Archive for the 'things that make me smile' Category

My interests this year

According to Wordle’s processing of this blog’s text from the last six months, here’s what I care about:

I haven’t done the same for last year. If I did, I’m guessing I’d notice the following differences:

  • A lot less mention of Fit this year. That’s due to my decision to tone down my emphasis on automated business-facing tests in favor of exploring other ideas.

  • Still a lot of emphasis on tests and testing, but less emphasis on testers than last year, and more of an emphasis on programmers. I’m getting a lot more involved in questions of programming and design—playing to my weaknesses, as it were.

  • I’m spewing less verbiage about examples this year. Perhaps I’ve made my point.

  • Much less about Agile. I’m still not so happy about how it’s being domesticated and exploited, but it’s harder to get excited about it now that I’m no longer in a position to do much about it (not being on the Agile Alliance board any more).

A little navel-gazing is fun every once in a while. If you use Wordle, be aware that it thinks “example” and “examples” are different words. It also thinks “Example” and “example” are different words.

Snow Leopard, OpenCL, the kidney, and historical contingency

The next release of Apple’s OS is code-named Snow Leopard. It will include OpenCL:

OpenCL (Open Compute Library), makes it possible for developers to efficiently tap the vast gigaflops of computing power currently locked up in the graphics processing unit (GPU). With GPUs approaching processing speeds of a trillion operations per second, they’re capable of considerably more than just drawing pictures. OpenCL takes that power and redirects it for general-purpose computing.

That’s interesting: in the history of computing, people first added GPUs to offload a certain kind of processing work onto specialized CPUs. Now we’re taking some of that processing power back.

The kidney, if I remember Dawn’s description of it right, works in stages. One stage adds too much water into the urine, but a later stage takes some back out. Why the kludge? Probably for historical reasons: if you’re a fish, being wasteful with water is not a problem. Crawl up onto land, and suddenly it is a problem. How to solve it? Add a patch to undo what an earlier stage does.

OK, so they’re not exact parallels. But stories like that are a way to remind myself of that useful quote, originally (I believe) from Kenneth Boulding, made a meme by Gerald Weinberg: “Things are the way they are because they got that way.”

Forgetting that is a problem, because we all tend to be Panglossians, thinking the thing we’re looking at is not only tuned to a problem but also optimally tuned. It may be bad but, well, I guess that’s just because bad is the best it can be.

If we realize it got to be what it is by a historical path, influenced by chance, we can be more ready to make change—and more ready for two reasons: not only is a historical accident unlikely to be really optimal, our change will be only one in a long history of changes and so it’s not that important that it be right. We can also realize that we have at least two options: to add something on, or to take something away—and that the latter approach is more likely to be under-explored and so more fruitful.

New poster

I’ve printed a new poster, shown below. Free for the asking. It’s 12×18 inches (30×45 cm). I’ll be bringing about 50 of them to SDTConf, so don’t ask if you’ll be there.

Let us now praise famous men

Steve’s right - this slideshow of what people are uploading to Blogger is oddly fascinating.

On the brighter side: Iapetus

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
Man, things in outer space sure are cool.


Large image

Really large image

Different pictures

Image credits: NASA / JPL / SSI / mosaic by Gordan Ugarkovic. Image taken from the Planetary Society blog. With apologies to Sir Walter Scott.

Nice exploratory testing story

From Sajjadul Hakim


Jason Gorman:

Contrary to - well - pretty much the entire software industry, I don’t believe that a software architect is someone who designs software. I believe that a software architect is someone who recognises a good software design when he sees one.

A Rails homage to the “I’m a Mac” commercials (via /\ndy)

The Wall Street Journal published an editorial containing this graph:

Bogus curve fitting

In what possible universe could you honestly fit that curve to that data? Who could, without shame, publish a curve that goes around the bulk of the data? One that goes through an obvious outlier? (Tukey’s brilliant and eccentric Exploratory Data Analysis counsels us to understand outliers before worrying about the “central tendency”. I wonder if the anonymous editorialist wondered what might be special about Norway? Perhaps a particular natural resource, drilled from under the ocean? If only there were a tool one could use to find information about that resource’s contribution to Norway’s GDP or any special tax rate applied to it!)

But, self-doubting liberal that I am, I can’t only conclude that unsigned Wall Street Journal editorials are written by people whose preferences and loyalties have made them—to use the precise academic terminology—bullshitters, people to whom the truth is completely irrelevant. I have to wonder to what degree I do the same thing, to what degree my own comfort and self-interest has led me to push back against the whole post-Agile thing, despite my respect for Jonathan Kohl and Jason Gorman.

Fortunately, I have morphing software to play with, so I can cut self-reflection short.

Hat tip to Economist’s View

Nominate someone for the Gordon Pask award

Nominations for the Agile Alliance’s Gordon Pask Award are now open. The award has changed this year from a cash grant to travel sponsorship. Here’s the description:

The Gordon Pask Award recognizes two people whose recent contributions to Agile Practice make them, in the opinion of the Award Committee, people others in the field should emulate. In order that people might emulate them, the Agile Alliance will fund each recipient’s travel to two different suitable conferences on two different continents. In order to grow the next generation of Agile thought leaders, the Award is given to people who aren’t already routinely invited to conferences, presumably because their reputation is not yet widespread.

We on the committee are less interested in funding great speakers than we are in funding people who have something to say that people need to hear. Or, perhaps better, have something to show that people need to see. Or something they do that people should do with them. We don’t even require that Pask award winners give formal presentations at conferences; it’s enough to mingle.

Please send nominations to

Everybody stand back

Steve Hayes writes that Scripting for Testershas the clearest explanation of regular expressions that I’ve come across.” Assuming it’s not the only explanation he’s read, I’m immensely pleased. I think regular expressions are terribly important for my intended audience*, and I was worried my explanation wasn’t good enough.

* As I write, I’m wearing my regular expression T-shirt:

Independent invention

I’m not the only person thinking of writing Fit-like tests in Ruby. Zenspider had the same idea first.