Meet the Speaker UKSTAR 2018 | James Thomas

Next up in our ‘Meet the Speaker’ Series for UKSTAR 2018 is James Thomas.


James is one of the founders of Linguamatics, the world leader in innovative natural language-based text mining.

Over the years he’s had many roles in the company and is currently the test manager, a position in which he strives to provide an environment where his testers have an opportunity to do their best work.

He’s on Twitter as @qahiccupps and blogs at Hiccupps (


James will present as part of the storytelling sessions at UKSTAR 2018 in London. James will present his story ‘The Anatomy of a Definition of Testing


1. What is your favourite testing book/blog? Why is this your favourite?

That’s a tough one. Today, perhaps it’s Are Your Lights On? by Jerry Weinberg and Don Gause. It’s not really a book about testing (try Weinberg’s Perfect Software for that) but it’s a book about identifying, understanding and then deciding whether to attempt to solve problems.  We looked at it in our reading group at Linguamatics a while ago, at my suggestion. Sadly for me opinions of it were mixed but I forgive any flaws it may have for this one definition:

A problem is a difference between things as desired and things as perceived.

I like to combine it with Michael Bolton’s relative rule which runs:

For any abstract X, X is X to some person, at some time.

And combining these gives an amazing starting point for attacking a problem of any magnitude. Consider:

* the things
* the perception of those things
* the desires for those things
* the person(s) desiring or perceiving
* the context(s) in which the desiring or perceiving is taking place


2. How do you keep up to date with the software testing industry?

I have a few approaches. I use Feedly to monitor a curated list of testing blogs and feeds and I dip into that most days. I use Twitter to help see what’s happening right now, a few times a day. It’s an unreliable source for me in some ways because I don’t attempt to read back in my timeline very far, so I’ll miss loads of things, but I follow people outside of testing and so get potentially interesting stuff thrown up in passing. In particular, I find that if I have a topic on my mind I’ll sometimes spot a tweet that’s related to it that can take my thoughts in a new direction.

I listen to podcasts on the walk to and from work, and while I’m doing chores. At the moment I’m enjoying Keith Klain’s Quality Remarks series a lot, because I find the long-form conversational style really gives an opportunity to explore a topic in depth. I listen to more podcasts outside of testing than in it, but I’m usually looking out for links back to my day job. Right now, Waking Up with Sam Harris is probably my favourite. It’s another long-form conversation but on topics in sociology, philosophy, science and politics. Others I keep an eye on include Rationally Speaking, a ton of BBC science and arts (particularly where there are experts discussing more or less any topic), Comedian’s Comedian (I find links between testing and joking), and WTF with Marc Maron. On the testing and tech side I keep an eye on podcasts like The Testing Show, Testing in the Pub, Testers’ Island Discs (there’s more at Test and Code, Ruby Rogues, Agile For Humans, …

I read a lot of books too, again more widely than simply testing. Recently I’ve been reading around management, design, user experience, ideas and how to have more good ones, XP, how to deal with information overload, the scientific method, …

I attend local meetups and we’re lucky in Cambridge because there are two tester meetups every month. One is always a Lean Coffee and the other has a really varied format which includes straightforward presentations (Anne-Marie Charrett spoke the other night), testing challenges, show and tell, or just a chat in the pub. A handful of local companies, including Linguamatics, host both of them on a regular basis. I also run CEWT, the Cambridge Exploratory Workshop on Testing, which is a day-long peer workshop on some aspect of testing. Again, I like the longer format where we can explore an area in more depth than you get with something like Lean Coffee.

A few links:

* Some notes from Cambridge Tester meetups:
* Testing and joking:
* A selection of my book reviews:
* I mention some podcasts:

3. What is the biggest misconception about testing that you’ve heard?

I guess the one that I experience most frequently is that you can exhaustively plan testing up front and then exhaustively test something to “make sure that it all works“.



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