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Hiccupps - James Thomas
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James Thomas
Updated: 15 hours 38 min ago

I am a Tester

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 11:47
I'm wary of drawing parallels between managing and parenting, of analogising my team with my children (in a forum that I know some of them read, at least) but I find the proposition in “Helping” Versus “Being a Helper”: Invoking the Self to Increase Helping in Young Children very appealing. Essentially it suggests that subtle differences in language used to describe behaviour can have an effect on observed behaviour.

In the paper, the authors run experiments where they ask children to "be a helper" or "to help" and find that the former results in significantly more helpful actions. Even when the children are doing something else that they regard as enjoyable, they're more likely to stop it and help if they were asked to be a helper.

There's similar research in adults linking the noun version of a behaviour more strongly to a sense of self than the verb version, both positively and negatively. For instance people are less likely to cheat when asked to "be a cheater" than when asked "to cheat" because (it is hypothesized) the nominal reflects how people (want to) see themselves.

My team are testers. (And my kids could be more helpful.)
Categories: Blogs

Developers are Users Too

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 07:47

I'm in a Scheme study group run by one of our developers and based on Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, a classic computer science textbook. This week, chatting about our homework opened up a Java discussion, specifically the way that a particular library class makes it easy to have code fail at run time rather than compile time.

One developer said that the documentation made it clear how the class should be used so this was fine. The other developers were shocked that this was considered an acceptable defence.

That's right: the developers said that, where the software enables the wrong thing, even though somewhere there is doc explaining the potential consequence of the wrong thing, expecting the users to do the right thing was unacceptable.

Yes, really. We all laughed at the time but I've hardly stopped chuckling since.
Image: Wikipedia

Categories: Blogs

Windows Hate

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 22:14

So sometimes I'm a consumer. I like to think a reasonably savvy consumer, but a consumer nonetheless. And when something that I have paid for and depend on doesn't work, as a consumer, I don't like it.  Not just that, I actively resent it. Time I spend making it work is time I am not spending on something of more value to me. I already paid for that thing. It should work.

But the intellectual challenge of finding the solution? Means nothing.

But the sense of achievement when it's resolved? Don't give me that. I've no time for it. I'm all about how now I can get on with what I have to do, and with the backlog of stuff I didn't do because I was fixing that thing that I already paid for, and the new backlog that's building up while I deal with the old backlog, because of that thing that I depend on, that should just work.

So an unreasonable consumer? Not from my point of view.

As a consumer, I recently encountered a Windows 8.1 update issue with KB2919355. It failed and rolled back, with a banal message displayed and no information on where I might get more details on the failure.

Each attempt took around 30 minutes.

I made plenty of attempts.

I tried letting Windows Update do it automatically, I downloaded the update and ran it manually via Windows Update, I downloaded the update and ran it from the command line, I rebooted and was forced to reapply the update, I was forced to reboot and unintentionally applied the thing during attempts at fixing the damn thing. The thing that I paid for, that I depend on, that should just work.

I spent a lot of time on Microsoft and other forums in the virtual company of other poor souls in a similar position to me but with different environments, error codes, error messages and conflicting and incomplete advice from well-meaning onlookers whose systems, that they'd paid for, that they depended on, all appeared to be working.

I uninstalled the update, I cleaned out the older versions of the update with dism, I reviewed the status of my file system with sfc, I installed with and without peripherals attached, I uninstalled VPN software, I spent an awful lot of time looking at various log files, I edited my registry and more.

And I fixed it. In the end. But my goodwill towards Windows 8, which I've otherwise been getting on with pretty well, having made the jump straight from XP, was reduced. With your software development head on you might say this is not particularly rational. It's a product. It was some kind of bug. These things happen sometimes. Most people were OK.

But I am a consumer, and I paid for that thing, and I depend on it, and it happened to me and it wasn't fixed right away and I had to spend my time to fix it and maybe I'll think a bit more about other alternatives next time I'm ready to part with some cash.

Are your customers consumers?
Categories: Blogs

Open Notebook Testing

Sat, 06/07/2014 - 09:30
This has so many parallels to the way I like to make it possible for interested parties to follow testing progress:
Open notebook science is the practice of making the entire primary record of a research project publicly available online as it is recorded.This involves placing the personal, or laboratory, notebook of the researcher online along with all raw and processed data, and any associated material, as this material is generated. The approach may be summed up by the slogan 'no insider information'.Image: 
Categories: Blogs

The Test Jumper

Thu, 06/05/2014 - 18:33
Display caption: Any resemblance to software development activities, living or dead, is purely coincidental.[Fade from black to bright sunshine.]
The Test Manager was out of the office looking after his kids at half term. They were on what they called an adventure walk where he'd made a list of stuff for them to find on the stroll down to the river for a picnic. Their favourite on this journey was the window of wheels which they worked out in the end was a bike shop. (No, really, they actually asked for this.)
When he returned to work the following week, nominally refreshed, the Test Manager found a jumper neatly folded and smelling freshly laundered on his desk. Tester 1, who sits behind him, said that BD, a member of the BizDev team, had left it there for him.
The Test Manager was flattered. It was a tracksuit top affair, snazzy, and just the kind of thing he'd like. BD was quite a sporty chap and bigger than him, so perhaps it had got a bit tight and BD, recognising the Test Manager's sartorial panache, had decided to pass it on.
He put it to one side and got on with his work.
Later, having not run into BD all day, he tried the jumper on and showed it to Tester 1. She made appreciative if non-committal noises. (Yeah, she knows how to talk to management.) Her reaction reassured him that it was gift - he couldn't recall, now, whether she'd explicitly said so that morning. She, for her part, was simultaneously also now reassured that it was a gift. For her, BD wouldn't have left it on the desk the way he did unless he either knew it belonged to the Test Manager or was giving it to him. The way the Test Manager was flouncing around like some context-driven Naomi Campbell showed that it was new to him and so it must be a gift.
The Test Manager took the jumper home. His kids loved it. (Yeah, some people just love anything new.) They told him to wear it the next day. The Test Manager had experienced the negative reaction of children to rejection of (or even trivial variation from) any suggestion so he said that he would.
The next morning the Test Manager, wearing the jumper, found BD at his desk and thanked him. He said how much his kids had liked it and described how they'd forced him to wear it immediately. BD looked a little puzzled (but this is business talking to technical, remember) and then said something that sounded to the Test Manager as if BD had picked the jumper up from the table nearby. The Test Manager took his turn at the quizzical face but social niceties (and doubtless mental scars) prevented either of them from voicing any questions. 
For a few minutes.
The Test Manager finally asked BD where the jumper had come from again. BD said that he'd found it left on the desk and thought it was the kind of thing the Test Manager would wear, so it must have been his. 
The Test Manager took the jumper off and put it back where it had been found for the original owner to pick up. A few minutes later ping! an email arrived (actually, IRL the Test Manager keeps the sound on his computer turned off at work - he's not a complete idiot). 
The email was from the Office Manager, to the whole company: Jumper found! The Test Manager turned to Tester 1 to explain the confusion and saw Tester 2, who sits nearby, shoulders shaking, coffee cup clamped between his teeth, doing a very poor job of disguising his amusement. When the Test Manager poked him with the stick he keeps for such purposes (not really! He uses it to scratch his athlete's foot. But it is handy for minions too), Tester 2 turned and laughed loudly. "I can't believe you've lost that jumper again already" he said.
The Test Manager turned to the fourth wall, aghast and agape.

[Fade to black.]Display caption: Since the events described in this post, the jumper has been sitting, unworn, unloved and unwanted on top of the Office Manager's in-trays.Image: Jumper ClownSoundtrack: Marc Riley and The CreepersThe real Test Jumper:
Categories: Blogs