Archive for April, 2013

QA Music: The QA Boy in Me

Monday, April 29th, 2013 by The Director

Tim McGraw, “The Cowboy in Me”

The urge to run, the restlessness
The heart of stone I sometimes get
The things I’ve done for foolish pride
The me that’s never satisfied
The face that’s in the mirror when I don’t like what I see
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me

It sounds a lot like the typical workday in software testing.

Why Would a Baseball Player Do That?

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by The Director

Ever get asked why a user would do that? Of course you do. You’ve already been asked that today.

Here’s a little story for you about why the ball player trying to steal third base ended up on first base:

This guy stole second. Then he tried to steal third but somehow wound up on first. Then he got thrown out trying to steal second again. All in a span of five pitches.

The result, as far as we’re concerned:

The part where a runner on second base finishes the next play on first base? It’s not possible to score that without crashing every computer in America.

“There’s no way to do that,” longtime official scorer and SABR historian David Vincent said Saturday. “Not covered in the rules. A runner on second base going to first base? That’s impossible.”

Now obviously it’s not “impossible,” because it really happened. But tell that to the computer programmers of America.

“All the computer software — none of it will handle that,” Vincent said. “You don’t run the bases [from] second to first. Any software that processes play-by-play won’t accept that.”

So because it’s theoretically impossible, the official box score of this game listed Segura as having been thrown out stealing third — even though he slid into second. Huh?

“That’s because the play-by-play listed him as staying at second base [because it couldn’t compute that he was actually on first],” Vincent said. “So then he had to be caught stealing third. But that never happened. So that has to get changed.”

Right. But that’s not all. The official box score and play-by-play also said that Braun got caught stealing second.

So why would a user do that? Because the user could do that. And just because someone has not done that does not mean someone will not do that in a strange set of circumstances you cannot anticipate now.

(Link via tweet linking to this article.)

QA Music – Let Me Hear Your War Cry

Monday, April 22nd, 2013 by The Director

In This Moment, “Comanche”:

In This Moment is one of those bands where you might mistake the band’s name for the song title. But I assure you In This Moment is the band’s name in this case.

Re-Cognize to Avoid Mental Errors

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 by The Director

A little story to talk about some of the ways our inattention can lead us to miss some mistakes.

For years, I’d heard about an awesome British television program that, although it aired on PBS and had not reached popularity among mainstream Americans certainly got its discussion amongst the tech crowd which tends to favor BBC programs that air on PBS. The show?

Downtown Abbey

Or so I thought. I had seen discussion of the program on the Internet, as I mentioned, and and I watched the introduction to it seven times, and I saw it on a Roku menu many times. I even started a Twitter hashtag called #DowntownAbbeySpoilers to demonstrate my particular brand of wit and to flaunt my ignorance before the Internet. It was only in the seventh episode, which includes a scene at the Downton train station clearly labeled as such, did I discover my error.

Downton Abbey, not Downtown Abbey

I was chuffed, to say the least.

I’d read the word as Downtown at some point, maybe a misspelling or a bad pattern matching on my part, and every time I saw the title, my brain filled that Downtown instead of Downton. Every blooming time.

I started planning this post in my head, I encountered a misspelling in the application I’m testing. Although I’ve hit the screen a number of times, I’d missed the misspelling every time I saw the page previously until just yesterday, when I happened to look at the extraneous letter in the middle of the word. Other times, my eyes had skipped right over the defect like a smooth stone over still water.

The way to avoid these types of oversights, as I always have said, is to slow down and to look at everything with fresh eyes as often as possible. Take some time to read every word and to test every control in different combinations. Focusing on the higher-level functions of an application is very important, but focusing on individual parts of it at a very atomic level will find a number of problems that your users will eventually find if you don’t (and fix) first.

Now, onto the second error: trusting the context.

My UK readers and many of the Downton Abbey fans here in the US and elsewhere might be chortling about what I said above: I was chuffed, to say the least.

It sounds like a combination of chagrined and maybe huffed, doesn’t it? You’re forgiven if you assumed it meant something like that from context. But chuffed means pleased. I was not pleased at all.

This kind of oversight comes when you trust the context of something, generally in terms of application behavior. When you click that button, of course it does that. It’s not crazy enough out of whack to be an obvious bug, so you let it go. This happens a lot in two cases: if you’re testing something in an industry or vertical in which you’re not already steeped, like counting DIDs for a telecommunications company’s order scheduling software. If the number of DIDs doesn’t match the number of telephones and never has, will you notice it as long as you can save the order and make sure it displays properly on the technicians’ tablets? Maybe not.

The other place where you can get into that sort of trouble is after you’ve tested an application for a long enough period of time that its evolution gets a little mixed in your mind. Did that used to work? Did it used to do something different? Should it do something other than what it does?

To try to minimize these style oversights, don’t trust the context. Try to learn why the context is the way it is. If something seems strange, ask. And if the person you asks says, “Just because,” “Trust me,” or “It’s always been that way,” open your defect tracker. Because QA has always been that way, just because. Trust me.

So the lessons are, again, slow down and learn as much as you can while you’re testing something to test it most effectively, and not to trust yourself or your context because you’ve been wrong before. Or at least I have. AND I AM NOT CHUFFED ABOUT IT.

The QA Diva: Tips and Tricks

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 by The Director

QA shares a lot of qualities with the popular conception of the diva. We’re always demanding attention, and when we have attention, we make demands.

Researchers who have studied divas in the wild recognize two kinds: healthy divas, who aren’t unhealthy divas, and unhealthy divas, who are the divas who’ve built the popular conception of diva.

Regardless, the Wall Street Journal recently featured an article on the difference:

Divas, by definition, are high-performing, high-maintenance narcissists. Some are needy, demanding, negative—and talk almost incessantly about themselves. Researchers say these are “unhealthy divas” and the source of their narcissism usually is low self-esteem: They are constantly trying to pump themselves up.

Yet, believe it or not, researchers say some divas are healthy. They adore the limelight and work hard to be always front and center—but they are willing to make room for others. They are spirited, fun and positive. Because they assume everyone around them is interested in them, they share a lot of themselves—and in this way bring people together. They have the ability to help others enjoy things that aren’t normally enjoyable, whether it’s a long line at the store, an office meeting or dinner with the boss.

Within the article, you’ll find a number of differences delineated between unhealthy tantrums and expecting and settling for nothing less than the best because, baby, you deserve it (and so do your users).

Also, to prove its worth the the QA community, please note the Van Halen Brown M&Ms story appears, so you know it’s got to be True (much as things on this blog are, as I mentioned the story last year).

It’s How I Got Started

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 by The Director

I’m a little behind in my newspaper reading, as you will see. But this Non Sequitur cartoon from last week might describe how one comes to become a software tester, or how one becomes a software testing consultant:

Intuit Out of It

Monday, April 15th, 2013 by The Director

Yesterday, the day before the annual tax filing deadline in the United States, the online version of Intuit’s TurboTax software suffered a brief outage:

TurboTax, the popular tax-filing software, went offline briefly on Sunday — the day before the filing deadline.

Users had problems entering data on the Web site, according to angry Twitter messages directed at the company.

“We’re having problems with TurboTax online. We’re in process bringing back the experience u expect. Updates 2 follow,” the company said on its official Twitter account Sunday evening.

Less than 10 minutes later, it issued another update saying the site was functional again. For those still experiencing problems, the company suggested closing browsers and opening the software in a fresh window.

Well, they might have lost a couple of customers and might have put some consumers properly off the idea of ‘the cloud,’ but at least they’ll have some better data for the next set of test managers and/or operations people to analyze for planning purposes.

QA Music: Am I Evil?

Monday, April 15th, 2013 by The Director

Metallica.  Make them think it’s a bad day.

Something To Perk You Up

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013 by The Director

Screenshots of Despair.

Via tweet:


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