WordPress.com Automated Tests Now Open Source — WatirMelon

I am very pleased to announce that all of our e2e tests for the WordPress.com platform are open source as of this morning. This is following in the footsteps of the WordPress.com Calypso front-end which is also open source. I am continually reminded of how fortunate I am to work at Automattic who takes pride in its commitment […]

via WordPress.com e2e Automated Tests Now Open Source — WatirMelon

Video: Empathy and User-centered Design

Here’s a short talk I gave at WordCamp London 2015 on the topic of empathy and user-centered design. Reblogging from the vault of yesteryear since I haven’t published it previously.

The big difference between good and bad designers (and developers, copywriters—all of us) is how they handle people struggling with their design. In this lightning session Lance will argue why empathy is important to beautiful, engaging, and useful products.

View full-screen video starting at 17:04 minute mark, and read the description on wordpress.tv.

Full text below.

Continue reading “Video: Empathy and User-centered Design”

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

Book review for Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.

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This fascinating book takes a deep dive into how to harness the adaptability of your brain and body to achieve abilities that would otherwise be out of reach.

Focused and concise, illustrated with research, and bringing new science to light, I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning and improving.

The main premise is to explain that what we think about acquiring abilities is probably wrong. Are gifted people at a natural advantage to become experts? Can anyone apply certain techniques to achieve the same results as others? Does high IQ play a role?

Answers abound. There is no such thing as natural ability; anyone can become an expert by putting in the time. Illustrated with exploring prodigies through history, their skills reduce down to two questions: 1) What is the exact nature of the ability? 2) What sorts of training made it possible? Traits favorable to a task help at the beginning but don’t make a difference at high levels; it all comes down to your own effort.

But not just any effort. The 10,000-hour “rule” popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success is not the full story—the how long isn’t as important as how. Just practicing over and over doesn’t lead to mastery as you’ll soon plateau and stop improving. Important to know that you aren’t reaching a set potential, you are developing your potential because it’s not a fixed state. Surprising to read about many studies showing adult brain plasticity and adaptability. The brain’s adaptability is incredible.

The key piece is deliberate practice: training with expert teachers, eliminating your weaknesses by forming mental representations that drive you consistently to great performance, and spending lots of time in private practice on the right things.

The best among us in various areas do not occupy that perch because they were born with some innate talent but rather because they have developed their abilities through years of practice, taking advantage of the adaptability of the human body and brain.

Since there are no shortcuts to expertise, and you aren’t born with natural advantages, to improve you must engage with your training and stick with it, getting out of your comfort zone to reach the next level. You can control your environment, and adapt to changes by learning new skills.

Deliberate practice is knowing where to go, and how to get there.

Pragmatic Thinking & Learning

Pragmatic Thinking & Learning, Refactor Your Wetware by Andy Hunt (2008) is sensible and matter-of-fact, a gem of a book that works well both as reference and as inspiration. A science-based lifehacker manual that serves as the ultimate guide to personal productivity.

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Full of tips, tricks, philosophies, and science behind how our brains function best for learning and thinking, the book covers topics such as reading and study habits, control over context and environment, trusting intuition while questioning everything, discovery and capture of ideas, and how to pay better attention. All tied to harnessing the power of opposite sides of the brain, creative versus practical, reactive versus thoughtful. Seeing both the forest and the trees.

Since the book is too full of useful information to summarize in one blog post, I’d like to share a few of my favorite parts.

Intuition and pattern matching replace explicit knowledge.

This echoes my philosophy of The Investigative Mindset where rules are not a substitute for clear thinking while considering the context. You can trust your intuition, yet you would do well to verify it by asking questions and digging deeper and keeping in mind your expectations and cognitive biases.

If you don’t keep track of great ideas, you will stop noticing you have them. Everyone has good ideas, fewer go further to keep track, act on them, and pull it off.

So true. Keep a journal, review it often, and take action on the best ideas. Share them with others for accountability, they can improve with feedback, or someone else can run with it if you don’t have time or energy to do so.

Rewire your brain with belief and constant practice; thinking makes it so.

This idea of mastery through constant, focused effort echoes what I’ve learned elsewhere, including a new book I’m excited about, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (review to come soon).

A random approach, without goals and feedback, tends to give random results.

“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” —Yogi Berra

The best efforts need a plan, because if you work on a team like mine at Automattic you’ll know from experience that starting on things without a clear goal in mind, nor a plan on how to get there, without specific metrics to track it — means it’ll be almost impossible to measure the results.

I love the concept of SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-boxed. Reminds me of Google’s Objectives and Key Results.

Read deliberately with SQ3R (scan, question, read, recite, review), which I find similar and complementary to Adler’s ideas on how to read books, as described by Ian Stewart.

You are who you hang out with: attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, and emotions are all contagious.

What does it take to stay sharp? Awareness. Learn to quiet your mind’s endless chatter, keep track of your ideas by working on and adding to your thoughts in progress, and avoid context switching.

Pragmatic Thinking & Learning is a must-read for all thinkers and learners. Hat tip: Nikolay Bachiyski.

Pride and Paradev

A book review for Pride and Paradev by Alister Scott.

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This is an entertaining and thought-provoking “collection of agile software testing contradictions”—exactly what it says on the tin.

After reading this book, I now identify confidently as a paradev: anyone on a software team that isn’t a specialist. Ever since my start in web development 12 years ago I’ve considered myself a generalist rather than a “pure” developer or designer because I don’t spend all my time building or creating new things. Software testing is an excellent fit for me because I love breaking things, finding details to make existing products better through improved flow and efficiency.

Using a quirky yet concise question-and-answer format, Scott covers such topics as “Are software testers the gatekeepers or guardians of quality?” (Yes, you can be an advocate of quality without being a gatekeeper; it all depends on your attitude, your tone, and how you present your findings.) and “Should acceptance criteria be implicit or explicit?” (Keep acceptance criteria focused on what is required, not what is obvious.) and “Do agile software testers need technical skills?” (Sometimes non-technical testers without the deep skill set see things with better eyes.)

This short and approachable book will make you think critically about software testing. Highly recommended for anyone working with software, not just us breakers.

[Available on Leanpub for iPad/Kindle/PDF.]

Hacker Manual Social Rules

These social rules from the Recurse (formerly Hacker School) community’s guidelines describe an excellent model for open source citizenship and interacting with others in a positive way.

These rules are intended to be lightweight, and to make more explicit certain social norms that are normally implicit. Most of our social rules really boil down to “don’t be a jerk” or “don’t be annoying.”

The list includes no feigning surprise, no well-actually, no back-seat driving, and no subtle isms.

Bookmarked.

Fake it Like a Project Manager, for Designers and Developers

I talk about critical paths, communication, and dependencies to clear up what project management is all about and how every person needs some elements of it in their life.

via Fake it Like a Project Manager, for Designers and Developers — When I Have Time by Sara Rosso