- Focusing Your Practice
- Avoiding Automated Performance
- Contributing to Open Source Projects
- Beta Testing
- Pair Testing/Programming
- Adopt "Parallel Thinking"
- Search for Bugs in the Wild
- Learn "Systems Thinking"
- Teaching and Writing
- Participating in Conferences and Workshops
- Develop Your Cognition Skills
- Finding the Time for Practice
Search for Bugs in the Wild
My favorite method of practicing is finding bugs in the wild. Some people have a built-in ability for this approach; for example, read Tim Van Tongeren's story of how a bug harassed him at home by calling him each week. For another example, read about how James Bach tests software while at Borders or his experience testing airport kiosks. One of my richest experiences in usability testing was when I tested a movie ticket kiosk. I'm sure the software you use every day—and I'm not just talking about vendor test tools and Microsoft products—is full of bugs. Challenge yourself to find bugs in other systems you interact with every day. Extra credit if you find a bug in a non-software system.
If you find a bug in the wild, share it with the world. Start a blog on bugs you find and how you found them. I recommend TestingReflections.com as an excellent place to start a blog for free. If you don't have that kind of voice, join a forum or mailing list where you can share what you find. Part of the practice built into finding bugs is reporting them and recognizing how you found them. Did you just stumble on the bug or did you apply some skill or technique? Reporting the bug forces you to identify what you learned. Bugs are out there just asking you to find them (in Tim's case, they were looking for him).