Testing the Limits with Lanette Creamer – Part III

In the third and final installment of our Testing the Limits interview with Lanette Creamer, we cover the Seattle testing scene; why more women don’t enter the profession; mobile testing challenges; test automation; her favorite Nicholas Cage movie and more. In case you missed them, here’s part I and part II.

uTest: The Seattle area has spawned an inordinate number of top testers (Whittaker, Bach, Bach, Creamer, et al) – what’s the deal with that?  Is there something in the water or is just a result of the Microsoft ecosystem being nearby?
LC: If there was no James Bach there would be no interview with a crazy redheaded tester named Creamer, because I would have no testing blog. If James Bach wasn’t in Seattle, I may not have had the chance to see him speak so often. Cast 2007 was in Bellevue, WA, maybe partially because that is close to Microsoft, so I guess in a roundabout way, it could be the Microsoft ecosystem being nearby that made Bellevue the location for Cast at the right time.

I prefer to think of it as something special about Seattle that fosters a unique perspective and resilience. Maybe it’s all of the cloudy weather. The grunge movement started in Seattle, and much like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, there are some innovative contrarians who aren’t afraid to blaze new trails coming out of Seattle to this day – and flannel is in style again.

uTest: Numbers-wise, the software testing profession is clearly dominated by dudes. Why do you think that is? How do we change this trend? Does it matter, or is this topic completely overblown?
LC: When all of the women who have the talent, skills, and desire to be testing are appreciated for the value they offer, and the field is still dominated by dudes, then great! It is about having the opportunity, not about enforcing some gender ratio. Right now things are not equal and fair for female testers and I’d like to see that change in my lifetime. I don’t think male testers are the problem at all. After a few curious looks, once we start actually testing or talking about it, in my experience, most testers are supportive and eager to help each other learn regardless of gender. The problem is higher up in the companies where the value testers bring isn’t well understood and diversity isn’t valued for men or women. The top reason we should care about diversity in our testing teams is because the demographic of a computer user is more diverse than ever before.

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I Love The Smell Of Bug Battles In The Morning…

No bugs were harmed in the planning of this Bug Battle… but they will be — starting Friday at noon ET.  That’s right uTesters — it’s time for our 2nd quarter Bug Battle competition!

And this time, we’ll be checking out the top location-based check-in services: Foursquare vs. Gowalla vs. Brightkite.  We’ll be letting our community put these innovators to the test (their public-facing websites, their check-in services, their mobile apps and their integrations with Facebook and Twitter).

And after the testing phase is complete on Monday, May 24th, we’ll be sending a survey to all participating testers to compare the usability and feature set of these three leaders.

What’s in it for testers?  Well, bragging rights, sure.  But we’ll also be doling out nearly $4,000 in prize money to the testers who report the most severe/interesting bugs and provide the most insightful survey feedback.

So it’s time to do what you do best, uTesters!  Log into your uTest account and scour these apps for quality defects and report them in a clear, concise way.  And if you do it better than your peers, you could be named the Q2 Bug Battle winner and earn some big prize money for your time.

When Software Breaks (the law)

Whenever a major crime has been committed – or whenever foul play is involved – a software bug is sure to be one of the usual suspects.

Without the right to a fair trial however, many of these bugs are  found guilty of crimes they did not commit. Perhaps a witness confused them with a similar looking feature, or maybe they were framed by a developer…

In any event, when they are to blame, software bugs hardly ever face the cruel and unusual punishment they deserve. Most of the time, they are back on the streets web the very next day. Where’s the outrage? Won’t somebody think of the user!

So just how lawless have software bugs become? Here’s a list of recent crimes for which they are suspects:

Market Manipulation
“The House Financial Services securities subcommittee plans to hold a hearing to examine what caused the US stock market to plunge almost 1,000 points in a half hour Thursday, and it called on the SEC to investigate possible problems with computer algorithms that may have exacerbated a human order-entry error and led to the precipitous drop. ‘Reports have surfaced that much of this movement was potentially as a result of a computer glitch,’ Committee Chairman Kanjorski said. ‘We cannot allow a technological error to spook the markets and cause panic. This is unacceptable. In this day and age and with the use of such complex technology, we should be able to make sure that our financial markets are effectively monitored and investors are protected.'” (From Slashdot)

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Non-Latin URLs – Are You Ready for Testing?

Up until last week, Internet domain names were a pretty mature business.  Then the folks at ICANN decided to shake things up by enabling non-Latin character ccTLDs (country code Top Level Domains – like .co.il and .co.uk ).  What does that mean for you?  Well, here’s a quick test.  Try visiting this URL: http://موقع.وزارة-الأتصالات.مصر/.

What you’re looking at is an Internationalized Domain Name, or IDN for short.  It doesn’t contain western or “Latin” letters, and chances are everything you know about URLs is about to get turned backwards (in this case, literally).  What’s worse is that different browsers handle this kind of domain name differently, and there’s no one right answer.

Are you a software tester?  Then your ship has come in because IDNs open up a whole new category of software bugs.  Let’s take a look at a few big trouble areas, but hang on tight because this gets goofy fast.

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Top 20 Software Testing Tweeps

According to Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Twitter now has 105,779,710 registered users—and is adding 300,000 new users a day. Attempting to weed through all of the fluff can be daunting! So, if you’re interested in jumping into the Twittersphere or are just looking to follow the leading journalists and thinkers in software testing today, check out our “Top 20 Software Testing Tweeps” list below (in no particular order)!

  1. James Bach — @jamesmarcusbach
  2. Michael Bolton — @michaelbolton
  3. Testing At The Edge Of Chaos (Matt Heusser) — @mheusser
  4. Tester Tested! (Pradeep Soundararajan) — @testertested
  5. StickyMinds.com (Better Software Mag) — @StickyMinds
  6. SearchSoftwareQuality.com (Yvette Francino) — @yvettef or @SoftwareTestTT
  7. Google Testing Blog (Copeland/Whittaker) — @copelandpatrick or @googletesting
  8. Testy Redhead (Lanette  Creamer) — @lanettecream
  9. Test Obsessed (Elizabeth Hendrickson) — @testobsessed
  10. SD Times — @sdtimes
  11. Jon Bach — @jbtestpilot
  12. Software Test & Performance Mag –- @STPCollab
  13. Software Testing Club (Rosie Sherry) — @rosiesherry or @testingclub
  14. Lisa Crispin — @lisacrispin
  15. Fred Beringer — @fredberinger
  16. uTest (shameless plug! ;-)) — @uTest
  17. Weekend Testing (Santhosh/Parimala/Ajay) — @weekendtesting or
  18. Santhosh Tuppad — @santhoshst
  19. Ajay Balamurugadas — @ajay184f
  20. Parimala Shankariah — @curioustester

Update! Thanks for everyone’s recommendations. Here are a few we missed: @sbarber, @QualityFrog, @dailytestingtip, @sdelesie, @Rob_Lambert, @chris_mcmahon, @hexawise, @marlenac, @shrinik, @sbharath1012, @sellib, @TestingNews.

Please feel free to add any active Tweeps you think we may have missed in the comments! We welcome your recommendations.

Eyjafjallajö-what?

As a native English speaker, the pronunciation of Iceland’s volcano has eluded me.  But I knew Icelandic was a tough language from when I visited there a year ago (see my post: Six Testing Lessons From Iceland).  What I also know is that travel in Europe has turned into a mess, and that travelers from around the world have suffered from the wrath of Eyjafjwhatever (including uTest’s very own product manager who is currently stuck in the United Kingdom).

Of course, getting stuck on a vacation to a foreign country sounds awful (I have terrible nightmares of one day getting stuck in Tahiti), but there are some valuable lessons we can learn from all this.

1. Expect the unexpected.
In my testing lessons from Iceland, I invented a few Icelandic testing tours in the spirit of James Whitaker.  One of them was the Heimaey tour:

Heimaey – The Icelandic island of Heimaey is known for two things: fishing and its little problem with volcanoes.  In 1973, the entire island was evacuated after massive cracks formed in the ground spewing lava and ash everywhere – eventually forming the volcano Eldfell.  Take a tour of your users’ worst nightmare problems and make sure everything works correctly.

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Software Bugs: You Win Sum, You Lose Sum

In becoming self-aware, modern software has developed an unusually cruel sense of humor.

Last week, for instance, a woman hit the jackpot at a Colorado casino – to the tune of $42 million – only to be told that her winnings were the result of a “software malfunction.” Of course, the casino refused to pay the full amount, but graciously offered to comp her room and drinks.

“It seems like a fair deal to me,” said the woman. “I could have really used that forty-two million, but free drinks and a hotel are just as good. I’m the happiest person in the world.”

Just kidding, she’s completely irate. As expected, the dispute has now entered the legal arena. Call me a cynic, but I think she’ll have a better chance of winning at the slots.

Meanwhile in Orlando, a guy making a routine bank transfer was shocked to see his balance at $88,888,888,888.88. According to the news report, he was not the only one to sneak into the billionaire’s club that day. He pondered moving the money offshore ( honest guy!) but before he could find the area code to the Cayman Islands, the issue had been identified and resolved.

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This Twitter Bug Is About YOU

You – the second person English pronoun.  You are the one reading this article. You were Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2006. You are special. You rock. Our company name is all about you and testing.

You have also been very naughty. Check out this Twitter entry written by you:

I kill people who nudge me

Wait, that wasn’t written by you? It was written by someone else named You? Oh, our mistake. And apparently it was Twitter’s mistake too according to this article on TechCrunch.

Twitter likes to tell you who is doing what and when at the bottom of each tweet. For example, a post description might tell you that it was retweeted by a friend.  Or if you were the one doing the retweeting, then the post description should say that it was retweeted by “you”.  But what happens when a buggy hyperlinking algorithm decides that anything after the words “Retweeted by” should link to a Twitter profile?

“Retweeted by you” becomes “Retweeted by you” – as in twitter.com/you. And you sounds cranky.

There are a lot of good lessons here for testers and developers, but I want to highlight a few particular:

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Bug Reporting Lessons From Toyota: Are Your Brakes Show Stoppers?

In light of Toyota’s recent quality issues, the number of formal consumer complaints has risen above the norm. To make matters worse, Toyota has had an extremely difficult time making sense of all this new feedback.

Why? Well, if you are an experienced QA professional, you know exactly why.

A recent article about how to write a useful NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety) complaint should strike a chord with software testers. The complaint template is very similar to the bug reports we all know and love. In fact, they both serve the same purpose: defect reporting.

Consumers can learn a few lessons from software testers – and vice versa – by taking a look at some key excerpts from the article:

Include data that will help the manufacturer better understand the problem:

  • Facts about your vehicle and maintenance records
  • What you did and how the vehicle responded
  • Evidence and extra details

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