Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Experience Matters

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 by The Director

I came across this today: Being A Developer After 40

It also applies to testing and software QA. Most of the good testers I know or have known were older than the stereotypical 23 year old wunderkind. Because they’d seen things.

Thoughts to Keep QA Up At Night

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 by The Director

A quote commonly attributed to Napoleon says:

Rascality has limits; stupidity has not.

I’m testing this application as rascally as I can, but I am only one member of the team, and the users are infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters and hammers and stone tablets.

Am I being stupid enough? How can I be more stupid?

Getting Your Hands Dirty

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 by The Director

How do you really, really know a problem? You get your hands dirty at it.

Steve Blank talks about the origins of his success, and strangely enough, they involve doing physical things and encountering the problems he would later help overcome through the engineering:

When I got to my first airbase my job was lugging electronics boxes on and off fighter planes under the broiling hot Thailand sun, to bring them into the technicians inside the air-conditioned shop, to troubleshoot and fix. The thing we dreaded hearing from the techs was, “this box checks out fine, it must be a wiring problem.” Which meant going back to the aircraft trying to find a bent pin in a connector or short in a cable or a bad antenna. It meant crawling over, under and inside an airplane fuselage the temperature of an oven. Depending on the type of aircraft (F-4’s, F-105’s or A-7’s – the worst) it could take hours or days to figure out where the problem was.

A few months later, I was now the guy in the air-conditioned shop telling my friends on the flight-line, “the box was fine, must be a cable.” Having just been on the other side I understood the amount of work that phrase meant. It took a few weeks of these interactions, but it dawned on me there was a gap between the repair manuals describing how to fix the electronics and the aircraft manuals telling you the pin-outs of the cables – there were no tools to simplify finding broken cables on the flightline. Now with a bit more understanding of the system problem, it didn’t take much thinking to look at the aircraft wiring diagrams and make up a series of dummy connectors with test points to simplify the troubleshooting process. I gave them to my friends, and while the job of finding busted aircraft cabling was still unpleasant it was measurably shorter.

My next career lesson: unless I had been doing the miserable, hot and frustrating job on the flightline, I would never have known this was a valuable problem to solve.

Not all of us can be fortunate enough to have done the work that the people using our applications do with our applications, but it’s important to step outside the IT bubble mindset and recognize, as best we can, what they’re trying to do outside the context of our software to best provide them software to do that job.

Here’s a little ode to those guys out in the field to make up for my lack of a QA Music post yesterday:

!Improving Your QA Curriculum

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 by The Director

If only this article were more instructive: What Psychopaths Teach Us about How to Succeed

Traits that are common among psychopathic serial killers—a grandiose sense of self-worth, persuasiveness, superficial charm, ruthlessness, lack of remorse and the manipulation of others—are also shared by politicians and world leaders. Individuals, in other words, running not from the police. But for office. Such a profile allows those who present with these traits to do what they like when they like, completely unfazed by the social, moral or legal consequences of their actions.

Unfortunately, the article is more about the study of psychopaths and university students and parts of their brains that light up; maybe the book from which it is goes more into the teaching part and less into the learn from part.

Regardless of what we might want others to think, QA people are generally not psychopaths. Or maybe I’m projecting. Maybe I’m the normal one here, and you’re all crazy.

Regardless of your sanity, the one thing QA should learn from psycopaths, or should emulate from psychopaths, is a little detachment.

Because we walk a line between passionate advocacy for quality and madness. Because that advocacy is going to meet its limit. In some circumstances, it might be a high limit (a good job to find). In others, it’s a low threshold, such as We’ll release it with critical defects causing the application to crash and lose data, but we’ll fix it if anyone in the real world tries to use the SHIFT key, which nobody ever does.

At some point, one has to have the ability to turn off that paladin nature, that passionate advocacy for as near perfection as is at all possible, and throw up one’s hands and say, “Flooz it.” And not care any more. Because that sort of thing can eat you up. You can’t go into the position completely with that attitude (It is what it is.), otherwise you won’t push the team to be better. Not enough, anyway.

So it would have been helpful to have some insight into how to emulate psychopaths in that detachment, but of course, psychopaths don’t have the need to become detached at some point. They’re psychopaths, after all, which means they’re always detached. Their tips would be more akin to how to appear engaged to convince others to behave according to their needs and desires. That is, it would be more of a sales course. Certainly not project management, since project managers can’t make anyone behave.

So I guess I’ll just have to read some more Norman Vincent Peale, and do just the opposite of what he says. Again.

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.

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The Rutger Hauer School of Software Testing

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 by The Director

As I mentioned on Twitter, I’m a member of the Rutger Hauer school of software testing. The Rutger Hauer school of software testing (RHSoST) focuses less on processes and procedures and more on how to wreak havoc using a varied set of tools upon a system or application regardless of its plot, I mean, its business rules.

But here are some of the primary texts of the school:

  • Introduction:
    Beyond Justice. The basic primer in software testing describes how to create user scenarios to test systems, how to understand and work within and without established processes and procedures, and how to turn erstwhile enemies into allies.
     
  • Exploratory Testing, Basic:
    Blind Fury. Even when you lack basic knowledge about a system or insight into the business rules or considerations, you can still cause damage find defects with your sword basic set of test cases that apply to any application.
     
  • Exploratory Testing, Advanced:
    Blade Runner. As your knowledge of applications grows, you can find more complexity and higher levels of business rules to test until the final deadline.
     
  • Load Testing:
    Escape from Sobibor. Learn how careful planning and execution of load tests can find the weaknesses in and actually crash the most rigid set of rules and constraints in an application.
     
  • Career Planning: Working in a Large Corporation:
    Deadlock. Learn how to find a payoff even when constrained by an explosive device bolted to your neck, figuratively speaking (and literally).
     
  • Career Planning: Working as a Test Consultant:
    Hobo with a Shotgun. This text deals with the itinerant tester and the challenges he/she faces with each new engagement, including how one fits in–or does not fit in–with the existing culture and how one can test effectively and efficiently on the run.
     

Rutger Hauer on the end of a project and the knowledge lost when a test consultant or team member moves on:

These are some of my favorite texts in the RHSoST. Undoubtedly, some of my fellow school members have their own. Don’t be afraid to share in the comments.

Answering My Own Interview Question

Friday, September 17th, 2010 by The Director

Yesterday, I betweeted:

Proper interview question for software testers: Are you more like the Cat in the Hat or more like the fish?

Those of you who are familiar with the story know what I’m talking about. Those of you unfamiliar with the story need to catch up. Go ahead, meet that special someone, get married, procreate, and read your spawn that book 100 times. I’ll wait.

Okay, done? Here we go.

I’ll sum up for those of you who, instead of properly schooling up for the question as mentioned above, just continued reading. Two children sit in their home on a wet, wet day and wonder what to do. In comes the Cat in the Hat, spawning mayhem, while the fish points out that the cat should not be there and should not do what he is doing. Now.

Am I more like the Cat in the Hat or the fish?

I have elements of both.

The Cat in the Hat is chaos and all sorts of unexpected behavior. I have a great ability to look into an application or a process to find the unexpected places you can go with them and to exercise that disruptive influence to make sure that the problems get identified and fixed.

On the other hand, the fish is an enforcer, as much as a fish can be, of the rules and strictures offered by requirements or formal processes. I like to hammer on these, too, whenever possible.

However, I’ve worked mostly for smaller firms with fewer formal processes (and requirements? What are those?), so I’ve acted more Cat in the Hattish throughout my career. Plus, I’ve had people under me, so I’ve experience opening a couple boxes of Thing 1 and Thing 2 as needed.

QA Koan for Friday

Friday, February 12th, 2010 by The Director

“It’s better to be wanted for murder than not to be wanted at all.” –Marty Winch

Surely you can meditate on that for a while and see how it applies to QA.

Five Tips Your Organization Will Not Follow

Friday, January 15th, 2010 by The Director

Trisherino enumerates five things developers and designers could do to reduce the number of obvious issues testers will find: 5 Tips to Thwart Testers.

They’re obvious, and they’re pretty good ideas, but your organization will not follow them for long, even if your team catches on.  Why?  Because institutional memory is fluid.  By the time you drum that into your developers’ and designers’ heads, they move onto a different teams or onto different companies.  They will be replaced by people who are less expensive and less knowledgeable or they will be replaced with experienced sticks in the mud who know the right way to do things: their way.

And their way does not include to stooping to IE.

And so it goes.

The best you can hope for is to become such an archetypal nemesis to your developers and designers that they carry the fear of you beyond your team and company so that they do things the right way even when they’re somewhere else.  Somewhere, some lucky QA professional will get a n00b on their team that does things right.

Marcus Aurelius on Becoming a Test Consultant

Monday, October 12th, 2009 by The Director

From Meditations Book Twelve:

All those things at which thou wishest to arrive by a circuitous road, thou canst have now, if thou dost not refuse them to thyself. And this means, if thou wilt take no notice of all the past, and trust the future to providence, and direct the present only conformably to piety and justice. Conformably to piety, that thou mayest be content with the lot which is assigned to thee, for nature designed it for thee and thee for it. Conformably to justice, that thou mayest always speak the truth freely and without disguise, and do the things which are agreeable to law and according to the worth of each. And let neither another man’s wickedness hinder thee, nor opinion nor voice, nor yet the sensations of the poor flesh which has grown about thee; for the passive part will look to this. If then, whatever the time may be when thou shalt be near to thy departure, neglecting everything else thou shalt respect only thy ruling faculty and the divinity within thee, and if thou shalt be afraid not because thou must some time cease to live, but if thou shalt fear never to have begun to live according to nature- then thou wilt be a man worthy of the universe which has produced thee, and thou wilt cease to be a stranger in thy native land, and to wonder at things which happen daily as if they were something unexpected, and to be dependent on this or that.

At least, that’s how I felt when I quit the daily work world and went to test consulting.  It’s liberating in that it allows me to focus on the testing and avoiding the office politics and the other trappings that fall into the “administrative” bucket on the time sheet.  On the other hand, you do have to have a certain faith that those contracts will keep coming.  QA doesn’t make a fellow optimistic, but you do need it a bit when there’s no sure knowledge that you’ll be logging the same defects against the same features against the same application a year from now.

Marcus Aurelius on QA Mentoring

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 by The Director

From Meditations Book Seven:

 In everything which happens keep before thy eyes those to whom the same things happened, and how they were vexed, and treated them as strange things, and found fault with them: and now where are they? Nowhere. Why then dost thou too choose to act in the same way? And why dost thou not leave these agitations which are foreign to nature, to those who cause them and those who are moved by them? And why art thou not altogether intent upon the right way of making use of the things which happen to thee? For then thou wilt use them well, and they will be a material for thee to work on. Only attend to thyself, and resolve to be a good man in every act which thou doest: and remember…

Hrm, you know, that’s not very inspirational mentorship, true though it may be.  Maybe we’d better cling to Henry V at Harfleur:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

Curly Could Have Told You That Much About Time Management

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 by The Director

From an essay on What Every Super Achiever Knows About Time Management That You Don’t:

Super achievers don’t manage their time, they create, manage and maximize their opportunities. At any given time they know the one critical, must complete, task and they work on that task. It is the most important and therefore deserves their full attention.

Curly said there was only one thing in life, but you had to figure it out.  If you’re working in quality assurance, you’ve already figured out what that one thing is: to keep your hanger-on-to-technology job by being pleasant in innumerable pointless meetings, not rocking the boat, and spending a lot of time generating metrics systems to justify your continued employment.

Well, maybe that’s just a lot of the quality assurance people with whom I’ve worked briefly.

No, the one thing you need to focus your time on is delivering a quality product.  Knowing the product, knowing the business problem it’s designed to solve, and making sure the damn thing works is that one thing.  Sitting in kickoff meetings, no matter what kind of doughnuts they have, isn’t it.  Neither is pulling together another test strategy document from the template that no one will read or understand.  It’s not about creating a perfect process that Plato would be proud of.  It’s delivering a quality product.

Focus your time and energy on that, not the trappings of the Quality Assurance industry.

Start Your Monday Off Right with a QA Maxim

Monday, October 20th, 2008 by The Director

Optimism is a failure of the imagination.

When Your Error Page Generates A Timeout, You’ve Crashed Hard

Monday, October 6th, 2008 by The Director

More fun with Twitter, secondhand:

If your error page is timing out, you're in trouble
Click for full size

It has crashed so badly that not only is the update portion not working, but it’s returning a 408 error, which means that the Web server is timing out while looking for the custom error page.

Which leads me into a short bit of rant about a piece entitled In A Web 2.0 World, Quality Is Irrelevant (link seen here):

Still, I’m not in full rosy concurrence with the idea that we should kick quality completely to the curb. For one, it’s not that quality doesn’t matter — it’s that the definition of what constitutes quality is changing. The old idea that quality is defined by editing an article six ways from Sunday so that it’s denatured of all passion and advocacy, and so that that it has every freakin’ semicolon and middle initial in the correct place — that’s what’s dead.

So what’s the new definition of quality? It’s a bit early to say definitively, but I believe what’s gelling is consistent with the post-literate society I believe we’re now amidst. (At this point I should probably send a friendly text message to my teenage daughter. To which she’ll respond: KK LOL ROFFL TTYL.) Namely, quality is now measured out more in engagement — videos, pictures, short and pithy commentary — than in llooooooonng, boring blocks of dense text. Which nobody reads anyway!

The author is speaking mostly about writing style and typos, but of course developers are happy to generalize it to code and everything else.  However, shifting the definition of quality away from, you know, quality and to strengths the definer has (speed, relevance, authenticity, a blog on a magazine’s domain, an espresso machine in the kitchen) ultimately only serves the complacency of someone who defines quality down.

For in a Web 2.0 world, particularly one with eager Noah Websters out there who’ll tell you their application is the alpha and the omega, flaws and all, quality will remain a differentiator, and a bigger differentiator at that.  Although one expected a certain floor of minimum quality standards with most products up until about 1996, with software and applications, particularly those written poorly like Twitter, one gets first-to-market as the goal or tipping-point users or something other than stability and quality.  Once better quality products come out, though, users will migrate to them.  Blogs with fewer typographical errors will garner respect more than those rife with things like Steev Jobs had a herat attack!!!!

Of course, if your goal is to build it and cash out rapidly or to grab the youth market where newness and authenticity trump quality and stability instead of building a solid, long term user base, I guess quality isn’t for you, but then again, you probably don’t have a test team anyway, so worrying about redefining quality isn’t even a problem you’re addressing.

Another Maxim

Monday, September 22nd, 2008 by The Director

You cannot spell adequate without QA.

5 Ways To Be Effective in QA

Thursday, April 24th, 2008 by The Director

Well, no, ComputerWorld calls them 5 easy ways to commit career suicide, but I have found them to be effective techniques in establishing proper business relationships when you’re in QA. Particularly #3, Contradicting the boss in public.

I never inappropriately discharged a firearm in the presence of coworkers. I’m stuck on deciding which punchline to go with here, so you choose whichever you like best:

  • In all cases, the discharge was appropriate.
  • I wish I’d thought of it.

QA: The Req’ing Ball

Thursday, March 20th, 2008 by The Director

If you’re a grade A QA professional, you’ve managed to worm quality assurance into the entirety of your organization’s software development lifecycle (if you’re grade A+, you’ve actually broken out of the SDLC and have someone from the quality team proofreading corporate communications, werd). That means you get a seat at the table in the requirements gathering process along with some free-talking technical guy who’s really a sales guy with a cert or two, a business analyst if you’re lucky, and a customer relationship management yippy dog who jumps up and down agreeing with whatever the customer says and sometimes with something your company’s representatives say. However you got yourself into this predicament, best practice or not, you have to take care of QA in this meeting, and here’s what I do in that situation, particularly if I find myself in that situation disarmed.

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Prepare Yourself for Standards Adherence

Monday, March 17th, 2008 by The Director

Joel Spolsky talks at length about Internet Explorer 8’s upcoming standards adherence and the coming Internet cataclysm because of it.

The piece is long and offers many lessons, but the best one is the recognition that even though you’ve launched a site or Web application that works with current browsers, you’d better test them again when new browsers come out, even if it’s only a quick run through sanity check.

Remember Thine Tab Stops

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008 by The Director

I like to pretend I’m an old-school computer user, steeped in the command line world of old operating systems and the dark screen and keyboard unfettered by the need to use a mouse. I know all the operating system hot keys. I like the Tab key. I don’t like wasting the time to move my hand a couple inches to the left to inelegantly maneuver a collection of pixels on my screen so I can work. I know, with that much attempt at cred, you’d think I’d learn to touch type, but this article isn’t about my shortcomings. It’s about the shortcomings of interfaces that don’t allow you to interact with the application without the mouse.

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A Project Manager Guesses

Monday, February 25th, 2008 by The Director

Project Manager Frank Kelly guesses 4 reasons it sucks to be in QA.

I’ll rebut with one good reason about being in QA: Schadenfreude, all day, every day.


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