E3 2012 – Trends of the Video Game Trade

While many call the San Diego Comic-Con the industry’s “Nerd Prom”, E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) in LA is also known as the video game industry’s “Gaming Christmas”. Each year E3 not only begins with a series of announcements from all the major game companies, but also with a ton of high expectations from gamers themselves. E3 has always been mainly about consoles, and ten years ago, consoles were only about gaming. Hardcore gamers or “core gamers” as they are frequently called, were the most desired audience and everything catered to them.

Then the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles ventured online, set up online networks and everything changed. Some things for the better, some for the worse. Nintendo went out and dragged an all new audience of “casual” console gamers into the spotlight, and the video game  industry was altered forever.

The “core games” segment of the market, while still huge, has become somewhat of a niche market when it comes to “news-making announcements” and PR.  If you are loading up an E3 presentation this week in your browser and expecting a feast of core-gaming news, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. While serious gaming veterans may turn their nose at the mention of streaming video services, premium content, mainstream franchises, and celebrity endorsed games all they like – these are all elements of the modern video gaming business now. Love it or hate it, that is the current state of the industry.

Fortunately for every soul-crushing Usher performance there’s an amazing Watch Dogs video. Gaming caters to everybody and that still includes core gamers. So don’t throw your controllers out the window every time a publisher unveils a dance game or licence that you’re not interested in.

The other trend that is prevalent at this year’s E3 is of course, the iPad though it might always be mentioned by name. Tablets are part of every developer/platform/publisher’s strategy, and there’s no argument that the iPad is the elephant in the room when it comes to gaming on a tablet. Microsoft is introducing “SmartGlass” to move its gaming initiative beyond the Xbox 360 and onto Windows 8 tablets. Nintendo has a more closed eco-system approach with the Wii U gamepads becoming eerily similar to tablets themselves. While Sony is using a different approach and is hedging its bets by integrating it’s Playstation 3 with its portable Playstation Vita and the Playstation Mobile network on Android tablets.

With so many different strategies companies are taking to make consoles offer more than just gaming in the living room and taking on the tablet market, gamers still have a lot to look forward to. For software testers, this means an unbelievable variety in apps and platforms to test. There is no slowing down in the mobile app testing market, and this week, the video game industry just poured gasoline on the bonfire.

Usability Bloopers From The Movies

The Summer blockbuster season is underway and you know what that means: Millions of movie-goers lining up to see the very best in action-adventure…and the very worst in software usability.

According to UX expert Jakob Nieslen, we could all learn a thing or two about poor user interfaces from Hollywood. Whether it’s exceptionally large fonts or absurd ease-of-use, movie-makers continue to make some common mistakes in the realm of usability. Though it was written in 2006, his article on the Top 10 Usability Bloopers in the Movies is as relevant today as ever before.

Here were a few of my favorite bloopers:

The Hero Can Immediately Use Any UI

Break into a company — possibly in a foreign country or on an alien planet — and step up to the computer. How long does it take you to figure out the UI and use the new applications for the first time? Less than a minute if you’re a movie star.

The fact that all user interfaces are walk-up-and-use is probably the single most unrealistic aspect of how movies depict computers. In reality, we know all too well that even the smartest users have plenty of problems using even the best designs, let alone the degraded usability typically found in in-house MIS systems or industrial control rooms.

Integration is Easy, Data Interoperates

In movieland, users have no trouble connecting different computer systems. Macintosh users live in a world of PCs without ever noticing it (and there were disproportionally more Macs than PCs in films a decade ago, when Apple had the bigger product-placement budget).

In the show 24, Jack Bauer calls his office to get plans and schematics for various buildings. Once these files have been transferred from outside sources to the agency’s mainframe, Jack asks to have them downloaded to his PDA. And — miracle of miracles — the files are readable without any workarounds. (And download is far faster than is currently possible on the U.S.’s miserable mobile networks.)

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Obama: “Make Federal Sites More Mobile-Friendly”

It’s been a politically-themed week here on the uTest Blog. First there was the hacking mayor. Then there was Mitt Romney’s embarrassing mobile app. But why stop there? Why not blog about President Obama’s order to make federal sites more mobile friendly? You know what, that’s not a bad idea!

That’s right, President Obama has ordered federal agencies to optimize their sites and services for mobile devices. Before I share my thoughts, here’s ComputerWorld with the details:

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered all major government agencies to make two key services available on mobile phones within a year, in an effort to embrace a growing trend toward Web surfing on mobile devices.

Obama, in a directive issued Wednesday, also ordered federal agencies to create websites to report on their mobile progress. The websites are due within 90 days.

Innovators in the private sector and the government have used the Internet and powerful computers to improve customer service, but “it is time for the federal government to do more,” Obama said in the memo. “For far too long, the American people have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of information across different government programs in order to find the services they need.”

Many government services are not optimized for smartphones or tablets, and other services aren’t available at all on those devices, Obama wrote.

Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device. By making important services accessible from your phone and sharing government data with entrepreneurs, we are giving hard-working families and businesses tools that will help them succeed.”

And now, a few thoughts, questions and reactions:

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From Amateur to Top Tester in One Year

uTester Aaron WeintrobAaron Weintrob is a gold-rated uTester, a Test Team Lead and recently led a uMentor lesson on “When a Bug is Not a Bug – Bugs vs Feedback.” In today’s guest post Aaron walks us through how he went from having no formal testing experience to becoming one of uTest’s top testers.

When I first saw a mention of uTest it was in a Yahoo article sorting out the legitimate ways to make money online from the phony ones. I thought I’d give it a try, and If I made $5 – $10 here and there it would be a fun way to make a couple dollars if I wanted to buy something frivolous. It seemed like a game to me, hunt for what needs to be fixed, be the first one to do it, prove it and you get a small reward for it. Six months later I’ve trimmed back on my other jobs to focus more time on uTest.

While I have always been a defacto tech support resource, I never had a formal testing job. What I found far more important was to approach the task like any other job where quality control is important. I thoroughly read everything there was to get up to speed, paying especially close attention to reading everyone’s bug reports. This gave me ideas of the things that were most valuable to the customers and helped me avoid concentrating on areas that while technically may be bug, had little practical importance to the developer. By taking that approach my rating has remained high from the onset.

My best advice would be to have the discipline to pay close attention to what the customer wants out of the cycle. A good analogy is to imagine yourself a mechanic and a customer comes in and says, “The car’s not running well can you fix it.” If you’re concentrating most of your time on buffing out scratches instead of tuning the engine, you’re not the right mechanic of the job.

Finally, you have an amazing community of fellow testers and uTest employees whose job it is to help you. Try and get answers yourself, but know one of the greatest reasons for uTest’s success is that there is a community of people dedicated to helping each other out in the forums.

Romney App Gaffe Goes VIARL

The Importance of testing your mobile appWhen Barack Obama won the Presidency in 2008, he was buoyed in part by his successful utilization of web 2.0. While John McCain took pride in being an internet “illiterate” who had to “rely on (his) wife” for help online, Obama took to social media to communicate with and mobilize his supporters, especially those falling into the “Gen Y” and “Millennium” demographics.

This lesson has apparently not been lost on the GOP, which has seen increased activity among its membership to the point where Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are now reported to be more effective on social media than their Democrat counterparts. While which side is more effective will likely always be open to debate, one thing is now certain – both sides of the aisle understand how important it now is to successfully engage constituents online, especially via Twitter and Facebook. Which is why what happened to the Romney campaign on Tuesday night is so embarrassing, as Sam Laird of Mashable reports

Mitt Romney launched an official iPhone app Tuesday night — only to find that it came with one glaring, humiliating oversight for his campaign.

Here’s how the free app works: You take a photo, then are able to lay one of 14 “I’m With Mitt” banners over the image. The banners shout slogans such as “I’m a Mom for Mitt.” Then you can post the photo directly to Facebook or Twitter, or email it to a friend. The friend then receives a message reading: “I’m with Mitt Romney in 2012. And here’s a photo showing my support. Check it out!”

The problem? One of the 14 options reads, in fact, “A Better Amercia.” Yes, Amercia. A-M-E-R-C-I-A.

Not exactly the attention to detail one expects from a candidate for President. Especially one with a reputation (deserved or not) for being extremely calculated in everything he does.

The lesson to be learned? Never run for President if you don’t understand spell check. Test your mobile app. Then test it again. And then run regression testing on it. If you don’t, you might release an app that goes viral and gives millions of your opponent’s supporters a legitimate reason to make fun of you. On the internet. For the world to see.

Read the full Mashable article>>>

Political Hacks Get Busted For Political Hacking

The mayor of a small town in New Jersey, along with his son, were arrested last week for allegedly hacking into a website advocating said mayor’s recall. They would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those pesky FBI agents…

Actually, the thing that brought them down was the “low-tech” method they employed: password recovery. Here’s Ars Technica with the details:

In February, the pair planned and executed the silencing of www.recallroque.com by gaining unauthorized access to the GoDaddy account used to control the domain name. An FBI special agent filed documents with these allegations in a New Jersey federal court. The father-and-son team also obtained e-mails and messages sent among opponents after gaining unauthorized access to e-mail and Facebook accounts.

According to the account of FBI Special Agent Ignace Ertilus, Felix and Joseph Roque took a keen interest in the recall site as early as February. In an attempt to learn the identity of the person behind the site, the younger Roque set up an e-mail account under a fictitious name and contacted an address listed on the website. He offered some “very good leads” if the person would agree to meet him. When the requests were repeatedly rebuffed, Joseph Rogue allegedly tried another route. He pointed his browser to Google and typed the search strings “hacking a Go Daddy Site,” “recallroque log-in,” and “html hacking tutorial.”

He eventually figured out how to reset the e-mail account that was used to register recallroque.com domain with GoDaddy, according to Ertilus. On February 8 at 4:49 pm, after gaining control of the GoDaddy account, he allegedly cancelled the domain name. This caused the recall website to go dark. Records of calls sent to and received by the cellphones of the two Roques indicated the two were in frequent contact during the eight hours when the son took over the accounts, Ertilus alleged.

This leads us nicely into a discussion of hacker motives. In this case, the motive was pretty easy to detect. In other instances, it’s not always so clear. So to give you a better perspective on the motives of a hacker, let’s revisit Security Testing 101 by uTester Bill Ricardi:

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Site Crash Could Cost You $10,000+

DDoS attacks will cost you businessIt’s Memorial Day – that means it’s time for sales, travel and activities. It’s also one of the worst possible times for your site to go down – something that is the express goal of a DDoS attack.

Unfortunately, the number of businesses being targeted for cyber attacks is growing, according to a recent survey by Internet-analytics company Neustar. According to the study, more than 300 businesses (across industries such as travel, finance and retail) have experienced an cyberattack. From Mashable:

Ted Swearingen, director of information security operations at Neustar, says the number of cyberattacks and the variety of industries affected have increased dramatically.

“We’ve seen a game change in last two years,” Swearingen told Mashable. “It’s significant. The damage that comes with one of these attacks — the thought of being down for a day, not being able to sell goods or services online is just amazing in terms of monetary cost.”

The costs can indeed be high. 65% of businesses said a site outage would cost them up to $10,000 an hour, 21% said it would run them $50,000 an hour, and 13% of businesses would lose $100,000 every hour if their site went down. …

35% of Neustar’s respondants said they’ve experienced an attack which lasted longer than a day, while 11% said they’ve seen an attack continue for more than a week.

Read the full Mashable article >>>

If your business relies on customers’ expectation of security (such as e-tail or financial sites) or if you face a lot of competition (like in the e-tail and travel industries) you can’t afford to have your site taken down from a monetary or a customer experience/loyalty standpoint.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that any business – no matter how big or small – is a potential target for hackers. Be proactive. Security test your website and apps and be sure you have backup server plans in place so you’re not stuck if your business is targeted. When you’re in the middle of an attack is not the time to start thinking about security.

Closed for Renovations. Sorry for the Inconvenience (the Internet)

If you’ve been following the progress of ICANN’s latest endeavor, then you know that soon, companies and individuals will be able to purchase custom web address endings. For instance, I”m thinking of registering www.mikebrown.utest. All I need is $185,000 and a good lawyer :)

Anyway, if you’ve been following this story, you’re probably also aware of the major security bug that exposed sensitive details of domain applicants and put a halt to what Reuters calls the “most ambitious expansion of the Internet so far.” Here’s Politico with the details of the bug:

Because of the glitch, as many as 50 applicants were potentially able to see information for about 105 applicants. The information is closely guarded by many applicants who do not want others to apply for similar words and bid up the price. ICANN is in the process of notifying applicants whose information may  have been revealed as well as those who may have looked at the information. At some point, it will reopen the application system for five days.

The Association of National Advertisers recently called for an independent investigation of the ICANN application system. Beckstrom said ICANN hadn’t responded to the request, which can be pursued through ICANN’s multi-stakeholder process.

The good news here is that we had enough security; we can see every user’s  keystroke, every turning of a page,” he said. “That’s going to discourage any parties from using information they might have seen.”

That was a few weeks ago. On Tuesday, the project reopened after more than 40 days, with ICANN apologizing for the inconvenience. The deadline for submission is now May 30th.

To close, I’ll leave you with a few thoughts and impressions from this story, as well as a classic South Park video:

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uTest Introduces WebAppTesting, the Blog

WebAppTesting blogAre mobile apps not your thing? Are you more of a traditional web person? Well you’re in luck!

Joining our roster of blogs – including the MobileAppTesting blog, In The Wild Testing blog and this blog – uTest is proud to announce our newest addition, the WebAppTesting Blog!

Launched last Friday, WebAppTesting is already teeming with content about internet protocols, browser wars and share, mobile web news and interviews! As we move forward WebAppTesting will cover topics like:

  • Browser and OS compatibility
  • Test automation tools
  • Agile testing and other methodologies
  • Web security issues
  • Testing the mobile web
  • Load testing for web
  • Interviews with web app experts

And anything else we come across that might interest you about the world wide web! And, as always, if you find anything interesting that you’d like to share with the world, we love guest posts!

Testing Roundtable: What Do You Like Most About Testing?

Let’s face it: Testing isn’t always fun. There’s missed deadlines, missed bugs, stubborn developers, office politics and – well- you get the idea. Despite these pains, however, most people in testing truly love the work they do. But what do they like most about testing? To find out (and to brighten your day) I decided to make that the topic of this quarter’s Testing Roundtable discussion. Check out some great answers below from Jerry Weinberg, Scott Barber, Matt Heusser, Michael Cooper, Pradeep Soundararajan, Steve Vance and Peter Shih. Enjoy!

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Gerald Weinberg, Author and Consultant

I like my software to do what I bought it for, and not do other things. Without testing, that won’t happen.

If you’re asking what I like most about *doing*, testing, well I like the software I help produce to be good at doing what people buy it for, but I think that’s not the answer you’re looking for. (You should be, though, because that feeling of pride in one’s work is essential to a successful profession.)

As for the actual work of testing, I like the intellectual challenge most. While testing, I feel like, say, Sherlock Holmes—-and nobody has to be murdered (usually).

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Scott Barber, CTO at PerfTestPlus

I like the diversity of it. Take a recent week for example. I was helping one client devise a performance testing strategy for a database that is growing at the rate of 1TB per month that supports an application that enables M.D.s, Medical Test Labs, and Pharmacies to share relevant patient information, prescriptions, lab results, etc. essentially in real-time. I was working with a small team to figure out how to performance test a web-based voting application for a national (not North American) election that reasonably expects to need to securely & reliably process over 1 million votes per hour. I paired with a complete stranger to test a desktop application using screen and voice capture tools to document our testing and report defects. And I was testing a “teach programming to kids” application with my son.

But what I *really* like is the virtual impossibility of it all. While complete testing is not practically possible, balancing that against time, budget, technology, market, and human factors with a host of unknowns that feels bigger than the knowns, is the most fascinatingly challenging puzzle I’ve ever actively tried to solve. It’s a puzzle that always keeps me on my toes, always keeps me actively studying new things; from new technologies, to human psychology, to organizational management, to whatever industry my current client is in. For a person who loves to learn, loves to make a difference, is motivated by seemingly impossible challenges, gets bored easily, yet doesn’t want to be looking for a new career every 3 months, I simply can’t think of a field that is a better fit.

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Matt Heusser, Writer and Consultant

Two decades ago I was a military cadet in the Civil Air Patrol, and I vividly remember a poem over our commanders desk:

“We the willing, led by the unknowing, have been doing the impossible, for the ungrateful.  We have been doing so much for so long for so little that we are now qualified to do anything for nothing.”

While the spirit of that poem was a little passive-aggressive, I have to say, I was inspired by the content, this idea of doing the impossible under tough constraints.

In some ways, I see this in software testing. From an infinite set of possible tests, we need to derive the most powerful ones.  We need to figure out what to test right now; what to do quickly, what to automate.  We need to figure out what the results of those tests tell us, and to give answers that stand up to scrutiny.

I call this the “Great Game of Testing,” and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that I am in software testing “For Love Of The Game.”

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