Let’s Change the World One More Time

Matthew Heusser's picture

It was almost seven years ago. I was reading the end of Professional Software Development by Steve McConnell and was struck by his suggestion that advancing the practice will require practitioners to write about the work in practice, not in theory.

Academics need these practical examples. With them, academics can discover patterns and create theory. Without them, academics tend to end up with something that sounds appealing but just doesn’t work. (Does anyone else remember Parnas Tables?)

Consultants and professional trainers? Sure, we have plenty of those, and they have incentives to write and teach, and that has a place. But, consider how much richer and wider things would be if only more people actually doing the developing and testing would put their ideas out.

Publication based on actual experience. I know. Crazy.

At StickyMinds.com, we’re with Steve. And we’d like to hear from you.

We publish a new article each and every week, generally in the area of 800 to 1,200 words. These articles tell a story that causes the reader to consider a new or different way of working, give them a reference for where to go for more information, and throw in a comment at the end that spurs discussion. (Strictly speaking, we look for a mix of opinion/editorial and tutorial/how-to articles. We are open to other formats, but they are hard to do well in 1,200 words.)

The style? Don’t be afraid of “I” but don’t over-use it, favor smaller words and common phrases, use active language where the subject does something, and you are golden. Don’t get the style? We have two people whose job it is to help you polish the writing. You bring the content, we’ll help you get it to published without changing the meaning—just the style.

But, Matt, I Don’t Know What To Write!
I can give you a bunch of ideas, and I will, but before I do that, allow me to give you one trick for writing about testing. It is really simple, and goes something like this:

Notice the difference between the way things are supposed to be and how they actually are. This will lead to a difference between how people should solve problems and how they are actually solved—which tells people a way to do things differently, the key point above.

This tie to first-person experience is important. If you say “You should always do things my way,” you’ve just started a fight with everyone who doesn’t do things that way. On the other hand, if you say, “We tried this technique with this result,” you are simply telling a story. There is no arguing with that. If people find it useful, they can build on it. If not, well, at least they have a different idea to try (or understand it, when it comes up, so they can argue against it.)

I read testing books and articles I disagree with all the time and still get value of out them. It’s cool. Sometimes I learn things, which is bonus.

Hey, Matt, Be More Specific. Give Me Some Examples!
Here’s a start—a pile of potential article ideas. Skim through it and pick out a few that sound appealing. Take a walk and find one.

  • The project was a mess on the floor. Everybody knew it, but nobody said so. And then ...
  • Which tests can we skip?
  • Expert testers are always “late”—they have better ideas and find more blocker bugs. Here’s how to deal.
  • Testing service-oriented architectures
  • Building your own test rig
  • How I developed ______ (specific skill)
  • Dealing with difficult developers/customers/managers
  • Where do unrealistic expectations come from?
  • Techies are from Mars; management is from Venus (why the roles are different and how to talk amongst yourselves)
  • How to talk to executives
  • Using collaborative tools to improve your testing
  • How I used coverage and complexity metrics to actually do better testing
  • How not do ______ (practice we tried but did not really understand yet)
  • Why I ______. A love story
  • Your first thirty days in the new gig. (And if you're on the old gig, they begin TODAY.)
  • How to reduce test pressure with one simple trick
  • Getting started with _____ (free and open tool)
  • Five quick tips to improve test velocity
  • What is test velocity: How to measure and improve it
  • How throwing around terms like “velocity” is irresponsible
  • Why calling things irresponsible is unethical

By now you get picture and, perhaps, the trick to having article ideas.

The Good News
You don’t need 800 words to get started. You just need two paragraphs; enough to ask an editor “Is there something here you’d like to see a draft of?” or even “I think there might be something here worth doing a draft of, can you give me some advice?”

All you have to do is email the text to an editor.

Want to know an editor?

Hey, that’s easy. I am the new editor of StickyMinds.com. Send me an email: [email protected].

Eight years after reading McConnell’s advice, I am convinced he is right, and I’ve accepted a position with SQE where I get to recruit practitioners to write. Yes,  academics, consultants, and vendors with a powerful story to tell are welcome to submit as well, but boy, would we like to hear from some good people in the trenches.

Here’s your chance.

Let’s change the world, one more time.

I hope to hear from you.


“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who come short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming ...”

 - Teddy Roosevelt, delivered at the Sarbonne, Paris, France, 1910