Archive for July, 2008

Viva La Swag

Thursday, July 31st, 2008 by The Director

Hey, don’t forget, you can buy the QAnarchy shirt:

QAnarchy Shirt

both with the philosophy statement (Here is the ultimatum of our camp: what can be smashed, must be smashed; whatever survives a blow has value, whatever flies to smithereens is rubbish; in any case, smash right and left, it will and can do no harm) and without.

A New Test Case for Server-based Applications

Thursday, July 31st, 2008 by The Director

Nested within a Daily WTF story, we find an interesting test condition.

“But what if you just, say, pull the plug? A Finally block won’t execute when the computer is turned off!”

If you need me, I’ll be in the server room.

In The Event Of Nothing, Type Something Arbitrary

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 by The Director

Well, it’s not that bad.  Not that bad.

The Lakeside Collection, a catalog mail order company with a Web site, prefers to know from what source it bought your name to send it a catalog, and they’re not above making you jump through extra hoops to feed its data hunger.  To whit:

Enter the data or a value that's typed for you in text on this page
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The field is required; you must enter the number from somewhere on your catalog to complete a Web-based order.  If you don’t have a catalog, you need to enter the arbitrary number provided.

I can understand they want to know what mailing lists they’re buying that are providing the best leads, but they’re making me go through the extra step of looking for my catalog and finding this little number and typing it in here just to complete a sale.  Additionally, a lot of people (me included) will just type the bogus number anyway, so why require the field?  Simply stuff the Web-shopper number into the database in this position unless a person wants to enter the data.  That’s what I’d recommend for usability sake, anyway.

But I’m just a QA guy.  And a user.  And, in this case, a customer.

My little Scottie is so going to love his widdle Boston University sweater.

Gallery of Stack Traces: OleDB Timeout

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 by The Director

Here’s a simple entry into the Gallery of Stack Traces: a simple timeout that occurs when your Web server taps its foot and looks at its watch while the database isn’t showing up.  Finally, the Web server (badly) leaves a note that says, impertinently, that it waited as long as it could and it had other things to do.

Taking five
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You should really handle that programmatically.  Especially if your entire site hides within a Content Management System, and this little timeout makes it look like your site is irrevocably broken.

When Is A Home Button Not A Home Button?

Monday, July 28th, 2008 by The Director

When it’s merely an image that looks like a button that says home on the untitled document that passes as the eventmentorTM home page:

That's not a home button.  That's a home image shaped like a button.
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Come on, only a fool would want to click that!


Japanese Company Wants To Complicate Browser Compatibility Testing

Monday, July 28th, 2008 by The Director

The headline really is Japanese browser maker takes on IE, Firefox: Fenrir wants to snare 5% of the browser market, but the result would be the same for you and I.

A Japanese software company is stepping up international promotion of its Web browser in the hope of carving out a 5% share over the next few years of a market dominated by Internet Explorer and Firefox.

The Sleipnir browser is well-known among Japanese technophiles, many of whom value the high level of customization that the browser allows.

I suppose that means if you’re expecting a lot of technophiles in Japan to use your Web application, you should already be testing for it.

Most Bank Sites Insecure

Friday, July 25th, 2008 by The Director

Most Bank Sites Are Insecure, InformationWeek reports:

More than three-quarters of bank Web sites have design flaws that could expose bank customers to financial loss or identity theft, according to a University of Michigan study that will be presented this week at the Symposium on Usable Security and Privacy.

The study, “Analyzing Web Sites For User-Visible Security Design Flaws,” examined 214 bank Web sites in 2006. It was conducted by University of Michigan computer science professor Atul Prakash and doctoral students Laura Falk and Kevin Borders.

The vulnerabilities identified by the authors aren’t fixable with a simple patch. Rather, they are issues like login boxes, information submission forms, security information, and contact information placed on insecure pages; redirections outside the bank’s domain without warning; allowing insecure user IDs and passwords; and e-mailing sensitive information insecurely.

It’ll be interesting to see if the report really gets into it or does nothing but promote hiring its authors as usability experts.

I don’t find it shocking, though, as I know the number of possible test cases for any financial application are near infinite and the amount of testing time for them is near nil.  I’ve had limited call to test financial applications, and in all situations the testing period ends before I scratch the surface of the permutations in interactions between the interface, the design, and the partnering applications.

Which is why I don’t bank online, come to think of it.

Software Is Neither Organism Nor Machine

Thursday, July 24th, 2008 by The Director

The thinking tester asks:

 Software – A machine or an organism or ?

Sardonically, we here at humbly respond, with all the knowledge in entomology you get with a scarcely earned C in college-level biology, that software is best understood as a colony.

That is, a collection of bugs working together.

A Nonworking Nonflash Alternative

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 by The Director

When you depend upon a Flash piece to jazz up your home page, you need to provide an alternative for users who don’t have Flash installed or who have a version your Web site and gee-whizzery doesn’t support.  Typically, this is a simple image filling that spot.  Ace Hardware has it right.  Almost.

It's like a haunted house with all these cold spots.
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You can see it’s an image.  It’s actually the first frame of the Flash animation exported as a JPG.  The problem?  The Flash animation contains a trio of hot spots.  The JPG?  Not so much.

They could have built an image map, or they could have removed the hotspot elements before export, or they could have even just made the whole image into a link to a store page.  Instead, they went the simple, thoughtless way and left the image unclickable, even though it would seem to indicate that you can click it to go places.

Hey, it’s cheap and easy, and the paychecks cash just as easy.

Going Right Out And Advertising For It

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 by The Director

An employer putting the real job duties in the title:

Sit on your butt QA
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I assume that an analsyt is supposed to just sit on his or her butt all day and let dev and project management have their ways with the project.  I’ve known a number of QA professionals who’ve thought that their jobs were, essentially, to call meetings and discuss/prioritize issues found by the customers instead of, I don’t know, understanding the software and technology and enforcing quality or testing.

Sadly, also in my experience, that unbelievable lightness of being tends to rise to management quickly.


Remember: Null Means Null

Monday, July 21st, 2008 by The Director

Or something to that effect.  ComputerWorld, my go-to site for finding JavaScript errors in the wild on a slow blog day, comes up with this beauty:

Null is null
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Ponder that as a koan.  Also, remember the following are not best practices:

  • Naming variables or objects null or any other reserved word.
  • Passing a string value of “null” when you meant to pass null.

Free Definition

Friday, July 18th, 2008 by The Director


Apparently, your Web site doesn’t know what YAHOO means this morning:

I have a definition of Yahoo for you.
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Which leaves your Web site looking like this:

LinkedIn Unhinged
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A YAHOO is someone who promotes this error and its attendant template failure to production during business hours on a Friday, of all days, a day where workers are probably more apt to screw around and visit your site instead of doing paying work.

Eh, I guess it only bothers IE users, that small subgroup of Web users you can safely ignore.

Why Rabies Is Better Than QA

Friday, July 18th, 2008 by The Director

Sometimes, people characterize QA as rabid.  Or maybe they’re just talking about me.  Regardless, I’d like to set the record straight:  actually having rabies is better than working in QA for the following reasons:

  • HR is much more understanding when you bite a developer.
  • With rabies, it’s seven pains in the stomach and you’re cured.  With QA, seven pains in the stomach means your ulcer has made it through the week.
  • Cooler fictional archetype, Cujo, versus the predominant–and by “predominant” I mean really the only one I can think of–fictional QA archetype Creed Bratton.
  • Foaming at the mouth stains less than spitting coffee when project managers tell you that you actually have minus two days to test a project, so you’d better start spinning the globe backwards like Superman immediately.
  • You can pass on rabies; you cannot teach QA.
  • Normal people understand what rabies is and have sympathy for it.
  • The career is mercifully shorter.

On the other hand, QA pays slightly better.

It’s Personalized If Your First Name Is [First_Name]

Thursday, July 17th, 2008 by The Director

Agent in place G33klady has apparently been steaming open someone else’s e-mail.  How else would she get an offer from Better Software magazine that wasn’t addressed to her?

Oddly enough, I named my first child [First_Name].
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Certainly that’s not a defect in an untested e-mail, hey?  Someone ask the project manager over there and find out the excuse well-considered reason why this occurred and how much money the magazine saved by not testing/fixing problems.

Sound Effects in the Headlines and More

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008 by The Director

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Web site,, recently redesigned to great internal fanfare but not so much to user delight, has a couple of problems.  It’s hard for me to choose which part of the paper’s Web site annoys me the most, but here are some of the top candidates:


Designers Lose One Excuse

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 by The Director

As you know, readers, I’m a fan of paying attention to the status bar in Internet Explorer, ever vigilant for the icon that indicates a scripting error on the page. The QA people at GoDaddy explain how you can do the same in Safari 3.x, almost, which means your team’s designers and hipster developer have one less excuse not to notice these things before you do.

Of course, it does not address the reason, which is the inherent self-righteous sloth these people exhibit, but that’s another matter entirely.

I Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Conditional Was In

Monday, July 14th, 2008 by The Director

Ah, Symantec.  We go back a decade, you and I, and I’m still loyal even though I’m hearing that your various and sundry applications and services are bloated and slow me down horribly.  But I’m in no hurry, really; five o’clock comes at the same time every day, no matter how fast my PC runs.  But I’m a little disappointed with your technical support form.  For a security company, you probably shouldn’t get a security warning on the form, for starters.


What Do You Call A Manager Of Offshore Resources?

Thursday, July 10th, 2008 by The Director

Jr Software Tester, if you can get away with it:

*Maintenance of the environments for the SE system test systems. *Execution of testing processes prior to live deployment. *Interaction with other organizations to get sufficient support from the instructions for PM, Planning and Validation team and all others necessary throughout our portion of the testing life cycle. *Oversee and direct workload from US day shift to offshore resources *Defect management and problem resolution for testing errors

Those whacky jobs posted on Craigslist.  When you manage people, it’s like called a management sort of position in most places.  Perhaps this job poster doesn’t equate furriners as people.

If it’s the philosophy of the hiring firm to indeed have someone come in off of the street and manage the offshore team, perhaps the job heading should be more appropriately titled Scapegoat wanted! with a description Make slightly more than you would managing a gas station, but with more ulcers.

Quick Usability Hit

Thursday, July 10th, 2008 by The Director

Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software and Joel on Software says:

A long time ago, it became fashionable, even recommended, to disable menu items when they could not be used.

Don’t do this. Users see the disabled menu item that they want to click on, and are left entirely without a clue of what they are supposed to do to get the menu item to work.

Instead, leave the menu item enabled. If there’s some reason you can’t complete the action, the menu item can display a message telling the user why.

Point of order, wealthy poobah, but, seriously, that’s adding three extra steps to the process (click something you can’t do, read why you can’t do it, and dispel the message).  Nothing’s worse than an application that lets you try to do something and then taunts you when you cannot.

Additionally, this course of action gives developers the ability to make mistakes in implementing the solution, where turning them off until explicitly needed is a simple checkbox in the IDE.  Sometimes, you can trust developers with a checkbox.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008 by The Director

Reader and field agent Isarian questions the wisdom of this operation:

If you cannot trust an unknown publisher, whom can you trust?
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I mean, if you cannot trust a control whose name is not available from an unknown publisher, whom can you trust?

He encountered this problem on this page; I haven’t gotten this message, but I probably already am infected with whatever ActiveX esploit this is.  I do see that not all content is loading, which leads me to believe it’s yet another case of an advertisement rotator failing badly.

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