Archive for June, 2009

HTML E-mail Comparison

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 by The Director

Email-standards.org offers a handy comparison of how different e-mail clients handle HTML e-mails.

Still, you should check on your own, but this would be a handy thing to pass to your designers just in case they are trainable.

Ciceroan Outburst Of The Day

Monday, June 29th, 2009 by The Director

Here’s a good bit of exclamation from The Orator to include in your next project kickoff meeting:

 “What can I say or wish, when all I wish for is ruined by your villainy?”

Bonus QA style points if you can get a project manager to shout that at you.

(An alternate translation, “What shall I say, what wishes dare I form, when your base actions frustrate all my prayers;” appears here, but I like the one which includes the word villainy better.)

The Product Launch Meeting: A Metaphor

Monday, June 29th, 2009 by The Director

Hey, it’s Monday, so let me remind you about the product launch meeting we’ve all attended, where we come with a laundry list of critical issues that should call for a delay but where the project management and customer account people are hellbent upon delivering a faulty product on time because they don’t expect the customer to try something basic which will crash the system.

Those product launch meetings are something like this, are they not?

And That Word Is Risk Compensation

Friday, June 26th, 2009 by The Director

A recent reader writes about his experience as new QA where none was before:

It seems like the longer the developers rely on me as their only real dedicated tester, the lazier they get.

Engine Developer: Now makes changes that impact every single portion of the program as if it’s nothing, then asks me to “TEST EVERYTHING!”
Web Front-End Developer: Routinely forgets to verify changes made across all of our supported browsers, introducing simple bugs he’d notice if he actually tested across all five that we support.
Java Developer: Changes the Java Web Start launch routine, and fails to test his change and notice that he broke it right before going on vacation.

That’s called risk compensation.  It also explains why, although cars are getting safer with stasis fields and whatnot, people still die within them.  They factor in the safety of having them, and then drive faster while drinking Red Bull, vodka, and whiskey (or whisky if you’re driving on the left side of the road).

When a bunch of developers who never had QA suddenly get a tester, they throw off the shackles of whatever sort of unit testing, compatibility testing, or feature testing they had done and just leave it to the poor besieged new guy.  This approach, of course, means that this guy is doing part of the developers’ work in addition to SQA as it should be, and it also means that more crap will get through the net than would have if the developers had spent a minimum of time making sure that their work didn’t fail the most basic checks.

But I understand it takes a lot of developer brain cycles to RT a bon mot from another developer.

On Cutesy Error Pages

Friday, June 26th, 2009 by The Director

Presenting the cutesy tr.im Fail Banana:

It's not a fail banana, it's an error page
Click for full size

Coupled with the Twitter Fail Whale, these things make error pages cutesy.  These little mascots remove the shame from their display, and personally, I am against it.  Because you should feel bad when you see them, you should feel anger against the service provider who is letting you down.  Where is the rage against a banana or a whale?  It makes one sound petty.

Also, a little side note to the tr.im staff: You do not put a comma in a compound predicate with only two parts.  Well, you do, but that’s because you’re wrong.

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by The Director

So an Indian CEO says that American IT grads are lazy and untrainable:

They’re far less inclined than students from developing countries like India, China, Brazil, South Africa, and Ireland to spend their time learning the “boring” details of tech process, methodology, and tools–ITIL, Six Sigma, and the like. … [So] most Americans are just too expensive to train.

Meanwhile, commenters here talk about the inferiority of code from overseas:

On the other hand multiple software developers have told me the horrors of outsourced code development in India- so many bugs and headaches that it’s probably just as cheap to develop the software in house.

And:

I worked for a company that owned an offshore development group for which we resold services. We started using them for internal maintenance tasks, (i.e. not innovation, etc) and the quality of the work product was so poor we ended up taking that activity back. And this organization was CMM Level 5 certified!

I have yet to see a significant improvement in IT from ITIL, CMM, Six Sigma, etc. If you want lots of documentation they’re great, but improving quality and productivity? maybe not so much.

There’s a maxim somewhere in that about maybe all developers suck, but I can’t make anything pithy enough for my satisfaction to conclude this post.

(Link seen here.)

Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by The Director

An unfortunate truncation based on pixel width:

You can't touch this.
Click for full size

I cannot tell if the warnings are to the state about the MC or to the MC about the state.

You Do Not Follow Shopping Cart Rules, You Must Be Punished

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 by The Director

Apparently the online store for a-ha has an unwritten rule for the download of the new album.

You go to the product page and add 1 item to the cart because 1 is the only choice in the drop-down list:

 a-ha is the best Norwegian band ever.  Out of 3, I think.
Click for full size

So 1 is the only choice.  Does it say that’s a rule?  No.  But you might discover, it is.

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Spotting Security Vulnerabilities In Code

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 by The Director

eWeek has a slideshow quiz for you to test how well you can spot security vulnerabilities in code.

It’s a bit technical for some QA people, but if you’re going to sit through a code review (I did.  Once.  And then code reviews were abandoned), these are the sorts of things you need to look for.  Because every crazy test you would perform on a text box, you should demand they perform on each and every variable passed into a method.  Werd.

Pays In Exclamation Points

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 by The Director

Off topic, but here’s an ad on Craigslist for a Technical Writer:

Maybe those are supposed to be 1s, but the caps lock key is on.
Click for full size

That many exclamation points might indicate:

  • The bar for writing excellence at this employer is very low.
  • There is a slight danger the subject matter experts will add exclamation points to manuals.

Personally, that many exclamation points in three sentences makes my teeth hurt, and the only remedy I have is to read the sentence in a Waynesworldian fashion, substituting NOT! for each exclamation point:

We are looking for a Tech Writer to join our team-NOT!

One E-mail’s Tragic Odessey

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 by The Director

The people who bring you the latest St. Louis Honda e-mail show you how badly you can do an e-mail.  I found it in my junk mail, for starters.

For seconds, they put the alt/title attribute for the header image to “Please enable graphics”:

I don't think that will do what you want it to do
Click for full size

I get what they’re trying to do.  If you have images disabled, that text would display telling you to enable image display.  Which is all well and good, but:

  • The e-mail client is already prominently asking if you want to see the images, including a link or button to display them.
  • My e-mail clients block out the alt text, too, so I wouldn’t see that when the images didn’t display.
  • The text will make no sense to a person listening to a screen reader.

Even worse:

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Ad Compression: You’re Doing It Wrong

Sunday, June 21st, 2009 by The Director

I spotted this jpg banner ad in the wild:

That's an interesting effect filter.
Click for full size

Either the interactive agency just phoned it in on creating a jpg equivalent for a Flash ad (although Flash enabled ads successfully rotated into the spot), or:

The ad rotating company helped out.

The interactive agency probably shared the image files with the client, and no client would have accepted that.  Or should have.  But if they sent it to the ad company, and the file was 10k too big, so someone decided to rush it and just compress it a little more….

I have seen this or similar things happen.  When you deal with a third party delivery system, be it e-mail or banner ads, you need to review the final product of those companies’ tinkering to ensure they’re not screwing it up.  Because they certainly can, and their QA processes are probably more lax than the interactive agency QA.

By the way, allow me to say it again: interactive agency QA.  Because on the Google search for the term, QAHY comes in behind expired job postings for the term, and I think anyone looking for interactive agency QA could learn more by reading this blog than the Craigslist expired page.  Hey, and if someone wanted to engage some experienced help, it’s TheDirector at this domain.

SQA Training Whitepaper

Friday, June 19th, 2009 by The Director

Many people ask me how I can take someone with little or no testing experience, although someone with some knowledge of computers and an eye for detail that they could have gotten while sewing, working in the printing industry, or just braying at every little mistake someone else makes, and turn that person into a Director kind of tester.

I’d like to say it’s just a gift, but to be honest, I had a little help in my youth from a seminal whitepaper in SQA training, available online here as PDF or here as HTML (no registration required).

At the end of the training, a trainee can do as I do (although not as well).  And all of them have my face.

Making the Profit on the Back End

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by The Director

Joe Strazzere quaffs a tall Starbugs:

For a couple of days in May, coffee giant Starbucks ended up double charging about 1 million of their U.S. and Canadian customers.

  • More than 1 million transactions at 7,000 Starbucks locations on May 22 and May 23 were double billed
  • The one-million Starbuck transactions involved both credit and debit cards
  • The POS charges—and the receipts given to customers—were perfectly in order. The problems kicked in hours later, in the settlement processing area
  • Starbucks has declined to say how the glitch happened
  • Starbucks has declined to say how they plan to prevent it from happening again
  • Starbucks says they’ve had some customers call whose accounts were not fixed
  • Any customers with questions should contact the company’s customer relations hotline at 1-800-23-LATTE.

It’s best you not think how precursorily most monetary transactions are tested between the commerce system and the clearinghouse.  I’ve delved into this on occasion, and the process of making that particular sausage doesn’t bother me, but the high number of rat hairs that are acceptable does.

Maybe We Could Gopher Some Ads, Too

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by The Director

Isarian sends along this failure on Wired.com:

Open an FTP connection to the ad server.
Click for full size

Looks as though Sam G might have mistakenly expected us to enter FTP credentials to view the banner ad in the upper right corner.  I have an idea: how about no?

 

Now In The QAHY Store

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 by The Director

The project manager’s wall clock:

Not actual size

You did know there’s a whole set of QAHY swag, right?

Things That Gave Me Nightmares

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 by The Director

This is the sort of thing that gave me nightmares when I was in interactive marketing: minor e-mail glitches that occur only in certain browser/site combinations.

Take, for example, the latest Nintendo e-mail.  When received in a Hotmail box and viewed in IE, it looks like this:

This is how it's supposed to look
Click for full size

That’s how it’s supposed to look.  However.

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Word to Insert In Status Update

Monday, June 15th, 2009 by The Director

This word goes well in any estimation or early appraisal stages of the software development lifecycle, but you could use it anywhere:

floccinaucinihilipilification: (n) the estimation of something as valueless.

Plus it sounds worse than it means.

Here, Let Me Hold That For You

Thursday, June 11th, 2009 by The Director

Remember, gentle reader, your Web application should be gentle when prompting the user to download things.  It should not fail if the user lacks a plugin, and it should not expect the user to download some esoteric bit that your developers think is cool this week.

It should probably not also ask the user to store bits of it locally like this:

Local storage?
Click for full size

I mean, seriously.  Look at what you’re asking.  You want me to use my system resources to hold your data.  How about, no?

When Your Error Page Looks Erroneous

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 by The Director

Found, in the wild, a computer-savvy person who thinks Google’s error page is broken.

In reality, Google’s error page repeats its message in a variety of languages, but the user does not have the language packs installed, so the browser represents it as a series of boxes.

Keep in mind, we’re not talking about Roberta here.  This is a fellow well acquainted with computers.  And a thoughtless Error page design makes him think there’s something wrong beyond what is.

Draw your own lessons from it.


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