Garbage In, Garbage Out (Somewhere)

Don’t forget that the garbage you put into the system might come out somewhere else, badly.

Here’s an example, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel‘s Weather Cam which is supposed to show you how wonderful the intersection of Kilbourn and 3rd street looks when covered with a foot or more of snow.

Well, if it wasn’t currently displaying the default admin sort of thing that tells the Web masters at that the media player is installed and ready for action, that is:

'S no cam, all right.
Click for full size

I’ll leave it for the reader to speculate whether the genius behind this story embedded a live camera feed for a temporary camera placement, resulting in the admin screen when the paper’s personnel moved the camera.

Instead, let’s talk a bit about the media player and what you should check if you were to test it.

That it plays the video or live feed, given.

But it’s a richer application than that, isn’t it?  You’ve got to look at it that way, too.  What happens if you enter too long of a string into a text box?  On the unmonitored chat application, the say/nickname handles are bounded.  But on the Embed This Feed panel, the height and width ones are not.  In case you’re wondering, this is how Flash or at least this application renders infinity:

To infinity....and somewhere before it.
Click for full size

Here’s that resulting embed code:

<script src=”” type=”text/javascript”></script>


Now, the application didn’t break, but it did spit out garbage.  Come to think of it, it has spit out a handy place to test another way to put garbage into the system: via the embed code itself.  Man, I wish I had been hired to test this thing.  I certainly would ruin a dev team’s Christmas.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, check to make sure that all your applications inputs handle garbage just like you would when you test other applications not written in Flash.

Because it’s a relatively new tool used by relatively unseasoned “developers,” Flash applications offer a wide variety of basic ways to fail.  You, QA, have to show your designers up before the real world does.


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