Archive for June, 2012

Hit By Friendlies Fire

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 by The Director

Yesterday, Cafepress sent out a test email to at least some of its real email recipients:

A test email

Strangely enough, this email offer has an expiration date of July 15, 2010, so either it fails because the date has not changed or it spectacularly fails because it is actually a two-year-old email that was caught up in the mailing software somewhere.

Hey, speaking of Cafepress, don’t forget to hit the QA Hates You swag shop.

(Also spotted by reader abrothman, who, judging by the screenshots he sent me, really needs to get his inbox closer to 0.)

Book Report: Parkinson’s Law by C. Northcote Parkinson (1957)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 by The Director

Book coverThis book is a fifty-year-old British study of bureaucracy. The author was a naval historian, and he starts the book with the often quoted Parkinson’s Law, which is that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” The book is full of insights like that, and the tone is one of a scientist studying the bureaucracy. Did I say “tone”? I meant schtick, as the style is actually very cheeky, a middle twentieth century Dilbert if you will with scientific jargon instead of talking animals.

The book includes the following essays:

  • “Parkinson’s Law, or The Rising Pyramid”, which coins the law noted above. It’s not just talking about the nature of tasks, but also in hiring people when one person’s workload becomes too much. The manager cannot spread his work to a rival, and he cannot hire just one person, since that person would become a rival. So he must hire two people who couldn’t do his job half as well as he could, and the management overhead will consume and savings on the actual effort to do the job.
  • “The Will of the People, or Annual General Meeting”, which explains how decisions in parliaments are made by identifying the inattentive members who don’t grasp the issues and working on them with techniques based upon their personality types to get them to vote your way.
  • “High Finance, or The Point of Vanishing Interest”, which describes in the term of finance how large line items will get a precursory glance and consideration, but smaller items will get more attention than they deserve. He uses the examples of the cost of building a new nuclear plant, which will get only a couple minutes of a committee’s time because most are ignorant of the considerations involved and don’t want to expose their ignorance, but the committee will spend a lot of time going over the expenditures involved with individual meetings or parties because they all know about parties and coffee. The triviality of the cost savings inflates the efforts on their behalf. It might sound silly, but, brothers and sisters, I have sat in meetings for hours discussing Times New Roman versus Garamond and establishing a business case for a $35 piece of software.
  • “Directors and Councils, or Coefficient of Inefficiency”, which discusses the proper size of a council or a committee before it becomes powerless and gets supplanted by another committee actualy doing things (and on its way to growth beyond efficient action). It could be a good primer on limiting meeting sizes.
  • “The Short List, or Principles of Selection”, which discusses the shallow and arbitrary ways hiring decisions are made and the proper technique for creating a job posting for the best effect, which is not to bring in a wide variety of applicants, but is instead designed to ideally bring in the only candidate with the skills you need crazy enough to work for you at the low salary you propose. It does explain a lot of what I see on Dice and Craigslist.
  • “Plans and Plants, or the Administrative Block”, which explains how most efficient companies and organizations operate from ramshackle and borrowed space. By the time they get big enough to build a campus or building to hold themselves, they’re sclerotic. With historical examples.
  • “Personality Screen, or The Cocktail Formula”, which posits a scientific notation for the ebb and flow of people at cocktail parties based on the individuals’ importance and influence.
  • “Injelititus, or Palsied Paralysis”, which describes how organizations become comatose when they start to embrace mediocrity, and how that becomes self-fulfilling.
  • “Palm Thatch to Packard, or A Formula for Success”, which looks at the rise to wealth of Chinese peasants, who must mask their growing wealth until such time as they can befully open with it and dismissive of the dangers associated with wealth.
  • “Pension Point, or The Age of Retirement”, which explains that the proper retirement age does not depend on the person in the position, but in the age of that person’s successor. Then it offers techniques for pushing the old-timer out. Less relevant now that we don’t tend to retire from positions.

Well worth a read. It’s funny, and you can probably see elements of your organization or organizations with which you’ve worked.

Books mentioned in this review:

Morale Spy

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 by The Director

When you go on a job interview, common advice reminds, you interview the company as much it interviews you. Remember, just as you might exaggerate that you have ten years’ experience developing .NET on Linux, the company might embellish its resemblance to a happy television family. Whether the company represents the Cosbys or the Bundys, participants in your four-hour interrogation will concur that the company represents the Panglossian best possible workplace. Managers want to fluff the company’s stock price. The proletariat wants more proletariat to share its burden. If the company demands twelve hour days or offers daily browbeatings, no one will tell an outsider. You would only learn true company morale after you started unless you conducted a little reconnaissance during your interview.

To gauge employees’ true attitudes toward a company and its working environment, you can reconnoiter two locations in the building: the kitchen and the bathroom. (more…)

An Accurate Rendering of the Software Development Life Cycle

Monday, June 25th, 2012 by The Director

Do you see testing in it?

Of course not.

(Suddenly, it strikes me that you damn kids don’t know what Geek and Poke alludes to.)

You’re Probably Doing It Wrong

Monday, June 18th, 2012 by The Director

So I just read this article:

Three factors of quality

You’re probably doing it wrong.


QA Music: Avenged Sevenfold

Monday, June 11th, 2012 by The Director

Watch out: F-word. Avenged Sevenfold with “Nightmare”:

Quality Is The Contagion, QAHY Is The Vector

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 by The Director

This warms my heart almost as much as when someone searches the Internet for a sample test plan.

Apparently, a future IT professional in Indiana knows where to go for boundary analysis info:

Hamlet spreads like a virus

It’s already known in St. Louis, Missouri, and pockets of Chicago. Tomorrow, the entire Midwest. Next week, the nation.

Other Leadership Lessons from Another Sector

Monday, June 4th, 2012 by The Director

Here at QAHY, we have touched upon testing lessons from Genghis Khan, management lessons from Attila the Hun, and have alluded to some leadership secrets from the founder of SEAL Team Six, but there’s one place we’ve not looked for inspiration until now.

The Banana Man.

You’ll have to go to the Wall Street Journal‘s Five Lessons from the Banana Man, an article derived from the forthcoming book The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King, for that.

QA Music: I Created the Sound of Madness

Monday, June 4th, 2012 by The Director

Shinedown, “Sound of Madness”

Quicksand’s got no sense of humor/I’m still laughing like hell.

QA Music: Riot

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012 by The Director

Let’s start this week on a good note.

“Riot” by Three Days Grace. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be logging a defect against the band’s name.

QA Consultancy and the Conversation

Friday, June 1st, 2012 by The Director

One of the advantages of working as a software quality assurance/testing consultant (and before that as a full-time employee with the propensity to job-hop) is that one gets quite a knowledge of a variety of industries.

This became quite clear to me one recent day as I hopped into a shuttle from an auto dealer’s service department for a ride out into the hinterlands and my home office. I struck up a conversation with the ITish looking Chinese man next to me and asked him the ever eternal opener, “So what do you do?”

To my surprise, he was not in IT per se, but he was a chemical engineer. I asked what sort of software he used for modeling, and I could talk about some of the challenges of testing that sort of software because I’d done it, albeit for a more pharmaceutically minded company. I got to learn a little about his challenges, too, and what he does day-to-day as a user.

After he disembarked, I talked a bit with the driver of the shuttle, a retired employee of the local wastewater treatment plant. As I’ve tested a wastewater treatment district’s Web site (remember the classic Make Your Software Development Process More Like A Sewer?), I could understand what he was talking about when he told me about the machinery and equipment he operated and its part in the treatment process.

One of the best parts of this job is that I get to touch so many different projects in so many different industries and to learn so many different things and businesses that the actual testing and application of testing knowledge is always fresh.

And it makes excellent conversation fodder.

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