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Precision in choosing words is important. Shared understanding of what words mean forms the basis of language. If we don't have that shared understanding, we can't communicate. That being said, humans are messy and inexact beings. We're prone to nuance and ambiguity. Words aren't installed in our brains directly from the OED; they accrete meaning over a period of years. No two people are ever going to definitively agree on what a word means, simply because we can't burrow into each other's heads and start rearranging things.

It's a waste of time to try to nail down a word's definition beyond any shadow of a doubt, especially when you're trying to nail it to the inside of somebody else's skull. On several occasions, I've seen what could have been a very productive discussion derailed by an intellectual death spiral where people slug it out over the exact meaning of some term. Better to agree on a provisional definition that will suit the conversation at hand and move on to discussing matters of greater substance.

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I've had both really great and really bad experiences while telecommuting, as have a lot of people on the writing-about-testing mailing list. Sometimes the bad experiences come down to inadequate tools; more often, it's because not everybody has bought in to having telecommuters working on an equal footing with people who are in the office.

We put together a generic Telecommuting Policy based on our collective experience. If you are or want to to be a telecommuter; if you're considering or engaged in telecommuting at your workplace, then I think you'd be better off for reading it.

http://chrismcmahonsblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/telecommuting-policy.html

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Due to a recent fortituous change in my personal circumstances, I'm suddenly able to attend the Writing About Testing Conference if I'm selected for it. Here's the brief that I submitted.


I didn't set out to become a tester. I just wanted to make better software.

As a developer, I realized that there was only so much I could improve the end product by honing my individual skills. Being human, sooner or later I was going to make a mistake, and that'd yield a bug. Obviously something different needed to be done if I ever hoped to produce software with fewer defects than I (or any individual developer) create. That train of thought doesn't go very far before it pulls into QA station.

Landing a testing role with Ken Pier, Chris McMahon, and Matt Heusser at Socialtext was an incredible stroke of fortune. I got to jump in with both feet and learn from an amazing group of people; in fact, I sometimes feel as though I've somehow landed in the master class without having graduated from kindergarten yet. I've heard of enough different paths to becoming a tester that I don't feel exceptional in this regard.

I'm curious about how people end up getting into test, and what we do when we're new to the field (often transitioning from somewhere else). I'm interested in bringing my unique set of talents to bear in this field while avoiding yesterday's pitfalls. I want to write about my experience simply in the hopes that it'll be useful to others -- so they can see what I've tried, try it themselves if it seems to have gone well, or avoid repeating my mistakes if it didn't.

In testing, the notion of diversity (of approaches, of the team) is a powerful one. I hope I can stumble across and write about experiences that other people might not chance across, and that they'll do the same for me. Harnessing our collective diversity and learning from each other is how we advance the state of our craft. I'd like to take part.

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I created this space because I need to write more about the technical stuff I get up to, and because I need to write more, period. Some really amazing people whom I greatly respect have encouraged me to get going on this, especially when it comes to writing about testing.

There are a lot of different technical areas I'm interested in, and I'm not going to restrict topics here to just one. However, it seems to me that there's a ton of writing "out there" about programming, systems admin, even UI design, but a dearth of writing about testing. I'm the furthest thing from a Great Ghod of Testing, but I *can* share what I've done, what's worked and what hasn't, and people will find some value in that.

So, I had best get writing.

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Rick Scott

Who?

Canadian philosopher-geek who's profoundly interested in how we can collaborate to make technology work better for everyone. He's an incorrigible idealist, an open source contributor, and a staunch believer in testing, universal access, and the hacker ethic.

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