Archive for September, 2008

In Defense of Gallows Humor

Monday, September 29th, 2008 by The Director

Keep this handy for the next time you’re called into a boss’s office because you’re mocking the developers openly:  When the Going Gets Tough, The Going Crack Wise.


On the other hand, self-enhancing humor, the ability to crack wise and see the humor in a situation when your world is falling apart, protects us from stressful events. Jim McKay, the former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is an example. Suffering through a woeful first season, McKay was asked about the execution of his team. He responded, “I’m in favor of it.”

There’s a mantra in there for all of us.

One of the best things in a recent posting I had was that my second-in-command and I were quite the droll Mutt-and-Jeff team with the sardonic, sanguine remarks.  Also, we quite knew the punchlines I don’t have to outrun the bear; I only have to outrun you and Break time’s over; everyone back on your heads and used them as stock tropes, independent of the respective jokes, throughout our time together.

Chasing a Floating Advertisement

Friday, September 26th, 2008 by The Director

That’s an advertisement that’s too interactive.  Running on, it asked me to subscribe or donate by overlaying the content.  I always enjoy FatBoy, BadBoy, StupidBoy, and all the ads that actually intrude on my Web site using experience, but this one was one of the special ones:

See that close button?  Ha!  That's the point!
Click for full size

The close button lies just outside the visible browser window.  You can scroll down in the browser window and see the close button briefly before the advertisement adjusts and hides the close button.

The advertisement doesn’t take into account lower resolutions, so it’s setting the ad at a set number of pixels from the top and right side.  Which doesn’t make much sense.

You see this a lot in sidebars, too, attached to right sides of browser windows that will then float over the content when the window is too small.

Jeez, Louise, don’t forget to test the browser in windowed mode and at lower resolutions, or you get annoying things like this.

Aw, who am I kidding; you do, and then you log it, and then they say, “Nobody but QA does that,” and ignore it because somebody brought in a Wii and hooked it up in the conference room.  What developer in his developer mind would rather fix an issue than box against his team lead on a projected screen?

Put That On My Business Card

Thursday, September 25th, 2008 by The Director

Briefly considered Qualitymonger, hoping it would sound like fearmonger and warmonger, but ultimately decided it would sound more like fishmonger.

So I guess I’ll go with Software Demolitions instead.

Who Would Make Their Logo Look Like A Broken Image?

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 by The Director

Probably not TDAmeritrade; they’re honest professionals (or so the commercials would have me believe).  I guess this is just an authentic broken image displaying on the print views:

That logo looks just like the broken image icon!
Click for full size

Bonus attaboy for only putting the PO Box part of the address without the city, state, and ZIP code.

No Defect Left Behind

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 by The Director

A developer turned tester doesn’t want you to be a “net negative producing tester” and says:

It wasn’t only poor bug reports that wasted time. The majority of the bug reports were low-hanging fruit ones, easy to find ( and fix ) but trivial in nature – tabbing order, buttons misaligned etc. There was no bug triage in place to sort them into priority order so it meant either reading through the entire bug list to find the severe ones – or most commonly just starting with the first on the list and working through it

The result – lots of time spent fixing minor bugs and the customer finding the severe ones.

Where have I heard that sort of argument before?  Oh, yeah, pretty much any time a development lead, project manager, or customer-facing person tells us to do the same thing, ignoring the obvious issues and only logging the important ones.  And my response is always the same: ever the professional, I do not preface my “No” with any colorful metaphors.

You have to log all defects against an application.  Cosmetic things might be “low-hanging fruit” to a developer, but those cosmetic failures and misspellings in labels and poorly-written error messages destroy a user’s trust in the application.  If they’re wrong, they should be fixed.

Failures in prioritization and the fact that your developers are knobs who would rather spend 4 hours “fixing” a couple of misspellings or tab order things (read: 20 minutes in the IDE, 3 hours at the foosball table) are different problems.

So make sure the misspellings and whatnot are prioritized low in a defect tracker and browbeat your developers into handling fundamental business logic failures.  Somewhere along the line, your organization is going to have to bring in new people, and these simple defects offer them a chance to get their feet wet in the code.

But telling testers not to log defects isn’t the answer.

To sum up, our philosophy here at QAHY is to be a net negative tester.  The more negative you net, the better, regardless of what the opposition would try to make you believe.

News Flash: Microsoft Uses An Advertising/Interactive Agency

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 by The Director

Friends, Romans, and QAing men, I often harp on paying attention to your document properties because they might betray you.  Or at least identify your organization instead of highlighting your client.

In another case therein, someone right-clicked the images on Microsoft’s Web site and found that they were created on a Macintosh:

 Several digital images that Microsoft Corp. has posted on its Web site to trumpet its new “I’m a PC” advertising campaign were actually created on Macs, according to the files’ originating-software stamp.

Four of the images that Microsoft made available on its PressPass site today display the designation “Adobe Photoshop C3 Macintosh” when their file properties are examined. The images appear to be frames from the television ads that Microsoft will launch later today.

You know what this means, right?  Microsoft hired design professionals, who use Macintosh almost to a woman (he said, using the feminine pronoun to balance the QAing men thing earlier).

I mean, every last Web browser image you see on television or in a print ad is a Safari screenshot, or haven’t you noticed?

This isn’t the first time that someone has gotten document properties to embarrass Microsoft.

Also, remember that the public can get your filenames, so no more images with names like poopyhead.jpg, okay?

Answering Your Own Question on

Monday, September 22nd, 2008 by The Director

Apparently, the user has answered his own question on

Spelling and grammer only vital to comprehension, respect for writer.

The question posed with 6 problems of spelling and grammar, 0 answers.

The question, posed with 2 remaining spelling or grammar problem, 45 answers and counting.

Bonus to the commenter who tells me what still is wrong with the question.

Another Maxim

Monday, September 22nd, 2008 by The Director

You cannot spell adequate without QA.

Crap, That’s My E-Mail Address

Saturday, September 20th, 2008 by The Director

Non-reader QA Slayer sends me a default Apache error page spit up by ING:

Default Apache Error Message
Click for full size

Well, if you’re going to save money by not bothering with a custom error page, why waste thirty seconds of your server administrators invaluable time (30 seconds = $2,000 in most consultant billing practices) swapping out the sample e-mail address with a real e-mail address.

And, on the customer service front, critical errors reported by users are way, way down.  Way to go, team!

Adventures on the Happy Path

Friday, September 19th, 2008 by The Director

A couple of weeks ago, Linda Wilkinson posted a piece about how The Happy Path does not exist for testing purposes.

Happy path testing, for those of you blissfully unaware that such a thing could even exist, is taking the most obvious, expected, valid path or paths through a given piece of software to verify the software is Perfectly Lovely and ready to move on to your lucky clients. Companies with no understanding of either software or software quality can embrace this testing policy, since it’s both cheap and unlikely to find much error. Until production, of course. But for some reason, these same companies don’t seem to “count” production errors or time lost by users in prod as part of the project expenditures.

Actually, one can consider smoke/sanity testing as Happy Path Testing. A real tester might try a quick subset of easy, positive test cases when a build comes out to determine what simple, basic functionality the developer destroyed when deploying his gee-whiz new drop-down list sorting method. QA should not focus on happy path testing since every other person in the company who runs the software for demos, for milestone meetings, or for documentation purposes (ha! Just kidding! I only know of one technical writer who ever ran the software he was documenting, and I left technical writing for QA) will run happy path tests.

QA needs to focus on the use cases outside the perfect world, and that’s Wilkinson’s point.

Now, here’s my worst Happy Path Testing Story:

Back when I was working for a startup, the release testing involved everyone in the organization dropping other tasks for a day and running through a smoke test like script. When I mean “a,” I mean “the.” 40 people, from developers to project managers to technical writers all ran the exact same script. You can bet by the time that the software was released, they combed a full 50% of the critical issues from the product before burning it to CD. Which explains why I’m still working for a living instead of living off of my stock option wealth.

Risk Factors, Standard Practices, Some Places It’s All The Same

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008 by The Director

Larry O’Brien lists some risk factors in offshoring that he cribbed from an article and identifies which ones he finds prevalent.

I think he missed a couple.  Here, let me rewrite them as the Standard Operating Practices in place in most organizations:

  1. Act quickly, and expect top management to follow; or, get top management buy in, but don’t finish before top management finds a new, sparklier acronym to shift focus (often happens when top management changes).
  2. Discuss requirements in meetings, agree on a bunch of things, and put down a single phrase as a bullet point that you won’t even understand in a week.  Then, send a complete set of these bullet points to India.  In a PowerPoint presentation.
  3. Because your offshore team speaks RP English, believe that they understand all idiomatic expressions, and use a bunch of them in your requirements.  Also, expect that they will operate under the same sets of assumptions and basic GUI metaphors that you expect.
  4. Hide the fact that you’re using offshore resources by freezing the client/end user out of milestones.
  5. Lack of offshore project management know-how by client
  6. Make sure that your customer-facing people are expecting the sun, moon, stars, and a supernova.  What, the client wants a collision between spiral galaxies, too?  Done!  No extra charge!
  7. Make sure that customer-facing people’s promises are put into another set of bullet points.  Spread across a couple of e-mails and instant message conversations.  Make sure that at least one of the e-mails is a single word answer, “Yes,” to a question involving an Or.
  8. Expect offshore teams to look up the ins and outs of the business problems on the Internet.  Or don’t think of that at all.
  9. Expect offshore teams to learn C# against a MySQL backend from questions posted on Internet forums.  Or don’t think of that at all.
  10. Expect to meet the timeline and budget because a half a day’s time difference is like a time warp, and they don’t get paid in real money anyway.

I’m not knocking offshore work, of course.  It’s inexpensive, but you’ve got to put a whole heck of a lot of up front work into it, spelling out all requirements and all assumptions, even the ones you assume are not assumptions.  Then, you write all text that displays on the screen, all messages, and provide any GUI assets they will need.  There’s only one thing funnier than a developer cracking open Microsoft Paint to make up a button on the fly, and that’s….

No, I don’t think there’s anything funnier than that, actually, offshore or onshore.

But I digressed.

If your company goes into offshoring with the same lackadaisical approach it takes to regular development, it will fail, only cheaply.

Memo to Wired: He’s That Guy From The Zelda Games

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 by The Director

A JavaScript error on

Link is described as a young Hylian boy from the fictional land of Hyrule.
Click for full size

If your JavaScript lacks this particular definition, perhaps you should point it to Wikipedia.

Sadly, too sadly, at least one offshore resource will Google “‘Link’ is undefined” and will click through to this post looking for answers.

Let’s Play Count The Flaws

Monday, September 15th, 2008 by The Director

One of the overlooked and under QAed piece of any application, even one so fundamentally unQAed as the recent aborted attempt at an upgrade at SiteMeter, is the e-mails generated by the applications automatically.  If you’re testing an e-mail campaign with a full design process, you have professionals designing the thing and hopefully a formal spot in the timeline for QA review.  With automated e-mails, you have “Joe” in Bangalore giving it his best shot.

How many problems can you find with this password reset e-mail from SiteMeter?

Let's just say this e-mail isn't Scottish.
Click for full size

Let’s make a game of it.  I’ve put the problems I spotted underneath the fold.

  1. (more…)

Developers Fail Logic, Grantwood Village Residents

Friday, September 12th, 2008 by The Director

The developers of the Circuit City store locator fail logic.

Here’s the situation.  You’re a user in tiny Grantwood Village, a mostly forgotten municipality in St. Louis County, Missouri, who wants to go to Circuit City because….well, okay, maybe it is an outrageous use case, but it fails:

  1. Go to the Circuit City home page.
  2. Click the Store Locator link at top.
  3. Store Locator displays:
    Another broken store locator
    In the City edit box, type grantwood village.
  4. From the State drop-down list, select Missouri.
  5. Click Find.
  6. Uh oh.  According to Circuit City, Grantwood Village does not exist:Grantwood Village, although small, is not invalid.
    Much to the chagrin of Grantwood Village.Well, then, type the zip code of Lakeshire, Missouri (63121) into the Zip code edit box.  Funny, though, Lakeshire is even smaller than Grantwood Village, as it’s essentially a small subdivision with a post office.
  7. Click Find again.
  8. The application acts as though the zip code is invalid:
    The zip code is valid, the application is not.

This occurs whether you click the Find button underneath the Zip code edit box or underneath the City/State combination.  Don’t get me started about the design wisdom of putting two controls on a form that do the same thing.  You cannot convince me of its utility, and I disbelieve in your value of symmetry.

In this form, if the application detects a value in the latter, it ignores the former, period.  So it does sort of handle Or (you need to enter something in one or the other), it does not handle both (And) correctly.  Even though someone will probably encounter the situation of entering data in both forms.

And, when you’re feeling particularly nasty (which is to say, every day of the week), remember to try 87894.  This is an invalid zip code, and if your application doesn’t handle nonexistent zip codes (not merely strings that are not five numbers) or relies on a Web service call or whatnot to an application that does not handle nonexistent zip codes, hilarity ensues.

Wednesday Morning Inspirational Video

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008 by The Director

Courtesy of Hanes’ Inspector 12.

Remember, they don’t say it’s ready until you say they say it’s ready.

That’s One Illusive Captcha

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008 by The Director

I didn’t mean to go looking for this much trouble.  I mean, I was looking at the Web site for KMOV, a local television station, for a specific flaw for a longer post (forthcoming), and instead I find a host of others.

For starters, the blogs maintained by the station personnel do not reside on the domain for KMOV; instead, they’re on  If you go to the root there, you see that it displays a pseudo page for WCNC in North Carolina:

That's not KMOV.  It's probably not WCNC, either.
Click for full size

Ah, never mind that.  So I look more closely at a blog entry, and I notice the comment form has a text box for a CAPTCHA that doesn’t display at all:

Can't captcha a mastermind.
Click for full size

Finally, I click the Submit button to see if the form actually does require a captcha. The results: stunning.

You know, you cannot find that dev environment from here.
Click for full size

It’s a 404, but look closely: It’s looking for something on  That is, the form appears to point to the development environment, not the production environment.

Can’t anyone here play this game?  Probably not, if you’re the blog hosting experts at Living Dot.

Thinking Outside The Blocks

Monday, September 8th, 2008 by The Director

As you know, or you should know, many e-mail clients will block images and links from incoming messages from unknown addresses.  If you’re sending out an e-mail, perhaps you should keep that in mind when your organization designs an e-mail.  Remember to include good alt/title text and try not to put every last bit of copy in an image, okay?  Otherwise the beautiful, wonderful e-mail you designed to look like this:

Hey, that's a pretty e-mail you've got there.
Click for full size

Looks like this: (more…)

Good Mots

Friday, September 5th, 2008 by The Director

There are three kinds of workers in IT: Developers, QA, and collateral damage.

When Your HTML Composer Pees On The Floor

Thursday, September 4th, 2008 by The Director

Someone over at uses Microsoft Word to create his or her posts:

What does the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and its tables have anything to do with this?
Click for full size

And, apparently, someone does not preview content before pushing it live.

Sadly, I grabbed this screenshot last night, and although most of it has been fixed, detritus remains in the copy.

Those Stray Characters Draw The Reader’s Eye To The Ad

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008 by The Director

Yeah, that’s the ticket:

Look to the left of the stray characters to see an important ad!

Banner ad rotators: Is there one that actually works right all the time?  We may never know, but I certainly doubt it.

Maybe I need a separate category for these screw-ups.

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