Making notes while learning

It’s been a while since I last blogged – mostly as other things in life took over and I needed the headspace to concentrate on non-testing stuff. In order to get back into the mood I re-read some older testing books but also a few new ones which are not exclusively about software testing plus a variety of blogs.

Here are a few examples from the ones I read in the last couple of months:

Tacit and Explicit Knowledge by Harry Collins

#Workout: Games, Tools & Exercises to Engage People, Improve Work and Delight Clients by Jurgen Appelo
The Cynefin framework in testing explained by Duncan Nisbet

In previous training courses I did one trainer mentioned that if we remember 30% of what he taught we all did well. I’m naturally cautious if someone gives me a percent number but it sort of feels about right. Because I didn’t want to forget the important parts after reading the books I started taking notes in OneNote (any text editor will do).

To  keep my notes arranged in a (for me) intuitive way I created a couple of documents; General Management, Testing and because it’s such a large area one for Management 3.0 for Jurgen Appello’s work. In each document I created sections and then pages where I keep a summary of book, article or blog that I think is useful to remember in a years time.

For the Tacit and Explicit Knowledge book, which isn’t an easy read as fellow testers have affirmed, I found it useful to learn the terminology of the book; I summarised what is tacit, explicit and ostensive knowledge, how does he define an action and a string and what are the enabling conditions of communication. Taking notes while reading the book helped understanding the rather scientific style of Harry Collins writing.

For other books and articles what often helps most, because it’s usually a summary in its own right is using diagrams or pictures. The Cynefin framework is really visual and with the picture and a few explanations underneath I’d be able to explain it as an elevator pitch. Sometimes a single picture like the one from Michael Bolton’s blog Oracles from the inside out  is enough to let me remember what it was about and show the model to someone else.

For the Management 3.0 workout book I created its own document and there are many different sections that couldn’t be compressed down into a single page. In addition to summarising the content I also created single pages with lists that would come in useful when using some of the examples in earnest. Adding a couple of my own ideas what would work or where I’d see problems or at least question marks means that I can take what I learned and apply it whenever I need to.

This way I can now delve into the different areas (documents) if I want to get inspired or only vaguely remember a specific model and look it up. The summary is usually enough for me to remember corresponding details as well so creating it was time well spent.

I hope you find this useful too.