is not ideal" into "I am not doing a good job" and, in retrospect, that makes me smile. It doesn't do any harm to be reminded that your cognitive bias

Test Now

The Association for Software Testing is crowd-sourcing a book,  Navigating the World as a Context-Driven Tester , which aims to provide  responses to common questions and statements about testing from a  context-driven perspective . It's being edited by  Lee Hawkins  who is  posing questions on  Twitter ,   LinkedIn , Mastodon , Slack , and the AST  mailing list  and then collating the replies, focusing on practice over theory. I've decided to  contribute  by answering briefly, and without a lot of editing or crafting, by imagining that I'm speaking to someone in software development who's acting in good faith, cares about their work and mine, but doesn't have much visibility of what testing can be. Perhaps you'd like to join me?   --00-- "When is the best time to test?" Twenty posts in , I hope you're not expecting an answer without nuance? You are? Well, I'll do my best. For me, the best time to test is when there

Play to Play

I'm reading Rick Rubin's The Creative Act: A Way of Being . It's spiritual without being religious, simultaneously vague and specific, and unerring positive about the power and ubiquity of creativity.  We artists — and we are all artists he says — can boost our creativity by being open and welcoming to knowledge and experiences and layering them with past knowledge and experiences to create new knowledge and experiences.  If that sounds a little New Age to you, well it does to me too, yet also fits with how I think about how I work. This is in part due to that vagueness, in part due to the human tendency to pattern-match, and in part because it's true. I'm only about a quarter of the way through the book but already I am making connections to things that I think and that I have thought in the past. For example, in some ways it resembles essay-format Oblique Strategy cards and I wrote about the potential value of them to testers 12 years ago. This week I found the f