Archive for April, 2009

In Other Words, You’re Paid In Beer

Thursday, April 30th, 2009 by The Director

I’ve never encountered a compensation package of Opened before this:

You can open your compensation?
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You know, beer might be better than some of the other compensation packages you see listed on Craigslist.

That’s An Interesting User Scenario

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by The Director

Lowe’s has some interesting user scenario action attached to its e-mail campaigns.  I cannot imagine they thought that this path would actually increase conversion rates.

  1. Offer a free dump trailer image in the e-mail:

    Free dump trailer!  I don't know what it is, but it's free, so I want it.
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  2. Clicking it takes you to a store locator page, where you enter your ZIP code to find a store near you:

    Find your store.
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  3. Pick your local store from the table listed:

    Step 3: ?
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  4. Now, show the user a page to guide them through Lowe’s Web site.  Not what the user clicked in an e-mail.

    Profit!  Or abandoned sessions, which are more efficient and less processor-intensive than actual user sessions.
    Click for full size

I think it matches the Lowe’s Web site and business model, where you can’t order it online if it’s not available from the store you selected. Even if the store two miles further has it.

But, hey, who am I to tell you how to run a Web site or business?  I am QA: I am only here to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

It Seemed So Clever

Friday, April 24th, 2009 by The Director

Thomas Construction offers a $75 gas cards to people on a direct mail list.  Users can visit a Web site to sign up for the program, and the URL for the site uses the name on the direct mailing as a subdomain instead of as a querystring parameter.

For example, B– here gets his information prepopulated:

B works.
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Now, if you go to the www subdomain, you are recognized as a guest:

I am a guest.
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Now, you know what the first thing I would check and one thing that nobody else would check at Thomas’s interactive agency, don’t you?

(more…) Takes Wrong Turn At Albuquerque

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 by The Director

If you’re looking for a home in Hubertus, Wisconsin (and who isn’t?), a good piece of advice: Richfield is the next town over from it.

Because seems to think it’s on a different continent:

Where in the world is Richfield, Carmen?
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Here, let Google give you the path to take on your brisk, 6134 mile walk:

View Larger Map

A Metaphor For Modern Development

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 by The Director

Nailing Jello to a wall.

If that doesn’t sound like giving your ill-informed customers what they want something after filtering the project through your uncomprehending customer engagement people and your development team’s insurmountable, unearned ego, I don’t know what is.

(Link seen on neo-neocon.)

One Missing Factor in Test Estimation

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 by The Director

Quick Testing Tips provides a handy list of factors you want to take into account when creating estimates.

The author leaves out one critical piece of the testing process, the biggest Sigma Eta Tau Phi (to use the QAic notation) that will ultimately determine the amount of time you need to spend in any test cycle completing a set number of tests on an application: the number of defects you find.

It’s very easy based on past experience to know how long it will take to perform certain operations and to write pass or fail in your Excel spreadsheet. However, encountering the bugs, backing up one, two, or three test conditions to recreate and confirm the existence of the bugs, and then creating a detailed defect report in the inexpensive, open source (and hence buggy) piece of .Net your organization installed could take the jackal’s share of the time. Also, much of the insect’s share.

That’s why I hate estimation, and try to give a range when estimating. Six Web pages with one form? Eight hours to infinity!

If you work with the same team doing the same kinds of work, I guess experience can help you dial into some scientific numbers. However, employee turnover, new technologies (read: unproven things your developers are learning on the fly), and differences in the applications or projects adds too much variation for me to make comfortable predictions.

You can’t have science without proper experiments, and IT development is all experiment group, no control group.

Kipling on QA

Monday, April 20th, 2009 by The Director

Just replace QA for Man in the end, and I think he got it right:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

His litany sounds quite like every development organization I’ve worked with.

All Wet From Watermarks

Thursday, April 16th, 2009 by The Director

Dave H. sends a link to a press release from mPacts (which is different from the planet Kevin Spacey is from, but I am not sure how).  The link contains an, erm, special feature at the end:

This PDF shows its pedigree.
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Dave says:

It’s always frustrating to me when I see someone in the software ‘business’ comes across as not being license-compliant.  When it’s this obvious and out in the open for anyone with a careful eye to discover, I believe it is an issue that is beyond the people that did the proofreading.

Dave is an optimist, or perhaps a fantasist, who believes  in the mythical creatures called proofreaders.  They stand about eight inches tall, have dragonfly wings, and carry little red pen wands, or so I hear.

No doubt the marketing team put this document out there on its own, and your marketing team is probably dumber than a sack full of developers.  You in QA should get a look at the documents your company puts out whenever possible, assuming the roles of proofreaders and watching out for the standard PDF goofs (non-supported characters showing up, document properties revealing too much, and so on).

You also have to look for watermarks like this one throughout the sites and applications you develop.  It’s not just PDF files created with unlicensed software; watermarks can show up in stock photographs, in comments, or other bits of content created with third-party applications.

It shouldn’t be beyond the responsibility of anyone looking at the document to notice stuff like this or to flag it as a problem.  You need to educate your company as best you can, given your coworkers’ inherent limitations as not QA, to keep them from embarrassing the company and, by extension, you.

Converting Potential Customers – Into Someone Else’s Customers

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 by The Director

How do you convert committed customers into abandoned shopping carts?  Let Stark Brothers Nurseries show you.

First, you get someone who starts loading the shopping cart with plants and landscaping goods:

A shopping cart.
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This is for illustration only; if you were a real customer getting ready for spring planting, you might have spent a half an hour choosing different plants and supplies so that your cart contained a dozen items and $200 worth of merchandise.  I did.

Now, click the Checkout button.

A login screen displays:

A login screen, and a fresh start.
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Notice anything?  In the upper corner, the shopping cart is empty!

On the plus side, the interactivity separates the committed customer from the customer who tries and tries again and should be committed.


A Clockwork QA

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 by The Director

This week’s special QA project: to encourage the whole QA team to speak in the nadsat lingo from A Clockwork Orange.  For example, when asked in a status meeting for a report on the testing effort on the latest build delivered eight days late in a two-week testing cycle, you would say:

My droogs and me viddied your bolshy application and vareeted some dobby teecees for it.  We skorry sure tolchocked it real horrorshow.  When Sluggo clopped the edit okh, the bolny enporp crarked and we guffed until our glossies platched.  Total, we ochobed treedwa pecks,  all ceb.  Tomorrow, we will smot the old enter ord okh and razrez it oozhassny.

Here’s a NADSAT glossary for you to study, or you could viddy the book:

Most people won’t know what you’re talking about, but most of the time they don’t listen to or hear QA anyway. But there will be one person who does. And that person will be very disturbed.

* Recommended for American QA mirth only. Not recommended for use in Great Britain, where everyone will just assume you’re just a chav.

An Ad Whose Time Has Come. And Gone.

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 by The Director

This week, a banner ad asked which candidate I would vote for:

Which candidate would I vote for in the past?
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For an election that took place 5 months ago.

No doubt a part of a plan to get me to click through so I could snicker at the buffoons who were running the ad so late.  No dice, fellows.  I can effectively mock from here.

When The Cloud Turns Stormy

Monday, April 13th, 2009 by The Director

StrangeMojo illustrates a hazard of relying on third party content on your site:

It appears the culprit was a hacked “creative” coming in from IDG’s advertising network which reps for StorageMojo. I looked at the source and found no way to determine that.

So how does a “creative” get hacked? Are ad agencies being infiltrated by hackers? Did some idiot download a cute graphic and paste into a layout?

I’ve made fun of sites that import JavaScript errors with their advertisements or (elsewhere) free site counters that come with pop under ads. This time, though, Google was flagging a site as an actual security risk for content it was merely including.

Keep this danger in mind when your site relies on outside content: you are at the mercy of that outside content. Or template. Or Web application.

(Thanks to gimlet for the link.)

That’s a Punchline

Thursday, April 9th, 2009 by The Director

A developer asks “Who is an average developer?” and asserts:

My sense is that all coders are improving by leaps and bounds each year.


Learning new languages, technologies, and frameworks in which to develop buggy software isn’t improvement; it’s diversification of mediocrity.

Typo, or Prophecy?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 by The Director

From the Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword Civilopedia early in 2008:

Civopedia mentions Baracks in 2008
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I’ve never really read the Civilopedia before, but since it apparently picked the next (now current) president, I’m going to really delve into it looking for lottery ticket numbers and whatnot.

I’m pleased to report, though, that gameplay continues after 2012, even if you’re playing a Mayan civilization.

Cover of the Year

Monday, April 6th, 2009 by The Director

This month’s Software Testing and Performance magazine features a cover that each of you should tack to your cubicle walls:

A career of evil, indeed.

Although it’s not on the original proper QA playlist list, you bet your bippy (and since it’s a safe bet, you can bet your wife’s bippy and she’ll never know) that I played the Blue Oyster Cult’s “Career of Evil” a time or two at high volume.

For you kids who confuse Blue Oyster Cult with the bar from Police Academy, here’s the song:

You don’t even have to buy the CD to listen to it.  But you should.

Get That Web Site A Coke Banner, Quickly!

Monday, April 6th, 2009 by The Director

I guess ComputerWorld is thirsty here:

I'd like to teach the JavaScript to work in perfect harmony.
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In this portion of the United States, we call it a SodaAd, and in my homeland of Wisconsin, they call it a CokeAd.


&ed Up Links

Friday, April 3rd, 2009 by The Director

How many times does this happen to you?

  1. You test a Web site and find links that include & in the href in places where the querystring contains parameters.
  2. You log a defect to that effect, saying that the links are problematic.
  3. Some developer/designer looks at the defect and responds, “& is the way the ampersand is encoded in HTML.  This is not a problem.  Silly QA person with no technical knowledge!  Get me a Red Bull from the refrigerator.”

It happens in e-mails, it happens in Web sites, it happens in the dreams we have when we finally fall into a fitful sleep about 4am after worrying about how the company is going bust because it relies on developers who spread hubris on their crackers and think they’re fancy.

Listen up, children: Ampersands encoded in text in a Web site are okay, but ampersands encoded in links do not work.  Observe: fails. works.

Now, what is the difference within this?  Ah, yes, the harmlessly encoded ampersands that the developers and designers will tell the cute little QA staff, ignorant in the mysteries of technology that the acolyte developers gleaned through divine four-year university Comp Sci degree revelations.

When parameters determine the content that displays, it’s easy to demonstrate because the page fails.  But if your ampersanded parameters only tack on market segmentation or user tracking information, it won’t fail on content load, but your application is still failing.

Fix it, and fix it now.

Ministry of Messages Worded Sillily

Friday, April 3rd, 2009 by The Director

The new MSN IM client features the following message when you start an IM conversation:

I thought that this was the point.
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The conversation can be seen at more than one place?  Unlike previous versions, which did not display on a recipient’s computer and MSN IM instead used an Eliza-like algorithm to fake up responses to your queries.

No, I know, it’s to let you know that you are logged into the service on multiple PCs (a good feature to have if you happen to be logged into more than one PC at a given time, like, I don’t know, a software tester in a lab).  But the text itself doesn’t indicate that.  It just says that more than one place sees the words you type.  Like it’s supposed to.

Misanthropic QA Staff Good For Teams

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 by The Director

That’s what I take away from the summary of this study, anyway:

Nobody wants to share a cubicle with a new hire like Dwight Schrute. The beet-farming volunteer sheriff’s deputy/paper salesman creates many awkward moments because of his differences with co-workers on NBC’s “The Office.”

But according to new research co-authored by a Brigham Young University business professor, better decisions come from teams that include a “socially distinct newcomer.” That’s psychology-speak for someone who is different enough to bump other team members out of their comfort zones.

Researchers noticed this effect after conducting a traditional group problem-solving experiment. The twist was that a newcomer was added to each group about five minutes into their deliberations. And when the newcomer was a social outsider, teams were more likely to solve the problem successfully.

The research is published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

“One of the most-cited benefits of diversity is the infusion of new ideas and perspectives,” said study co-author Katie Liljenquist, assistant professor of organizational leadership at BYU’s Marriott School of Management. “And while that very often is true, we found the mere presence of a newcomer who is socially distinct can really shake up the group dynamic. That leads to discomfort, but also to a better process that ultimately yields superior outcomes.”

But I guess you find the patterns you’re seeking.

(Link seen on


Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 by The Director

Someone was probably playing in a WYSIWYG editor to come up with this Monstrosity:

 This job listing was struck down in a fail of bullets.
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It looks all right in IE, which means two things: 1, that IE is more forgiving of extraneous <span> tags, and 2, whomever built this page looked at it in IE but not in Firefox/Safari/Opera/Anything Else.

Ha!  Just kidding.  #2 is not necessarily true.  It’s entirely possible no one looked at it before posting.

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