Testing & Software Blog

The occasional thoughts of a freelance software tester, drawn from experience across the software development life-cycle.

When the customer changes the requirements

Before the customer added a requirement

This must be a familiar situation to any software developer. You come up with a clean, elegant design that meets the customer’s stated needs. Then at the last minute they come up with a new requirement.

After the customer added a requirement

So you end up with this. Someone I won’t name has described it as looking like “the world’s most disturbing sex toy”.

Coming up with an elegant way to add a corridor connection on the front of a train is a challenge that’s defeated generations of industrial designers. Even the better results have been functional rather than beautiful. But it does help if the door at the front had been a requirement from the start.

(Photos from Transport Briefing)

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Autoplay Video Ads Must Die

SpamI know websites that don’t rely on paywalls need to raise money somehow, but I know I’m not the only person who is thoroughly sick of the auto play video ads with audio that have started infesting many big media sites of late.

You know the ones I mean. They’re the ads that suddenly erupt in the middle of the screen as you scroll through the article. Until a couple of days ago you could click on the [x] in the corner of the ad so you could shut them up before the audio started playing, but now that option has gone away.  It’s as if the people running the ad server noticed that everyone was closing them the instant they appeared, so took that option away.

If, as many people do, you’re listening to music while surfing the web, these things are intensely annoying. Your only option seems to be to close the browser tab without reading the rest of the article. Which is precisely what I’ve been doing.

I’ve seen them so far on The Guardian, The Independent and Forbes, so it’s not confined to bottom-feeding clickbait sites who are cynically concerned with selling eyeballs and nothing else.

Charlie Stross once said that all advertising devolves to the state of spam. Which would imply that, much like your typical make-money-fast or fake Viagra seller, these people know they’re ruining your UX, and just don’t care. Or maybe it really is just a case of sufficiently advanced stupidity being indistiguishable from malice.

What’s a more pertinant question is whether the management of The Guardian or The Independent care.

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Who remembers the day when computer viruses were spread in the boot sector of floppy disks?

Posted on by Tim Hall | 5 Comments

You can tell you’re a tester if you go to the pub and all the conversations are about ISO29119. The consensus that the reason the online testing community is overwhelmingly anti is that the pro-ISO29119 camp are just too boring to be on Twitter or write blogs.

Posted on by Tim Hall | Comments Off

Angry Weasel on ISO29119

Angry Weasel provides the most succinct summary of what’s wrong with ISO29119 I have seen to date:

A lot of testers I know are riled up (and rightfully so) about ISO 29119 – which, in a nutshell, is a “standard” for testing that says software should be tested exactly as described in a set of textbooks from the 1980’s. On one hand, I have the flexibility to ignore 29119 – I would never work for a company that thought it was a good idea. But I know there are testers who find themselves in a situation where they have to follow a bunch of busywork from the “standard” rather than provide actual value to the software project.


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Testing and The Facebook Effect

Like many testing professionals, I don’t post as much about my work as I sometimes feel I ought to. An insightful post from Adam Knight entitled “The Facebook Effect” provides a good explanation as to why.

It’s always considered a no-no for any professional to criticise their employers on public forums, and rightly so. This is a problem for those of us in testing; our very job revolves around breaking things in interesting and innovative ways. It’s difficult to talk about your work in public when so much of it is about the bugs you’ve been finding. Your employer may well not want the world to know about that huge security vulnerability you just discovered.

This places us in something of a double-bind at times. While spilling too much information about current projects could be a seriously career-limiting move, not having a positive online presence can have exactly the same effect. I’ve actually been told I’m less likely to be hired if I’m testing in secret!

Fortunately Adam Knight does come up with some practical suggestions for sharing professional knowledge without compromising your employment.

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Alice and the Cheshire Cat talk ISO 29119

Mike Talks goes down the ISO29119 rabbit-hole and explains the likely outcome of IS29119 with Alice and the Cheshire Cat.

Alice took a quizzical look at the Cheshire Cat, “so you’re a tester? But you’re a cat!”.

“Oh,” the Cheshire Cat beamed, his almost rictus grin fixed permanently and inflexibly across his face, “in your world that might be a problem, but not in this one. Did you have a better candidate in mind? Would YOU want to sit in a meeting with the Mad Hatter, changing his seat every few minutes, or tell the Queen of Hearts that the project might have to be delayed?” He purred a very self-satisfied purr to himself. “No … I think you’ll find in reality, or as close as it gets in this place, I’m the perfect person for the job.”

I’m not going to spoil it by giving away the punchline; go and read the whole thing!

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Rent-Seekers : Michael Bolton on ISO 29119

In Rising Against the Rent-Seekers, testing Blogger Michael Bolton is under no illusions as to the real agenda behind proponents of ISO 29119. This particular observation is very, very telling:

If you want to be on the international working group, it’s a commitment to six days of non-revenue work, somewhere in the world, twice a year. The ISO/IEC does not pay for travel expenses. Where have international working group meetings been held? According to the http://softwaretestingstandard.org/ Web site, meetings seem to have been held in Seoul, South Korea (2008); Hyderabad, India (2009); Niigata, Japan (2010); Mumbai, India (2011); Seoul, South Korea (2012); Wellington New Zealand (2013). Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many independent testers or testing consultants from Europe or North America have that kind of travel budget?
  • What kinds of consultants might be more likely to obtain funding for this kind of travel?
  • Who benefits from the creation of a standard whose opacity demands a consultant to interpret or to certify?

It’s not exactly difficult to answer those three questions, is it?

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Stop ISO 29119

So, there is a proposed ISO standard for software testing, ISO 29119, which is causing an awful lot of controversy in the testing world.

Stop 29119Just about every software testing professional with an online presence is concerned about ISO 29119′s likely impact on the profession. The consensus is that forcing a highly bureaucratic one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter approach to testing across the whole software industry is unlikely to result in higher quality software, but will almost certainly stifle innovation and inhibit exploration of new creative approaches.

Rob Lambert is just one of many with serious reservations, and James Christie has this to say:

I’m afraid my hackles rise when I see phrases like “one definitive standard” and “used within any software development life cycle”. It immediately triggers an adverse emotional reaction as I remember this rhyme from Lord of the Rings, about the One Ring that would give the holder power over all.

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie”

Unfortunately it’s not something that anyone can guarantee will just go away if people ignore it.

Naturally those whose businesses revolve around selling consultancy to middle-management are going to support the introduction of a standard. As will the certification mills. And don’t even mention lawyers. I’m sure we can all easily imagine technically-illiterate politicians demanding that ISO 29119 be mandatory for all government contracts. After all, everyone knows that those gargantuan government IT failures we keep hearing about in the media are entirely down to sloppy software testing and have nothing to do with reality-denying project management.

There is now a petition against it. If you think ISO 29119 is a bad thing, go and sign it.

But not everyone agrees with the petition. Although this ridiculous Godwinesque screed hardly helps the cause:

Their objection is that not everyone will agree with what the standard says: on that criterion nothing would ever be published. The real reason the book burners want to suppress it is that they don’t want there to be any standards at all. Effective, generic, documented systematic testing processes and methods impact their ability to depict testing as a mystic art and themselves as its gurus.

I would say that resorting to personal attacks of that nature is strong indicator for the bankruptcy of their argument.

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Should you log every bug?

Are all bugs serious enough to log?

I found one during testing today that raised the question of the costs of raising, triaging, fixing and retesting a bug compared with the costs of just leaving it in the system.

It set off some interesting discussions on Twitter on the subject.

The bug in question was a drop-down list for an optional value in a create dialog in a relatively little-used part of the system. One of the values in the dropdown was not valid, and quite obviously not so, at least with the data in the test system. If you selected that bogus value and saved the record, the server-side code didn’t throw an error, but inserted null into the column.

Since neither the field nore the underlying column were mandatory, the bug didn’t result in any data corruption, and it did save the correct value to the database if you selected one of the legitimate, valid values.

From a user perspective, it’s more of an irritation than a major issue; it certainly doesn’t prevent you from using the feature in its intended way.

In the end I discussed it with the business analyst, and we agreed to log it in the bug tracking system, but assign a low severity.

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