Testing Fireworks (and other weekend readings)

“They want to know if the 91-shot Saturn Missile Battery really fires 91 shots,” writes Cory Matteson of the Lincoln Journal Star. “And, they want to know if 96,000 firecrackers in a pile the size of a bean bag chair will leave the lawn looking like burnt toast if they’re set off all at once.”

Much like software users, fireworks enthusiasts (like the guy in the picture) want a product that functions as expected; that works safely and without any unnecessary complications, regardless of the environment it is being used in. In short, they want a product that has been tested extensively before it was launched released.

So, seeing that it’s Forth of July weekend here in The States, I thought I would direct your attention to some testing fireworks – literally, in the form of this manual from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and figuratively, in form of these recent (and provocative) software testing blog posts. Enjoy.

How Challenging Each Other Helps the Craft – James Bach
“Regular readers know that I’m dissatisfied with the state of the testing industry. It’s a shambles, and will continue to be as long as middle managers in big companies continue to be fat juicy targets for scam-artists (large tool vendors, consulting firms, and certain “professional” organizations) and well-meaning cargo cultists (such as those who think learning testing is the same as memorizing definitions of words and filling in templates).

What I can do about it is to develop my personal excellence, and associate myself with others who wish to do likewise. Someday, perhaps we will attain a critical mass. Perhaps the studious will inherit the Earth.”

The Heart of a Tester – Pradeep Soundararajan
“In 1954, when software testing was just about taking birth, there were two groups that started to form. I was as curious as you are right now, to know what those two groups stood for. One of the groups christened as, “Kuzusu”, had a thought that good testing would reduce the number of billable hours to deliver a good enough product and hence had to be avoided. The other group christened, “Shidachi”, stood for good testing that can save a lot of stakeholders time and money to deliver a good enough product. Things started getting hostile. People from the two groups tried killing each other.”

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Top Ten Software Testing Events

Quality (pun intended ;)) software testing events are hard to find, but we’ve not only attended and spoken at some fantastic conferences around the world, but we’ve also simply asked around and received some great feedback in order to compile the Top Ten Testing Events.

Much like our Top 20 Software Testing Tweeps post, we need your help in letting us know if we’ve accidentally missed any good ones. Here they are in order of occurrence:

  1. QUEST-Quality Engineered Software & Testing Conference (Apr 19-23, 2010: Dallas, TX)
  2. Rapid Software Testing-By DevelopSense (Jul 5-7, 2010: Amsterdam, NL)
  3. STANZ-Software Testing Australia/New Zealand (Aug 23-24: NZ & Aug 26-27: AU)
  4. CAST-Conference of the Association for Software Testing (Aug 2-4, 2010: Grand Rapids, MI)
  5. STAREAST (passed) & STARWEST-Software Testing Analysis & Review (Sept 26-Oct 1, 2010: San Diego, CA)
  6. iqnite events-Next one in UK-formerly Software & Systems Quality (Oct 4, 2010: London, UK)
  7. STPCon-Software Test Professionals Conference (Oct 19-21, 2010: Las Vegas, NV)
  8. GTAC-Google Test Automation Conference (Oct 28-29, 2010: Hyderabad, India)
  9. Expo: QA (Nov 16-18, 2010: Madrid, Spain)
  10. EuroSTAR (Nov 29-Dec 2, 2010: Copenhagen, Denmark)

Have we omitted any noteworthy testing conferences you’ve recently attended? Please add your recommendations in the comments and they’ll be placed in the running to join the top events list. Maybe we can make this list a Top 15!

UPDATE: So far, some really great recommendations from our community include O’Reilly Velocity, Bangalore Workshop on Software Testing and VISTACON 2010 (the first Vietnam International Software Testing & Automation Conference).

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The Goooooaaaalllllll of Software Testing

Considering that a World Cup ref is once again under police surveillance (next stop, Witness Protection) as the result of a blown call, perhaps it’s finally time for FIFA to consider a long-overdue technology upgrade. May I suggest instant replay.

Or, if you’re one of those soccer purist types, maybe you’d prefer a ball that lights up like a slot machine when it crosses the goal line. Since my eyes still hurt from the NHL’s FoxTrax puck, I’m inclined to opt for the former, but what do I know?

Apparently very little, because a Mexico City-based development team is hard at work on a ball that would do just that. Aside from the aforementioned light show, it would also be able to “beam out TV replays” to prevent further refereeing gaffes. They have a point. I mean, if you somehow miss a TV replay of a DISCO BALL lighting up behind the net, perhaps refereeing isn’t for you.

Of course, many players are not too thrilled with the current Jabulani ball, which has been “praised” for its supermarket-like quality, so one can only imagine how this one would go over. My guess: not so much.

But if such technology is introduced into the Beautiful Game, it will only be after extensive rounds of real-world software testing. Here’s what the dev team is up against:

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News Flash: Developers Love Testing…Almost As Much As Doing Taxes

Is there anything worse than doing your taxes? Apparently, for most software developers the answer is ‘yes’… testing software. And this issue is costing companies…often to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars for some of the more severe bugs.

Most tech execs and CTO types will tell you that having your developers test their own code — and not investing in proper testing resources — is a recipe for disaster. And yet inexplicably, some companies still go down this path.

We’ve all heard the numerous arguments before:  developers are too valuable to spend their time testing (eg: an engineer in Boston comes fully loaded at $120k); developers make lousy testers; these two separate functions should each be left to the experts.

Well Chris Matyszczyk from CNET (@ChrisMatyszczyk) says that, in addition to those arguments, there’s another reason to invest in proper testing:  most developers would rather do their taxes than test code.  And he’s got the stats to back it up:

Developers seem to be increasingly bugged by the agony of ill-tested software. All but 11 percent of the respondents cited either design defects, problems in test execution, or simply insufficient time spent on testing on all platforms and targets. And 58 percent named the latter two as the greatest evils.

More than half declared that the last significant software bug cost their companies an average of $250,000. So now, even I, a regressive in so many ways, see just how painful developers’ lives really are.

However, this research doesn’t seem to account for all the depths and nuances of pain. It gave respondents the option of choosing only the dentist, the fender-bender, or the taxes when expressing their dissatisfaction on, say, discovering that management won’t be investing in proper software testing or that sorting out the bugs is down to the developer.

I’d love to hear from the testers and the developers out there.  Should testers be responsible for their own QA?  Should they own a small part of testing (eg: unit testing only)?  Or should development and testing be separated and left to the specialists?  What say you, oh wise ones?

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800 Billion Dollar Bug Breaks The Bank

In this month’s installment of This Week In Testing, the date was May 1996 and the setting was the First National Bank of Chicago (insert dramatic pause here). The gist? Software “glitches” caused the bank accounts of 823 customers of the major US bank to be credited with a total of $924,844,208.32 each.

According to The American Bankers Association, all of $763.9 billion — more than six times the total assets of First Chicago NBD Corp. — was the largest error in US banking history.

And the reason given? Inadequate testing of course! The bank updated its ATM transaction software with new message codes. The message codes were unfortunately not tested on all ATM protocols, which resulted in some ATMs interpreting the codes as huge increases to customer balances.

This isn’t the first time we bring up banking bugs. You might remember Software Bugs: You Win Sum, You Lose Sum, the post about a man in Orlando who while making a routine bank transfer was shocked to see his balance at $88,888,888,888.88.

What other bugs have you recently heard or read about with such huge financial implications? Any mobile banking bugs?

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