Mr T and the Art of Box Painting

It’s funny how one can take different media and apply them to what you want to…in this case software testing. I recently watched a World of Warcraft ad with Mr T from the A-Team days (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqJE5TH5jhc )

Mr T created a new character, a Night Elf Mohawk – the ‘directors’ of the ad said that he couldn’t do that. In Mr T’s own way, he boldly announced that he was ‘handy with computers’ and ‘hacked his own Night Elf Mohawk.’

Like most things software, the developer is looking for a solution to a problem. A tester (in this analogy, Mr T) is looking for a problem in the solution or in other words looking outside of the box.

Being *bound* by specifications and scripts is what I mean by box. Now I don’t mean that i am anti specification and anti scripts (they may be valuable resources, oracles if you will, in the right context) but reliance on these solely leads to the box being painted (http://viscog.beckman.illinois.edu/flashmovie/20.php for an example of *box painting* – INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE CLIP: Count the number of passes made by the team in white. Record the number of passes and continue reading….(at the end of this post is the next set of instructions but don’t go there yet!)).

In the ad, Mr T is looking outside of the box. He is thinking outside of the bounds of the requirements.

Why?

If the software delivers as per the requirements, has it not passed?

No.

Outside of the *bounds* are the areas testers love to tread because we then are looking at potential bugs. When we find bugs and report them, they are resolved in some way. As they are resolved, then potentially the quality of the product is increased.

I once worked on an application whereby the requirement of an input field (stated in the specification) said “truncate 32 chars”.

This was a java based browser hosted financial application.

A colleague and I started testing. We typed into the input field and as much as we tried, we couldn’t type past 32 chars.

So we created a very large string (1,000’s +) and copied and pasted into the same input field.

BANG!

CRASH!

DEAD!

The application fell over completely!

The developer had followed the spec and had coded for it but he did not cater for a copy and paste (let alone a large string!)

It took the developers about an hour or two to resolve it.

In this case, we thought outside of the box – we dared to push beyond the realms of the spec. We tested for something that wasn’t considered and this is an important consideration for testers – to question and challenge what is in front of us. Challenge what we have been given and the value that we will add as testers will be made manifest (i.e. bugs!!)

Happy hunting!

**INSTRUCTIONS from the video clip continued – what did you notice? Was there anything interesting going on? If haven’t found anything, review the clip and defocus your vision or in other words, look outside of the box.

Software test leadership is alive in New Zealand!

New Zealand flagI’ve been lamenting the state of testing in New Zealand or more specifically test leadership. Now, I’m not talking about the number of test leads or managers – I’m talking about leaders in our community.

I felt there weren’t very many leaders with most testers here settling for a *just do my job* mentality.

Until last night.

Last night, Software Education held a customer evening by inviting customers to view Software Education’s new premises. I met some interesting people and had some great discussions and then it dawned on me – I’ve met some strong testing community leaders already but I had thought of them individually not collectively and I’ve discovered that there are more test leaders than I’ve realised. Now, when I’m talking about community leadership, I’m talking about context driven, lets discuss and debate and better our craft type of leaders (and this is irrespective of whether these leaders are part of the ISTQB certification program or what have you).

And so what I would like to do is highlight these leaders as testers to watch because in their own way, they are helping the craft grow in New Zealand. 

Farid Vaswani – Test manager at Auckland University, associate editor for Software Test Professional and implementor of SBTM at Auckland University.

Oliver Erlewein – Performance tester/test Manager at Datacom Wellington, context driven space, will debate or challenge the status quo. Weekend Testers Australia New Zealand facilitator.

Trevor Cuttris – Team Leader IAG – involved in mentoring and upskilling testers in many different ways (at work SIGiSTs groups etc). We had a good discussion around ET and SBTM.

Rob O’Connell – Assurity Consulting – very similar to Trevor. Lots of passion. Not willingly to accept the status quo if it provides no value. Mentoring, upskilling, uplifting and highlight the craft.

Katrina McNicholl – AMI Insurance – Christchurch based – passionate about the craft, about learning and about sharing ideas and thoughts on testing at the local level.

Tessa Benzie – AMI Insurance – Christchurch based – the same as Katrina – involved wanting to better the testing craft at a local level.

John Lockhart – Webtest Auckland – context driven test automation – *guru* with fitness – first met Jon through the AST BBST series of courses.

Matt Mansell – DIA – is involved in many different areas that result in testing being given a higher profile particularly in the Wellington market.

Honorable mention: Aaron Hodder, Shawn Hill (what an awesome presentation at STANZ 2010!), Christo Bence, Andrew Black, Sophia Hobman, Richard Robinson, Jonathon Wright.

Is this an exhaustive list? No.

Are these the only community leaders in New Zealand? No – but these are testers that I’m tagging that will have an impact on the testing community – whether it’s locally or nationally and will help improve the state of our craft here in New Zealand.

Have I missed some testing leaders? Most likely – BUT i hope you come forward, I hope you stand up and I hope you begin to share your passion for testing with us all (conferences, SIGiST groups, STANZ, blogs, twitter – the list is endless).

To those whom I’ve *outed* – it’s time to highlight the incredible talent we have here in testing – and its time to share the passion that you have with everyone and become …leaders.

A student of the craft

I recently had a Skype session with James Bach. One of the topics we discussed was around guru’s. I said to James that I tell my classes that I am not a guru, I’m the dude at the front.

James said …

[22/06/2010 2:20:51 p.m.] James Bach: I have a name for that
[22/06/2010 2:20:58 p.m.] Brian Osman: whats that?
[22/06/2010 2:21:43 p.m.] James Bach: I say I’m a “student of the craft” and I want to connect with other students. I may be a more advanced student in some ways, and sure, I have a lot of opinions, but I’m still a student. That’s the attitude.
[22/06/2010 2:22:47 p.m.] Brian Osman: I like that – actually i remember you asking Lee Copeland something similar at STANZs last year. Do you mind if I share that title also?
[22/06/2010 2:23:10 p.m.] James Bach: no problem

So its *official* – I am a student of the craft – constantly learning in some way.

Why testing is like curling!

I was watching the Winter Olympics with curiousity – there are some amazing athletes and some amazing sports.

One among them was curling.

I didn’t get it.

The game reminds me of lawn bowls on ice except that the crowd went nuts!

So with this in mind, the analogy and test management came to mind. I had a discussion in a test management class and we came to similar conclussions.

Curling is a team game with 4 people with 2x team members called “sweepers” clearing the path so that the “stone” has a smooth journey to the “house” ( the bullseye.)

My question then is, how much of testing is like this?

How much time as testers/leads/managers do we spend on smoothing the path for testing?

Collaborating with thinking testers in India

Something is happening to testing!

A number of forward thinking testers in India have gotten together and formed Weekend Testers . Already there have been a number blogs posted about what an innovative idea this is – and these blogs post referrals/conference talks are from industry leaders such as James Bach and Michael Bolton which is high praise indeed.

I’ve been communicating with Parimala Shankaraiah who is one of the founders of Weekend Testers on Exploratory Testing (she has even taken the time to post some great comments on the google group Software Testers New Zealand.) If Parimala is an example of the thinking and passion towards testing in the Weekend Testers community then the Indian testing discipline is in good hands!

It does seem to me that are great inquisitive testers coming through every single day and the world-wide web is one way to keep track of and collaborate with these powerful thinkers!

The Joy of Being Amongst Fellow Testers

I recently delivered a presentation on Session Based Test Management to the Auckland Test Professionals Network. It was my first presentation. It was fun and I really enjoyed being there.

For me though, the enjoyment factor came afterwards in talking and discussing software testing with other testers.

I noticed something.

There were some testers that had come to learn something. Not everyone did but I’m sure most took away at least one idea or thought. And my thought is this – why don’t we (software testers in New Zealand) actually share our knowledge a lot more?
Some of us blog, a number attend SIGIST meetings, conferences etc but we then either sit on that knowledge or we’re not sure how to share it. IF we grow our community, our discipline then we all benefit!

I was talking to Farid Vaswani and John Lockhart amongst other wonderful testers there. They were very willing to share their own thoughts and ideas on testing and we had a great discussion and explored multiple testing ideas.

Which created a second thought – since we geographically limited,and we are not able to mentor or share and discuss ideas easily in a physical sense, there are a myriad of ways to achieve this online. So i created a Google group called Software Testers New Zealand. And while it’s aiming for a New Zealand flavour, it is in no way limited by country. So if you are outside of New Zealand and wish to become part of this growing community, feel free to join and share your ideas and thoughts!

By doing so, lets mentor each other and take the best from each other.

Happy testing!

STANZ 2009 Wellington New Zealand

STANZ (Software Testing Australia New Zealand) is the premier Software Testing conference this side of the equator! The conference kick off in Wellington New Zealand with Lee Copeland , James Bach, Karen N Johnson, Julian Harty and Brian Bryson forming the international cast of speakers along with a  host of talented local speakers.

Monday started with a keynote from Lee Copeland from which in outlined the innovations he sees coming. I found him warm, engaging and very humble.

James Bach was next and what impressed me the most was the way he *prowled* the side of the conference room before being introduced and then ran and jumped on stage! I was wondering a whole bunch of “what if’s” then! His talk Becoming a Software Testing Expert was vintage James Bach in which he discussed the plays of Euripides and other Greek tragedians and related them back to software testing. The point from my perspective is that testing is neither purely technical or engineering but that we can learn from all multple areas and disciplines (history, philosophy, pyschology etc). James also discussed his Huh-Really-So heuristic which he uses when someone makes a claim about something. Huh means i don’t understand, please explain what you mean. Really is what other approaches are there, what else could happen, what other tools could we use and So is to dismantle the argument or to determine whether or not the idea is worth pursuing (I hope i got this right! :))

Unfortunately i didn’t get to speak to either Lee or James one on one but i did manage to talk to Karen N Johnson and Julian Harty. Karen’s workshop on test pairing was very interesting but more so the discussion we had (myself, Karen and Sharon Robson) after. Karen also gave a wonderful keynote on story telling which i think as testers, is an area on which we can improved. We may test but how do we say what we see? How do we know who to talk to and how to talk to them?

The last highlight for me from a presentation point of view was Julian Harty’s presentation on security testing which i found extremely interesting. I came away from the talk with the ideas of :-

*Finding a mentor

*Use tools

*Threat modelling

*and continuous learning (including self study or self learning).

I managed to talk to Julian afterwards and what surprised me was that security testing is about 1% of what he does as a tester. However when he did do security testing, he taught himself/found ways to make himself knowledgeable and very effective.

STANZ was a blast! Great speakers, great conference and more importantly great people. I managed to catch up with a host of new/old friends and its was awesome to share STANZ with them!