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Monday, October 06, 2008

Do you read books?

Sounds like a dumb question, doesnt it? "Do you read books?". But it's my observation that people can surprise you.

Over the last few months I have been interacting with a wider and wider circle of people through my professional engagements and its been an interesting benchmark question - to ask them what they are reading. Some of the people I hadn't expected to be doing so where not only reading something very interesting, but something I was also interested in - and nothing related to software or testing! Some of the people I had expected to be on the case and reading something quite refreshing were nowhere need anything like literature.

So, does it make someone a bad person because they aren't reading books? No! But they are missing out, I feel.

As professionals, there is a requirement on us to stay current. We can do this through many e-sources, but the paper based, and the book based should not be ignored. There is absolute gold in some of the books written to date and ignore them at your peril that's what I say.

As both professionals and explorers of our profession there is also a requirement on us to extend the knowledge of our profession and to help others to do the same. A first step on this journey is gaining an understanding of what has come before us.

Lee Copeland has reminded us time and time again about the nine forgettings and the amount of times he has been asked to present this talk, and the number of hits his google video gets, tell us that people are keen to know - but do they learn! Do we as a profession move forward?

It seems like a dumb question - " do you read books" - but do you? And if you do - how can you help yourself, your colleagues and your profession to gain from this knowledge?

10 comments:

Philk said...

I must admit that Amazon send me a 'thank you' card every Xmas...

Simply having a book on my desk can get attention and questions from colleagues

What are you reading at the moment - and why ?

and for a future blog post, which books would be on your Top 10 list ?

Stewart Noakes, TCL said...

Hi Phil
I'm currently trying to read the following book:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Denisovich-Penguin-Modern-Classics/dp/0141184744/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1223296421&sr=8-1

Its some russian literature - thankfully translated to English. It's all about prison camps and punishment and general russian hardships.

I'm reading it because my partner is very into this kind of literature - having studied Russian at University and I'm totally ignorant in this area and am building a bridge :)

As for my top 10 - do you want pleasure reading, professional reading or the cross overs - the professional development books that I would and have read for fun?

Stew

Philk said...

Glad you explained WHY you were reading it otherwise your workers might have thought you were getting ideas about their working conditions...

No need to limit yourself, do 3 Top 10's if you wish

I did start adding my library into this site

http://www.librarything.com/groups/softwarequalityassur

but still have a lot more to add

Stewart Noakes, TCL said...

I'll start with my professional top 10 - I'll post an article next week on this stuff specifcially....

No particular order:
The testing practitioner - by Erik Van Veenendaal
FISH!
Raving Fans
Strategic Operations Management by Steve Brown
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
How to break software - james whittaker
Lessons Learned in Software Testing - James Bach
The rules of work
The one minute manager

Admitedly this is an off the cuff list - so bear with me. I'll give it some more thought before the article next week :)

Paul Darby said...

I agree that ignoring books can lead to the individual 'missing out', but that will always be the case. It's not possible to read every book there is so we will always be missing out.
Therefore, if you accept that you will always be missing out then it should be acceptable to make a choice not to read books. :-) Ho Hum!

Personally I find it very difficult to read proffessional books from cover to cover - preffering instead to retain those types of books as reference material or a learning aid. This is not to say that I don't read books - you know well that this is not the case, (Walsingham is proving very interesting) I just can't stay focused on a proffesional book in the same way. As an example, I would recommend the book 'Software Testing' by Ron Patton, published by SAMS. It's a little bit dated now but it's still pretty good for reference and/or learning. I can't say I've read it all as I refer to it when I want to, but I believe I can recommend it.

dejavery said...

I love reading books, both professionally and for for pleasure.

I agree with Pauls comment though that it's hard to read professional books from cover to cover. I'd lose the will to live with some of them. Even my favourite book on testing (The Testing Practitioner), I won't claim to have read from the start through to the end.

The question was raised though - "Are you missing out?"

Well Yes and No. Professionally, I would say yes you are missing out if you are not reading. It is essential to keep enhancing and updating your knowledge. But that doesn't have to be books, there are lots of different medias out there today. To keep up to date on testing, I'll personally use websites a lot more than books - or even podcasts.

For leisure, then I'd say No. There are lot's of leisure activities out there which I would claim others are missing out by not performing - but I suspect that everybody has their own opinions on this. Could I argue that reading books is anymore important than other activities? - No - I personally enjoy and gain far more pleasure from music. Much as I love losing myself in a good book, to me, it's just another leisure activity.

Stewart Noakes, TCL said...

I guess one of the key things to think about here is: 'What helps your knowledge grow?'

Podcasts are great - if they work for you. Websites are great too - again if the format works for you, but they are short hits of information and rarely in depth.

With a book you explore the depths of new knowledge, and gain space and time to develop your own thoughts.

With websites and contemporary formats there can be a lot of 'regurgitation' e.g. people read and repeat - don't totally understand.

In my opinion, to stand still in your knowledge is to stand still in life, and that seems like such a waste.

dejavery said...

Stewart, I almost agree with you, but not 100%.

Yes websites are short hits of information and there is an awful lot of dross out there, even from so called experts. But it is those short hits that can really inspire me to further investigation. You can then drill down easily through the opinions of many different people and form your own opinion. This may ultimately lead you to reading a book (it has for me recently), but I read that book with my eyes wider open based on others opinions on the subject and probably enjoyed it all the more for that.

I feel my knowledge is far richer for reading the websites first rather than randomly selecting a book and taking it as fact.

I guess it all comes down to how you make best use of the media you have available to you and enhancing your knowledge by using combinations of them all - not just the one - in a professional context at least, probably not applicable to pure fiction.

Your last comment is very true, knowledge however gained makes us who we are, the more knowledge we gain, the more we live our lives.

Paul Darby said...

I quote "In my opinion, to stand still in your knowledge is to stand still in life, and that seems like such a waste."

This is not an a opinion I can subscribe too as my life is much bigger than my career. If the quote was "to stand still in your knowledge is to stand still in your career, and that seems like such a waste." Then I think it would be totally right.

I am not standing still in life when I'm taking my kids to the park or swimming and I'm not standing still in life when I pick up the guitar and start to write a new song. But neither of these things fit the quote - I am not extending my knowledge in either case but my life is fuller and richer for doing them.

I do subscribe to the benefits of looking at the interenet and I agree with Stuarts comment that most of it is regurgitated. However, I am savvy enough to read more than one article on the internet and look for common ground at which point I can form my knowledge and my own opinions. Strictly speaking this is exactly the same as reading books. One book is one viewpoint, it doesn't mean it's exactly right as another book may completely contradict the first. Therefore reading books is no differnt to reading articles on the internet.

Stewart Noakes, TCL said...

I think I see where you are going, Paul - and I actually think we agree, but violently and in different directions :)

Knowledge is built up from all the experiences you mention. My point about the books is that they have relevance to all areas we wish to pursue including work and racing and families and, well, and anything.

I feel whole heartedly that to omit this source from the backbone of ones knowledge is an error and to include them reaps many rewards.

My personal experience of developing people over the last few years is that there is an increasing aversion to such things. I hope we can stop that from getting too much of a foothold in our company, and in our industry as a whole.

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