Archive for February, 2012

The Visual Marker That Something’s Happening

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 by The Director

Why the Progress Bar Is Lying to You

Frankly, it’s nothing but a visual marker that the computer is doing something and has not failed. So perhaps a spinner is better than a progress bar, although that might lead one to think that the application has broken but the wheel still spins.

This Just In: QA Employees Are The Best Employees Of All

Monday, February 27th, 2012 by The Director

According to Inc. Magazine, they are. The list from the article 8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees:

  1. They ignore job descriptions.

    QA employees are not only testers, but also programmers and systems administrators when they’re working in their labs. Also, they ignore the job descriptions and titles of other employees, particularly the implied prestige therein. I don’t care if you’re the Senior Vice President of Development. If we have a problem, you’re going to help me get it fixed.

  2. They’re eccentric…

    At the very least.

  3. But they know when to dial it back.

    Well, maybe QA employees are not perfect. But we know when to go from actively antagonistic to holding a grudge.

  4. They publicly praise…
  5. And they privately complain.

    Given our job description, these are toggled to some extent. Our jobs are to complain, but it’s important to let the people who do a good job know you know they’re doing a good job. But not publicly. It’s not a show, it’s a sign of respect.

  6. They speak when others won’t.

    That is what we do. Point out the obvious, too, since what’s obvious to someone might be obscure to others who are looking at their phones instead of paying attention.

  7. They like to prove others wrong.

    Heck, yeah.

  8. They’re always fiddling.

    Trying different things, poking, prodding, questioning, violating the laws of physics whenever the software lets us, that is testing.

    Unless this item refers to playing a stringed instrument with a bow while the project goes up in flames, in which case this is more of a project manager quality.

Theoretically, There Are At Least 2048 Test Cases To Check Those Conditions

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 by The Director

Error #2048 implies there are 2047 other errors, doesn’t it?

Love error #2048

Well, unless they’re doing some strange counting in binary, which they well may be.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it now, and I’ll say it again: Error messages are not debugging tools.

Error messages need to convey something useful to the user. This error message does not. A good error message should not only tell a developer what’s wrong, but it should also help a user determine what to do next to fix the error.

The Novel Needs A Patch

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 by The Director

Not my novel John Donnelly’s Gold. (Available for Kindle at 99 cents! Also in paperback!)

Rather, it’s one of the books based on the Mass Effect video games:

The recent release of Mass Effect: Deception, a new novel written by William C. Dietz and published by Del Rey, didn’t sit well with fans.

Upon its release, a lengthy Google document was created outlining many of the book’s errors. BioWare has since acknowledged the issue and is releasing a new version of the book with the errors corrected.

When I was revising my novel for publication, I found such errors as an eight day week, a semiautomatic pistol that changed to a revolver at its next appearance, and one unholy flaw of realism that remained in the book because I couldn’t write around it. And that’s working within the framework of my own creation, not a universe already created, populated, and maintained through a series of preceding video games, novels, and other interactive media.

The Google doc with the error list is awful long.

Which goes to prove: writers need editors, and by extension, developers should not test their own code.

Bank Error in Bank’s Favor

Monday, February 20th, 2012 by The Director

Apparently, Ally Bank software failed to pay interest to CD holders:

We goofed.

That is the message Ally Financial is delivering to some of its customers.

The online lender mistakenly failed in December to credit year-end interest earned by some savers who hold its certificates of deposit. The company also provided these customers with incorrect tax information that didn’t reflect the interest they should have earned.

Uh, oops. This might be the first case of a bank itself doing a Salami attack.

On the other hand, no doubt they made the launch date.

Something to Ponder While The Music Plays

Thursday, February 16th, 2012 by The Director tries to get me to buy a “new” Pink Floyd album–actually, a re-release–with an email full of hidden meanings to ponder as I listen to the album:

Some obscurity in a Pink Floyd marketing material

What does it mean?

I think it means Amazon has joined the ranks of the indolent who don’t really care that much if their email marketing goes out rife with errors.

After all, so many others do. The users will forgive and forget.

You Don’t Let Your Developers Do It, And Here’s Why

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by The Director

You, ungentle QAer, don’t let your developers throw up pages that instruct the user not to close the window or click the back button, right? Of course not. You’re not an amateur.

But here’s a good blog post taking them apart anyway.

It’s Not Just The Wisconsin State Police

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by The Director

Reader Rich M. sends along another possible outcome this February 29:

The 3-0 is coming

I guess that’s one work around.

Maybe We Should Use The Average

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 by The Director

Another broken slideshow, courtesy Popular Mechanics:

The broken slideshow

Note how the top and bottom incrementers don’t match. Also, note the slide is not displaying.

Notice how the comments complain it doesn’t work. You would think that someone would fix it. But there’s budget for doing it, not doing it right.

Slide shows are a bit of a bugger to test because you have to test all the navigational devices, not just one set. And you have to make sure the right thing displays.

Leap Year Reminder

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 by The Director

I draw your attention to this post from January 2009 about another type of test case to consider during leap year.

Not only do you have to accommodate the date of February 29, 2012, but you need to also check any calculations that count the days.

Testing in Production

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 by The Director

The people behind the New York Giants’ Web site were ready. Too ready.

The New York Giants web staff committed a major gaffe on Saturday and may have given the Patriots some bulletin board material for the Super Bowl.

On Saturday, posted an ad on their website declaring the Giants Super Bowl Champions.

The ad also contained a link to buy championship merchandise.

Someone eventually noticed the error and took down the ad.

Unfortunately, it was a prophetic defect.

QA Music: Gimlet Suggests

Monday, February 6th, 2012 by The Director

Poor Gimlet. All the time, he a-send me Scandinavian and German death metal songs hoping to entice me to post them as QA music, and what sticks?

Super Mario Brothers: The 8-Bit Opera

and Conan: The Musical

I can’t help it if Finnish dark metal sounds all the same to me (well, except there are more double-a vowel sounds than American dark metal), but these dang things stick in my head.

Bonus assignment for the week: Explete “Crom!” when your project manager announces something at a stand-up this week.

Pollin’ the Dice, Comin’ Up Snake Eyes

Friday, February 3rd, 2012 by The Director

I hit to check out the local job market action, but instead of letting me go about my bidness, immediately the home page asks me to take a poll wherein I could win a Kindle. All the better for reading a $.99 copy of John Donnelly’s Gold, I think, so I click through to it.

And then I get to this particular bit of logical Möbius strip:

Minimum number of checks is 0, even if none apply.

To clarify: The control is labeled What did you accomplish on today? (Select all that apply)

However, not one of the checkboxes is labeled None of these.

So to continue to the next step, if you want to continue, you must lie. And remember, the entrance to this quiz is on page load of That is, before you have accomplished anything at all.

Me, I didn’t lie: I eventually checked Other and Specified I got a blog post out of it.

What’s the lesson here, lads and lasses? Read the labels of the controls you’re checking, and make sure they make sense and make sure any enforcement rules upon them make sense vis-à-vis that label text.

Put Your Back Intuit

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 by The Director

So I installed the new full CD version of Intuit QuickBooks, which is adware designed to get you to buy a lot of Intuit additional services disguised as accounting software. Now, if you’re like me, you’re not into the intricacies of actual accounting nor the myriad business rules that the various state and Federal governments change upon a whim, but you rely on software and a good accountant (or, sometimes, an accountant, although I’d like to add my current accountant is a good accountant unlike previous engagements who continue to bill me a small amount every year for simply having my address in their files).

Where was I? Oh, yes. I was talking about trusting your application, particularly one with complicated rules whose violation might result in a prison sentence. You want to trust that application, don’t you? So do I.

But I get the software installed and get into the mandatory registration (that is, give us personal information so we can target more in-application advertising pop-ups to you), and I get confronted with obvious slops on the design.

To whit:

Maybe that's my fault, since I'm viewing the application on a 1979 Magnavox television.

A couple missing lines and slurred text, probably caused by poor compression or sizing.

Next up:

Hey, that's my playoff bracket!

A stray bracket in the corner.

Man, oh man, I can’t wait to find out what strange punctuation marks it leaves in my figures.

Do I trust the application? Not so much. Which is why I don’t use it for much more than a glorified check register. And if it continues with its unrepentant, unrelenting barrage of “Collect credit cards with Intuit!”, “Print checks with Intuit!”, “Let Intuit have access to all your financial accounts!” banners popping up before I can pay my bills, I won’t have to trust it in the future, as I move to Microsoft Excel where it’s nice and quiet.

But That’s Not Why QA Hates You

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 by The Director

Over at, Susannah Breslin posts This Is Why Your Employees Hate You.

Basically, here three order list points boil down to 1)You’re hired into a new company and don’t get the lay of the land before you start making a mess, 2) You’re unlikeable, and 3) You are not a leader.

As you might know, I think #1 is very important, and I’ve harped on it on occasion here. When you’re hired in as a manager, you have (or have convinced someone that you have) skill and ideas applicable to leading people in doing whatever you’re managing. You might have led a team in some other industry doing something similar, or you might even have been working within the same industry for a competitor or some related organization. Be that as it may, you don’t know how things are done in your new organization, and until you do, you should probably avoid upsetting the apple cart with your new ideas and processes which are really only old ideas and processes that might have worked at your last employer. At your new posting, some things are done that way because they’ve always been done that way, but some things are done that way because they work for your new employer and new employees. Until you can tell them apart, you don’t know where your new ideas are improvements or impediments.

As to number 2, remember, lads and lasses, there’s a fine line between being a jerk and being confident and right. Regardless of which side of that line you’re on, people who don’t like you or what you’re saying will think and say you’re a jerk. So be professional, but be confident and tell people the hard truths. Clearly. Dare I say, bluntly? I DARE.

And for number 3, we’ve seen QA managers like this, haven’t we? Just glad to be sitting at the big table and unafraid to rock the boat. You’re not going to add anything dodging that responsibility, and when it comes time to trim budget, if nobody remembers you saying anything about anything, especially not saying anything that stuck up for anything, they’re going to wonder why you’re on the payroll in the first place.

So do what Ms. Breslin says. Or the opposite of what she says. You’ll be a better manager for it.

But know these are not the reasons QA hates you. QA hates you because QA hates everybody.

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