Archive for December, 2011

Just When You Think You’ve Tried All The Date/Time Test Cases

Thursday, December 29th, 2011 by The Director

The real world intercedes with something that would never happen in the real world:

THERE is no today in Samoa.

The tiny nation will jump forward in time as it crossed westward over the international dateline to align itself with its main trading partners throughout the region.

At the stroke of midnight on December 29, the time in Samoa will leap forward to December 31 – New Year’s Eve. For Samoa’s 186,000 citizens, Friday, December 30, 2011, will simply cease to exist.

I wonder how many automated processes melted down. Or are still going to melt down.

Remember to test all of your future applications that allow you to select a birthdate and country or a start/end date and country that this particular rule should exist.

Oh, man oh man, I can’t wait to log my first defect and start my first fight over it.

(Courtesy Trisherino.)

An Oversight That Never Goes Out Of Style

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 by The Director

Ah, the old “insecure images on a secure Web page error”:

It's like a classic songbook standard of Web site errors

That one is classic. And ongoing on oh so many sites that try to use their insecure templates on their secured Web pages.

Is Your Application-User Interaction Like Bad Customer Support?

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 by The Director

Penny Arcade today has a long chain of emails that transpire when a customer is disappointed with an arcade controller’s long delivery time and the eventual tone of the distributor when responding to his concerned emails over the course of two months. A taste:

From: Dave
To: Ocean Marketing
Dec 26, 2011, at 9:47 AM

I noticed the updated info on the webpage, and I don’t understand why there is absolutely no benefit given to those like me who have already ordered, and paid their money. You’ve had my money interest free for nearly two months, yet now ANY new order will get $10 off….meaning I should just cancel my order for 2 controllers, get my money back, then re-order.

My other questions is regarding item compatibility. Ocean Marketing seems to be involved with the Xtendplay controller holder, so I was wondering if the Avenger N-Controller can be used in conjunction with the Xtendplay (for both Xbox and PS3)? Thanks

From: Ocean Marketing
To: Dave
Dec 26, 2011 10:14 AM

Yes it can be used with xtend play if you remove the stand and no one is allowed to cancel and re order if we catch anyone doing it we will simply just cancel your order all together and you can buy it retail somewhere else.

Things happen in manufacturing if your unhappy you have 7 days from the day your item ships for a refund. You placed a pre order just like any software title the gets a date moved due to the tweaks and bugs not being worked out and GameStop or any other place holds your cash and im sure you don’t complain to activision or epic games so put on your big boy hat and wait it out like everyone else. The benefit is a token of our appreaciation for everyone no one is special including you or any first time buyer . Feel free to cancel we need the units were back ordered 11,000 units so your 2 will be gone fast. Maybe I’ll put them on eBay for 150.00 myself. Have a good day Dan.

When JasonS. alerted me to this story, I immediately thought about how I see similar attitudes when dealing with software releases and excuses for not fixing defects.

I mean, you get the normal arrogance of developers combined with a risk-to-punishment reasoning that says, “If the bug just happens to one person, it’s cool. Or at least it’s not a problem worth worrying about.”

Unless, of course, it’s a vocal user who then speaks up about problems he or she has and that others probably encounter. Then the value of your application drops in all users’ eyes as the Internet clogs with stories of YourApplicationSucks.com.

Your application and its interface are customer service and support. Think about the worst phone tree you endured to make something right or the worst bunch of “dropped” calls and runarounds you got that didn’t make something right. Is that your application in your users’ eyes?

QA Music: Epoch

Monday, December 26th, 2011 by The Director

I’ve done Faith No More’s “Epic”, so here’s Narrow Heart’s “Epoch”:

Kid punk bands are so cute, thinking that the twenty-two years of their lifetimes comprise any sort of long-time noun.

Everybody Use Lower Case From Now On

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 by The Director

Story: Hold those caps: The average web page is now almost 1MB:

Mobile broadband caps might not be putting the hurt on most mobile subscribers yet, but data usage is going to keep creeping up. And that’s without people doing any more actual browsing.

The HTTP Archive charted the growth of the average web page and found that average web pages have grown from 726 KB a year ago to 965 KB now. The 33 percent jump is due in large part to more images and third-party scripts like ads and analytics. Javascript content, spurred on by the rise of HTML5, has grown over the last year by 44.7 percent, according to analysis by Royal Pingdom.

I remember when 1Mb hard drives cost $1000, you damn kids. Before you were born.

But it does clarify an interesting point: The time your Web page takes to load isn’t the only metric you should check when you’re performance testing your mobile applications or even your regular Web site if you expect mobile users will access it.

Although your leadership might say, That’s okay, we’re not designing for mobile users, if your bloated Web site is chewing up their allocated bandwidth, they’re going to find someone more streamlined.

(Link via Tweet retweeted by Fred Beringer.)

Internet to Crash on February 5, 2012

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 by The Director

Frankly, I think this is what the Mayans were talking about: NFL playoffs, Super Bowl to be streamed online:

Football’s big game is coming to the small screen.

For the first time ever the Super Bowl, along with some postseason NFL games, will be streamed online and through the league’s mobile apps, the NFL and partner Verizon Wireless announced Tuesday.

Good luck with that.

So what’s going to happen to your sites and applications when third party Internet calls start timing out because the whole Internet is going to be running at half speed?

Things That Make Me Want to Hide in Bed and Pull My Bluetooth-Enabled Blanket Over My Head

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 by The Director

IBM promises, in an ad:

A car fueled by software

There’s a lot of sugar in the gas tank if your car is fueled by software:

Car manufacturer Jaguar has had to recall nearly 18,000 of its X-Type cars after a serious software bug has been identified in the on-board system of the vehicle. The bug potentially stops a driver from turning off the cruise control system, which is more than a little dangerous.

Yeah, I know it’s an old story, but it took me a couple months after seeing the story to see again the advertisement it reminded me of.

Now, here’s this: Now Every Company Is A Software Company:

Ford sells computers-on-wheels. McKinsey hawks consulting-in-a-box. FedEx boasts a developer skunkworks. The era of separating traditional industries and technology industries is over—and those who fail to adapt right now will soon find themselves obsolete.

On one hand, hey, job opportunities if every company is a good software company and hires some QA people. On the other hand, the whole world is going to become even more buggy than it is now.

Management Lessons from Attila the Hun

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 by The Director

If you’re looking to improve your management chops, emphasis on the chops, you can take some lessons from one of the legendary leaders of history: Attila the Hun.

I recently completed Attila: King of the Huns: The Man and the Myth, and that book offers these lessons from the reign of the warrior-king:

  • Build a team of diverse talents.

    As a ruler, Attila was an originator, in some respects a revolutionary. He clearly perceived that if the Huns were to become a great power, as he intended them to be, they must learn from other more advanced peoples. His own intimate circle of advisers, in consequence, consisted largely of foreigners.

    If you hire and promote only people who’ve worked in your business line or only in your particular methodology, you’re going to be bound to only insights and knowledge of those. If you hire from outside them, though, the foreigners might teach you something about what you’re doing that someone of your tribe would not innovate.
     

  • Let the farmers farm.

    When the Huns occupied a new territory large numbers of people fled before them, but the numbers of those who remained were larger still. Many of those who stayed were agriculturalists, and the Huns not only allowed them to continue to till the land, but encouraged them to do so.

    When you take on a new assignment or position, some turnover might occur as people leave to follow their mentors or because they feel that they, not you, should be the barbarian king of the tribe. Accept that. Those who stay have a lot of experience in the field. Don’t immediately overturn everything they do to conform to your new methods which might be informed and learned, but might not apply. Let those workers show you how they do things, and you can learn from them and, if appropriate, gradually increase the taxes introduce your improvements. Otherwise, more will fly, and you’ll lost a lot of knowledge with them.
     

  • Avoid the trappings of the title.

    ‘While sumptuous food, served on silver plates,’ he [Priscus] wrote, ‘had been prepared for the other barbarians and for us, for Attila there was nothing but meat on a wooden platter. He showed himself temperate in all other ways, too, for gold and silver goblets were offered to the men at the feast, but his mug was of wood.’

    In dress and general appearance also Attila was noticeably different from the others present. ‘His dress was plain, having care for nothing other than to be clean, nor was the sword by his side, nor the clasps of his barbarian boots, nor the bridle of his horse, like those of the Scythians, adorned with gold or gems or anything of high price.’

    If you’re too busy showing everyone you’re the leader, you’re not leading, you’re pillaging. Back when I was an actual Director of Quality and not merely a Director Emeritus, I had my cards say simply, “Quality Assurance.” Because my title wasn’t important, what I did was important. Plus, you get the respect of the blue collar grunts if you do like they do and live like they do. Or at least you get my respect.
     

  • Break something early.

    The wholesale destruction of a major town early in a campaign was a strategy adopted by Attila in both France and Germany. Metz recovered to become a city of importance. Aquileia did not. But the news of what happened in both places spread, as it was no doubt intended to, and the rulers of other cities duly took note.

    This is not to say you break the process or the methodology early, as I have advised against that above. However, every posting comes with some sort of deliverable, and the sooner after you take your position that you can create absolute havoc with it, the more the developers and other team members will listen to you when you explain how to avoid that in the future. Or maybe they’ll just fear you’ll do it to them, so they’ll be more careful. Either way, making that splash early can really ramp up your influence.
     

  • You don’t need a long contract or employment to make a lasting impression.
     

    Attila was sole King of the Huns for a mere eight years. In that short time the impact he made on his contemporaries was extraordinary. Much of this was due to his conquests. Eight years was a short period in which to hold both the Eastern and Western Empires to ransom with the threat of capturing and destroying both Constantinople and Rome, in addition to overrunning much of Germany and France.

    If you’re audacious and capable enough, you can make a lasting impression on an organization, its product, and its quality that will last long after you’re sacked for drinking kumis on the job on your third day. At the very least, they’ll remember the fermented mare’s milk.

QA Music: The Annual Wish List

Monday, December 19th, 2011 by The Director

Stan Freberg, “Nuttin’ for Christmas”:

And for today’s testing exercise: Is QA more like the poet-narrator of the song or more like the snitch?

The Game Within The Game

Friday, December 16th, 2011 by The Director

So I was playing Rampage World Tour on the PlayStation 2 because I am 15 years behind in my gaming.

I'll get a Wii in 2023.

After destroying 99% of the first city (what, I missed some part up to 1%?), I got an error:

There are other lockup errors to find?  SWEET!

What? There are other lockup errors one can find? I’ll have to try them to collect them all!

While I do that, join me in recasting the lyrics to this song to fit the occasion. Consider it your Friday software testing exercise:

Number 9 of 8

Thursday, December 15th, 2011 by The Director

Here’s a good post on problems with estimates: 8 Reasons Why the Estimates Are Too Low.

To which I add number 9:

  1. Building the estimate based on the deadline or budget.
     
    Starting with the client’s budget or required go-live date, the estimate is put together to reflect how that number of hours or days will be spent. The estimate is not, therefore, based on any earnest guess at actual effort on the tasks at hand.

We’ve all been in on one of those projects.

(Link seen via tweet.)

Don’t Base Your Compatibility Matrix On A Press Release

Thursday, December 15th, 2011 by The Director

You see the parades outside your window right now? That’s the whole Web development world spontaneously reacting to the news that Microsoft is going to automatically background update Internet Explorer:

Microsoft today said it will silently upgrade Internet Explorer (IE) starting next month, arguing that taking the responsibility out of the hands of users will keep the Web safer.

That will take it out of the hands of the consumer and end user. But the enterprise users? Not so much:

Microsoft’s scheme differs from either Mozilla’s or Google’s, however, in that the company will let enterprises retain control of upgrades.

This means that all those corporate networks who are still running 10-year-old applications custom-crafted to work with IE 6 will still keep their desktops running IE 6, and all their employees who browse from work will still use IE 6 to visit your sites.

Further:

Nor will it force updates on consumers who have already declined earlier offers to abandon an older IE.

So people who have explicitly opted out of upgrading that one time several years ago when they didn’t read what they were clicking, they won’t get the upgrade, either.

And Roberta, out there surfing the Internet on a machine that does not support the new gimcracks and gee-gaws like IE 9? She’ll still be tooling along on IE 6.

So, ultimately, what does it mean? Well, it means Microsoft got into the news again. Good job, PR staff!

It also means you need to explore whether you need to install one of the toolkits to block the automated updates on your test machines to ensure you continue to have backward compatibility to test the sites until such time as those IE usage numbers really start to fall off. (You can find them here: 7, 8, 9.)

Don’t base your test strategies and your compatibility matrices on press releases or Microsoft blog posts.

Are You the Eight Million Dollar Project or the Twenty Dollar Fan?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 by The Director

I received this joke in an email from a client:

Cost Effective Engineering Solution

A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Small variations in the environment (which can not be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down to the supermarket don’t get angry and buy another product instead.

Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project, in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem, as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra effort.

The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution – on time, on budget, high quality and everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box would weigh less than it should. The line would stop, and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing another button when done to re-start the line.

A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share. “That’s some money well spent!” he says, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report.

It turns out, the number of defects picked up by the scales was 0 after three weeks of production use. It should have been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren’t picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

Puzzled, the CEO travels down to the factory, and walks up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed. A few feet before the scale, there was a $20 desk fan, blowing the empty boxes off of the belt and into a trash bin.

“Oh, that,” says one of the workers “one of the guys put it there ’cause he was tired of having to walk over every time the bell rang”!!

I’ve also received that question in job interview/sales pitch situations. Well, not phrased exactly like that: the question is usually, “What is the first thing you’ll look at to improve our quality?” And the answer is always along the lines of, “It depends what you’re doing now.”

The person who asks that question often wants a silver bullet answer, some glib response that encapsulates how to improve their quality and process with an elevator pitch. And, in many cases, they get an elevator pitch selling some particular process or methodology that might or might not deliver a significant improvement but will most certainly come at some cost.

You’ll get the biggest leaps in quality, productivity, and process by listening to the people who are doing what you do every day, and maybe you’ll be better off listening to them rather than bringing in outsiders who have a Procrustean process that your organization will fit one way or the other.

Which is just my way for covering my fumbling answer to the question, which is that some small thing will yield vast improvements, but I don’t know what that small thing is yet.

QA Music: About Those Timelines

Monday, December 12th, 2011 by The Director

It’s both a fairy tale of lies, but you still must go Faster, from Within Temptation’s 2011 album The Unforgiving.

Testing Candidates for a Sense of Humor

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011 by The Director

A short video explains how Southwest Airlines tries to determine if candidates for its open positions have a sense of humor:

Having a good drawing-and-quartering sense of humor (gallows humor is too humane for our line of work) will help one survive the software development industry. How important is it to you, and how do you go about finding it in candidates?

(Link seen here.)

Unanticipated, Except For Those Who Anticipate Things

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 by The Director

At a little after 7am this morning, I tweeted:

In about an hour, I’ll be participating in the crowd-sourced load testing of http://Packers.com http://bit.ly/ucICSO Good luck, everyone.

A couple of near-timeouts later and some really, really long load times, and I’m the proud owner of one share of Green Bay Packers stock. It’s fewer shares than I own of the startup where I used to work, but they’re worth about the same.

At any rate, two hours after I tweeted, the first news reports about the slow Web response time appeared:

On Twitter, fans were reporting that the it was difficult to access the website – www.packersowner.com – or the toll-free line: 855-8-GOPACK.

Murphy and other team officials said they anticipated there would be high demand. “Have patience,” Murphy told reporters at a news conference Tuesday morning. “Be patient.”

Who could have expected that this would have occurred? Anyone with dramatic Web launch experience.

UPDATE: More on that great tsunami here:

Sarah Johnson, 34, of Portage said it took her nearly 20 minutes to complete what should have been a 30-second process, but it was worth to wait.

The team received 1,600 orders in the first 11 minutes of the sale, said Packers president Mark Murphy, who had to reassure fans the Packers website was still working. Team spokesman Aaron Popkey said he did not have any sales data as of early Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s just a question of volume,” Murphy said. “Fans are excited about this opportunity. We just encourage fans to be patient.”

150 orders a minute. What, were they running it in development?

I’ve Started To Sit In On Those Interviews

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 by The Director

On the wrong side of the table. Matt Heusser on being in IT over the age of 35:

No, what struck me were the people.

All of the people I met — and I mean all of them — had this sort of early-twenties look to them. Like the characters in Microserfs, these were “firstees”, young adults in the middle of the first things like life: First job out of college, first house, first child, first mini-van.

All of them.

The google t-shirts, while not universal, were ubiquitous; you couldn’t walk twenty feet without running into someone in Google-wear. Conversations about relocation tended to center on corporate housing, which sounded well … something between a good room and an apartment.

Well, I should be careful, here. Every now and again you’d run into someone in his early 30’s, trying to act inconspicuous, perhaps with a beard, glasses, or both.

These were the managers, almost certainly on their first management job.

I mean, these are people who refer to the extra weight you gain in the first six month as the “freshman fifteen.”

With my grey hair and, and, well, senior sixty, I kinda stuck out like a sore thumb.

I’ve sat in on a couple of those interviews, with a resume that stretches back over a decade and that still lists technologies like RoboHelp, WinRunner, and OpenVMS in the furthest reaches of ancient history (the 20th Century? How….quaint).

You know what else the urchins have highlighted? The fact that I have an English and Philosophy degree, and not a modern 21st century computer science degree like they do.

What should someone on the other side of 35 do? Pretty much what Matt says. But I’d like to offer the following additional tips, old man:

  • Stop making allusions to Mel Brooks movies and go find Harold and Kumar films. Suffer through them and make some appropriate quips. It’s for your career, so some sacrifice is in order. Remember: If it’s older than Napoleon Dynamite, you might as well be quoting Spencer Tracy.
     
  • Clash of the Titans and Conan the Barbarian both sucked because those damn kids only know the remakes.
     
  • Pink Floyd? Hardly. Sublime meaning and musical depth to your future bosses comes from Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas. Put some of that on your iTunes, senior. But lie and say they’re on your Spotify list.
     
  • Take your hearing aids out. It’s not like you need to hear the questions since you’re just going to tell them about how you want to get CI experience. They don’t have to know you hope the medical benefits include a cochlear implant.
     
  • Don’t think it’s cool to talk about Dungeons and Dragons. These children have never seen graph paper, even in math class.
     
  • Don’t tell them about your blog. Anything over 140 characters long is boring, square.
     
  • Mention reading anything on paper at your own risk.

…. …., … ….

I SAID, “GOOD LUCK, OLD MAN.”

QA Music: Flying High Again

Monday, December 5th, 2011 by The Director

Who amongst us hasn’t been a bad, bad boy? Ozzy Osbourne with "Flying High Again" from the 1981 album Diary of a Madman.