Mike Bland

Making Software Quality Visible

I've completed the full script for my first post-Apple presentation on testing, culture change, and leadership.

Tags: Apple, Google, Making Software Quality Visible, QCI, Testing Grouplet, leadership, philosophy

Making Software Quality Visible is my first presentation since leaving Apple, encompassing much of my life’s work on testing, culture change, and leadership to date.

Even though I consider the talk “complete” and worth shipping today, there’s still more I plan to do. You can see that, at the moment, there are still some TODOs to include details that I set aside for the sake of finally shipping. I’m sure I’ll get motivated to edit down and tighten parts of it, too, especially near the end.

I expect this talk to continue to evolve for some time—possibly with your help.

In Portland, Oregon March 8-10

FYI, I’ll be in Portland March 8-10, staying in Beaverton and attending a private forum. I won’t have a lot of spare time, but I may be available to steal away to catch up for a bit. If anyone in the area is game, send me an email or a LinkedIn message.


The inspiration came when my former Quality Culture Initiative partner in crime Ono Vaticone commissioned me to speak to his group at Microsoft on 2023-01-17. My former Google colleague John Turek then invited me to give an informal lunchtime talk to folks at Aetion on 2023-01-12. I’ve been working on polishing the slides and fleshing out the rest of the script and footnotes ever since.

As I’ve done since before joining Apple, and certainly done while I was there, I’ve provided extensive links and footnotes for further context. It’s a bit overwhelming—the footnotes account for probably 40% of the content. Maybe it’ll be useful to no one but myself, as my own private encyclopedia. Still, I’ve totally unpacked my heart with words for anyone to examine as they may.


Not only that, but I went down a deep, deep rabbit hole trying to improve the style of my blog. I harbor no illusions that anyone’s ever going to read the entire Making Software Quality Visible script. Still, I wanted to make it a little easier on the eyes, so folks might read more than they would otherwise.

Also, Thiago Ghisi listed Test Mercenaries in his The 22 Articles that Impacted my Career In Tech The Most blog post and LinkedIn post. (That one, and Goto Fail, Heartbleed, and Unit Testing Culture on Martin Fowler’s site.) The LinkedIn post got a lot of attention, which lit a little more fire under me as well.

(So thanks so much, Thiago—for the honor of being included in your list, and for the extra motivation to clean things up around here!)

If you’ve seen my blog before, you may welcome the subtle yet substantial changes that hopefully leave you feeling less like stabbing your eyes out. If you’re only seeing it now, trust me, it was worse.

In the process, I learned a lot of new things about CSS—I still prefer backend programming, but it was fun to learn some frontend skills. I finally broke my “no JavaScript” standard, but only for the light/dark mode switch. Believe it or not, every other effect is pure CSS—in fact, the light/dark mode button itself is pure CSS. I hide it if JavaScript is disabled, but the button itself would still render and move back and forth if I didn’t hide it.

Words, words, words

As a result of both writing the presentation and teaching myself all this CSS stuff, my plan is to start posting a lot more. I’ll break parts of Making Software Quality Visible into their own posts—hell, some of the footnotes are blog posts in themselves. I’ll also share some of my modest frontend learnings here and there—they may seem elementary, but they’ll help me remember what I did and why. (My habit of writing extensive Git commit messages will also help, but sharing a series of proper blog posts will be more fun.)

I thought of breaking Making Software Quality Visible into installments like Martin Fowler does for longer articles, but ended up wanting to try this way. We’ll see if I can keep up the pace of many smaller posts—and see how I’m inspired to evolve the content further throughtout the process.

Melting the carbonite

This is also my attempt to break out of my self-imposed hibernation since leaving Apple. I definitely needed some downtime to rest and recuperate, but I’m starting to go more than a little stir crazy. There’s some folks I keep in touch with regularly, though not as many as before—I miss the constant jamming on ideas with my QCI partners.

That perpetual, creative give and take was by far the most fulfilling part of my experience at Apple, and I miss it like hell. I can’t tell you how damn proud I am of what we did together—well, I mean, I can tell you, but I can’t show you.

But now that I’ve got this new material in my pocket, I’m happy to drop in practically anytime, anywhere, to act as a conversation starter. I can edit the material down to any length, and refer folks to the Making Software Quality Visible page for more details. If you think it might be interesting to have me visit and do my thing, let’s talk! You know how to reach me.

And if you end up reading it, and it gives you ideas or inspiration, or if you have suggestions, please let me know! I’m a firm believer in the power of the dynamic between creators and the audience. Creative works are meant to be shared, and ultimately improved with every interaction with an engaged audience. We all win when we show up to help each other out.

This is my way of continuing the good work I was doing—that we all were doing—by trying to get my own jam underway again.1

  1. Which, by the way, I may be forced to do musically as well. It’s so hard for me to find others to play with, since I’m far less skilled and far more shy when it comes to music.