Chess and Testing

[Originally on the Ministry of Testing, Jan 2014, now only on the Web Archives]: The Day Testing Died But Didn’t

In May 11 1997 a computer beat the world champion Kasparov in chess [1] – not convincingly, but still. From then on chess could be reduced to a set of scripts and the scripts automated so fast that it was comparable to the human mind [2]. But the human chess players continued to succeed – not by more rote memorisation, but by more intuition and feelings.

Imagine that – to play world champion chess and base your moves on feelings. This is what Magnus Carlsen does [3]. As of January 2014 he is the reigning World Chess Champion [4] and the no. 1 ranked player in the world [5] with the highest rating in history [6]. I must admit that I read about him in the paper [7][8] [9], but the story relates to how even one of the most complex brain games can be automated, and yet there are still moves to explore.

To play according to textbooks is fine, up to a certain level. Perhaps up to master level, but not to grandmasters. [10]

Originally chess was a game played on a board, but even more so in the brain of the players. Grand masters of the cold war super powers played each other with full focus on both the board moves and the body moves.

Encyclopaedias of chess moves have been written; 1700+ chess moves have been given mnemonics like “the Sicilian Defence”, “King Gambit” (SFDEPOT anyone?). And the chess masters have played and played and memorized and played (against) the computer again and again.

There are books, terminology, strategies and schools of chess [11]. To quote Wikipedia:

A school (of chess)means a (chess) player or group of players that share common ideas about the strategy (of the game). There have been several schools in the history (of modern chess). Today there is less dependence on schools – players draw on many sources and play according to their personal style.

After Kasparov there were other world chess champions [12] – and lately 23 year old Magnus Carlsen, as mentioned. Carlsen started playing chess in 1998; he played Kasparov [13] as a 13 year old for a draw and later had Kasparov and the Danish grand master Peter Heine Nielsen as a trainer. Heine Nielsen explains about Carlsen:

“While the existing World Champion Anand [14]’s strength was being able to prepare thoroughly and calculate moves very fast while playing, Carlsen is different – he thrives in the contexts that are not distilled by the computer or text books. When it’s man to man – then he’s the opposite of a computer; the one that often does the unexpected yet effectual play. He plays a variety of openings – making it really hard to prepare for.”

Carlsen can’t describe, what goes on in his brain, while he plays chess. Some moves just feels good; and when the opponent play is somewhat based on computer calculations – that is maybe the best response. [15]

Chess didn’t die with the automation, chess didn’t die by being distilled in text books and templates and mnemonics – but chess evolved. The current unfair advantage for Carlsen is his irrationality and intuition – it’s what sets him apart from the scripts.

The day testing died – but didn’t, is another story Or is it?

References

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Blue_versus_Garry_Kasparov
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnus_Carlsen
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Chess_Championship
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIDE_World_Rankings
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_top_chess_players_throughout_history
  7. The article is my inspiration – and will be paraphrased
  8. Danish and pay-walled http://jyllands-posten.dk/eceRedirect?articleId=6190682
  9. By the way, I don’t know much about chess
  10. http://en.chessbase.com/post/vladimir-kramnik-che-is-so-deep-i-simply-feel-lost-
  11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_of_chess
  12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Chess_Champion
  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garry_Kasparov
  14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viswanathan_Anand
  15. Quote from the Danish article, my translation

First Rule of Summer

My first rule of summer vacation is: Eat an ice cream every day. It could be bought, it can come from the freezer on boxes or on sticks – or it can be a Sun Lolly (Brain freeze). It’s a treat, sometimes days it’s a trip – other days served while watching a movie. There is also a price issue… unfortunately. Sometimes I say very sternly that it’s time for ice cream. They boys finds the stern voice it hilarious when it’s something they do like. Crazy daddy – do it again.

mad-brain

Remember to make your vacation days special – celebrate with treats (edible and others). Check out from work completely and let time fly. Sign out from work emails. Keep the work bosses and game bosses and bad thoughts at bay with an ice cream a day.

Writing myself a new car

I honor of the World Autism Awareness Day 2017: I have reward systems for myself and my two sons with autism. The principles are as follows:

  • Reward the behavior we want more of. Don’t reward required activities, but reward when we choose to do help with chores. Ignore when we choose not to, do not remove credits.
  • Rewards are things you would not get otherwise. Verbal praise and encouragement are given even so. You have to earn it – and get it when you finalize (a deal is a deal).
  • We use token economy and postponed gratification. Training for the mash mellow test improves forward thinking.
  • Rewards are usually LEGO. Specific piece request from Bricklink.  Every token/mark is a ten’er (DKR 10).

The boys (13+11) have been rewarded for doing the dishes, preparing food, taking out the garbage etc. Initially 15 tokens gave a trip to McDonalds, but as mastering progressed the rewards became bigger. One time 50 tokens/marks was needed for a reward. The options to help (“The Mark Menu”) was at one point over 20 chores. Over time they lost interest in saving but did the chores anyway, so some of the chores where made required. One day the oldest added “Do not fight” to the list of required (non-rewarding) activities 😉 Next up is to save for a game on Steam..

I’m being rewarded every time I run (5K, outside. Half a mark for treadmill), for my morning exercises and a few other thing I struggle with. I have just finished a sheet of 140 marks that I worked on since September 2016). The new target is to buy myself first a Bugatti and then a McLaren. Not a new minivan..

I am going to write myself a new car

I hope this drives the right behavior

Similar posts on leadership and praise at work: In a star team – the team gets the starsI know it is your job – but thank you anyway

Similar posts on autism: Pragmatic choices of what is important and possibleStakeholders,

Similar posts on drive and motivation: More than carrots and sticks, 16 points that may rock the boat

Testers are Knowledge Workers

Treat your testing people as knowledge workers, not rote industrial resources. The later is a spiral to the lowest value, the former is about giving the business valuable knowledge. A modern tester is a knowledge worker – whose prime area is finding information, filtering information, relating information and presenting information. It is a non-linear process, that requires a touch of both creativity and consideration.

The best testing tool is the brain, and the knowledge worker ponder the problems both consciously and unconsciously. She can work without using the hands or legs, but not with a simple headache. It takes a lot of thinking and collaboration with the stakeholders to identify what questions about the product has value to the business. The (context-driven) knowledge focused tester focus both that it works, and that it adds value to the business.

19ad6-cycle

The business focus are far from the classic mindset of testing established around the millennial (2000). where testing is about finding defects and going through the motion of deriving test cases from specifications. – I know I’ve been there. That era is long gone, even dead at some time to Whitaker and Alberto Savoia. Be provoked or even insulted, but it’s the future.

But wake up – it’s not where the testing world is today. The old tools of design techniques and coverage metrics makes less and less sense to the business. They are old-school and classic approaches, in the not so cool way. The cool kids on the block are poppin’ tags – getting new stuff, sharing and exploring. They know that change is the new normal and that what works in one situation doesn’t work in another. Their primary concern and focus is getting knowledge to the decision makers. They are the knowledge workers

Lego Role Models for Girls

Who had the family’s largest LEGO set his Christmas – not the boys (age 8-10), neither the “boys” (age 40 and up) – it wasn’t me* – but the 11-year-old girl and her 8 wheel 42008 Service Truck – 1276 pieces, power functions, pneumatic, gears and 44 cm forcefulness. There was no boy band merchandize, no glitter or similar gender framing. Quite a project – as is the story about the “Research Institute” mini-figure set.

42008-121110 Continue reading

Test Like Sherlock

Sometimes testing is like being Sherlock Holmes – You find your clues hidden in plain sight: Where the users scratch their nails; how the application user interface is cobbled together; odd patterns in the error logs….

But seldom without experimenting, seldom without pushing the subject under test or consulting the weather report, time tables – and getting out in the rain, doing some footwork.

He always seems to know better, always asking questions. He is so passionate about his problem solving skills that his standard by default seems arrogant [1]    (but that is usually not on purpose).

This is very clear in the recent BBC TV Series “Sherlock” – that illustrates and mentions his Asperger clearly. Almost on par with the The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Still when he is out solving mysteries he is a hero – if there ever was one. [2]

1: If your standard is to never be called arrogant, you’ve probably walked away from your calling. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/12/in-search-of-arrogance.html

2: Don’t make people into heroes, John. Heroes don’t exist, and if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Sherlock_(TV_series)

deerstalker

Related: The yardstick of mythical normalityPeople are people – despite their labels,

Software is a knowledge storage medium

Key takeaways from [ Presentation: “ǝnןɐʌ: Why we have it backwards” Track: When the Agile Manifesto isn’t enough  | Shmuel Gershon | GOTO 2013]. Special mention for the best hand-made/home-made slides – get them here.

Software is a knowledge storage medium 

Think about it – where do you have your know-how, your calendar, your to-do list, google it… IT is the digital tool we use to store our knowledge, to enable us to do the things we want to do. Shmuel has a great historic overview over the evolution of places to store knowledge. IT and software as of now has among other things the ability to be updated fast, to tell about the intention of the solution, the ability to self-modify and change the outside world directly. 

We can start using the word knowledge more:

Value is often to learn something new

tractor