Archive for November, 2008

Displaying The Wrong Error Message Worse Than None At All

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008 by The Director

You know what’s worse than displaying a cryptic, inscrutable error code or number when something goes wrong on your Web application?  Showing the wrong error message.

For example, if you go to Gender Analyzer and enter the domain name for this blog (, the application displays an error that says the Web application does not handle sites not written in English:

Perhaps they're making a point that I speak American.
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Perhaps they’re making a point that I speak American, not real English.  However, I suspect instead the application cannot handle the redirect and cannot think of any way to tell me that.

Guys and women in QA, you’re supposed to be triggering every possible error condition and screwball situation you can.  You ought to see these error messages, and by gosh, by golly, you should make sure that your developers think of some constructive response to the user when they happen.

And just for the record, when presented with the complete URL of the blog (, the Gender Analyzer suspected with 89% certainty that I am a bloke. Which I am.


Priceless Could Mean Cheap, I Suppose

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 by The Director

I love Peyton Manning as a spokesperson, and MasterCard has taken an excellent tone with his new line of Suite Talk advertisements, where hotel employees in cities where Manning has come to play football (American football, not soccer) use idiomatic insults and putdowns and Manning responds directly to the language, not to the put down (example, a bellhop says, “You’re going down,” and Manning, standing outside an elevator, responds “Fourth floor.”)

Too bad MasterCard didn’t spend enough on the Web site tied into the commercials.


Sartrean Enumeration

Monday, November 24th, 2008 by The Director

It’s a small thing, often tucked into offhand code, but come on, folks, can we ditch the Sartrean Enumeration Method?

You are one of nothing.
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We are all one-of-nothing.  I get it.  But how about checking to make sure there’s a value greater than zero in that second number before throwing up that particular text, huh?

One Requirement Too Far

Friday, November 21st, 2008 by The Director

Job posting on Craigslist for a Graphics Designer eligible for Security Clearance:

Graphics designer with security clearance?  Oh, it's a punchline.
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To misquote Wesley, No good. I’ve known too many designers. 

Graphics designers tend to lead very interesting, exciting, and unrepressed lives.  Good luck clearing any of them.


Supplemental Information for James Whittaker

Thursday, November 20th, 2008 by The Director

James Whittaker offers a humorous, in a gallows sort of way, take on the average software QA job posting.

He did, however, leave off an important element:

Compensation: Market

Which means, “We’d like to pay you enough to buy one gallon of milk at the market per hour.”

I’d Better Plan Ahead; That’s Only 39 Years Ago

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 by The Director

The electronic proxy voting place warns me that my session is about to expire.  Thirty-nine years ago:

This session will self-destruct 39 years ago.
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If only it could have warned me to sell my Sirius stock right after it peaked with the Howard Stern deal.  Now that would have been a defect I would not have reported for fear of Inside JavaScript Alert Trading law violations.

Additionally, have you noticed all these freaking errors I post?  It’s not because I’m specifically hunting for trouble all the time, but because the software everywhere on the Internet sucks royally.  Soon, the developers will have bled any expectation of quality out of users, and as long as they escape with most limbs intact, users will think the software works good enough.

I’m In Favor of JavaScript Validation. Done Right.

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 by The Director

You know, I’m in favor of JavaScript validation when it’s done right.  The resume upload mabob on doesn’t do it right, at least not when you click Upload without specifying a filename:

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Oops.  Well, I guess you can get the gist of it.  And by it I mean SmartSearch doesn’t test its software.  But its name is SmartSearch, not SmartDevelopment or SmartResumeUpload.   I would hope the search works better (if I weren’t in QA and hence hopeless).


Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 by The Director

Of course you can spell TROUBLE without QA.  You often do.

Hint to the Junior Staffers

Monday, November 17th, 2008 by The Director

Dear Junior Staff Members:

Remember, if your profile starts showing new connections to recruiters and managers at competing companies, you’re not really keeping your job search hidden.  Why not just ask your current manager to be a reference?


A Senior Staff Member Who Pays Attention.

A Failed Mail Merge Explains Why My Wife Suspects I’m Having An Affair with

Thursday, November 13th, 2008 by The Director

Dudes, please graft my name and company name into the salutation to keep me from the divorce lawyers, okay?

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David, I like you as an editor-in-chief, but nothing more.  Call me Mr. The Director, please.

A Maxim From The Original Latin

Monday, November 10th, 2008 by The Director

The physicians’ first rule: Primum non nocere.  First, do no harm.  Silly physicians

QA’s first rule:  Primum nocere.  Quondam res est vulnero, tentatio iterum.  First, do harm.  Then, when the application is down, hit it again.

(No free Internet Latin translators were harmed in the creation of this  maxim; however, the same cannot be said to those instructors or speakers of Latin who might read it and suffer.)

Outsourcing Practices, Redux

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 by The Director

Count how many of the Seven Sins of Offshore Outsourcing your company is actively committing.

If yours is like many organizations, it’s eight or more.

A Quality Children’s Book?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 by The Director

An ASQ mailing I just received:

A childrens book pitched by ASQ
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 It’s not a children’s book preparing a child for a life of quality assurance.  It’s a children’s book about learning.

You know what makes a good children’s book for preparing children for a life in QA?  Grimm’s Fairy Tales, particularly the one where the children really do get eaten at the end of the story.  Or a good primer on Norse mythology, where the good guys lose in the end anyway.

What do you think would make a good children’s book for QAlings?

QAHY Becomes Part Of The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

Monday, November 3rd, 2008 by The Director

Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher has found himself a national figure suddenly, and suddenly some figures in Ohio are starting to look into his computer records.  Some inappropriately, perhaps, but some probably not so nefariously.  After all, I suspect most of us in QA have been this guy:

Another access of Wurzelbacher’s information, by an outside contractor with access to an attorney general’s office test account, is being investigated by the State Highway Patrol.

Ever used a real person’s name in your testing?  The State Highway Patrol might want to have a word with you.  They might want to have a word with me, too, since I used it myself the other day testing a system that checks public listings of people to whom you’re not supposed to ship goods.  I mean, Wurzelbacher is going to really test your soundex comparisons, ainna?  Now, I’m not going to tell you what I found because that would be invading Wurzelbacher’s privacy big time, but whatever beef the French Foreign Legion has with him is between him and Beau Geste.

When you’re testing systems, sometimes you just use names of public figures.  Me, I need to apologize to a number of people for fraudulent transactions on their behalf.  For example, in the years 2000-2003, I fraudulently registered Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and David Gilmour as database administrators and users for large multi-national organizations.  In 2003, I fraudulently registered Fab Morvan, Rob Pilatus, Zelma Davis, Freedom Williams, Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen, Paul Waaktaar, and Lauren Savoy as chemists working for a large pharmaceutical concern.  I hate to think of how many sports figures, actors, and musicians I might have registered for various contests, coupons, and other things since then.

Of course, most of this stuff is in test environments and should not (hrm, how long have I worked here?) leak out into production.  Once you’re touching production, it’s another matter.

I don’t think it’s necessarily unethical behavior if the intent is only to test the software, not to glean information about the person from the application under test.  Just the same, you probably ought not create records in a famous person’s name in a production environment and only search on them, and you should never, ever reveal any information you find.  There’s such a thing as tester-user privilege, starting now.

QA Swagadelic

Saturday, November 1st, 2008 by The Director

Two new shirts in the QAHY shop:

QA Puts Baby in a Corner shirt Optimism is a Failure of Imagination shirt
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You can order them from the QAHY store on CafePress.

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