The Worst I Ever Got Was A Shower Caddy

Other testers recount their experiences with finding themselves in test data found in production:

  • James Bach has a vanity license plate with TESTER on it and got a ticket as a result. Word is that this used to happen a lot with plates with NO PLATE or NONE on them, too, since the cops wrote this on tickets given to those cars and HQ added an extra fine for not having a plate.
  • As an overcorrection, Eusebiu Blindu (aka testalways) found that his hosting provider blocks the keyword test in certain circumstances.

As you can well guess, I insist upon testing in production whenever possible, and when I was working for an interactive agency, I entered the contests as Brian Tester with an e-mail address with the interactive agency’s domain and with the agency’s address. As a result, I, I mean Brian Tester won the consolation prizes in several of the CPG client’s giveaways. This meant coupon packs and the occasional free sample. The biggest prize I ever got was a shower caddy, a piece of plastic you could doublestick-tape to your shower to hold the client’s product bottles and useless for anything else.

Ha, ha!

These amusing anecdotes aside, what can one do to try to prevent this?

  • If possible, remove your test data. If you can delete your test record as part of the test, do it. In many cases, though, you don’t have a delete function or direct access to the database to delete.
  • Standardize your test data for production. Use the same surname or address whenever you test, for example. This provides a key to use to identify and scrub that test data whenever your organization needs to do that test data. You could use your company’s address, for example. If you can’t find a single field you can be sure is 100% unique and that users will not actually input, use a composite built of several fields.
  • Understand where the data goes. A lot of times, other companies and organizations are getting dumps of your application’s data for other purposes, such as contest administration. Even if your team knows to scrub for your data, these other organizations might not. And suddenly, you’re on the top 10 most wanted list, Bob Tester. Sorry.
  • Communicate with data consumers. Once you know where the data is going, you can tell them about the standard form for your test data and warn them to scrub it or handle it.
  • Document your test data. As part of any data schema or spec document that should get passed onto other data consumers, especially the ones about whom you won’t know or with whom you will not communicate, include details about your test data standard. Include it in code comments. Stick that note everywhere as a warning.

Following those steps, if you can, might help prevent the problems that happen when some program takes your test data seriously.

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