03 November 2011

Joy of Test

  There is currently a discussion on the STC site asking Can Software Testing be Fun? So I decided to share the things about Software Testing that I personally enjoy:

  Creativity - I get a lot of fun out of designing and thinking up tests to perform. Exploratory Testing is especially good for this since it involves a very rapid feedback from the test idea to the test result, meaning you can fire test ideas out very quickly.

  Casual Coding - I am not a programmer by any means, but I do get enjoyment out of coding, especially when you overcome a particularly tricky problem, but I couldn't sit in front of  a screen all day just spitting out code. Testing allows me to get enough coding done to enjoy, but not so much that it wears me out.

  Community - There are two parts to this. First, is the community of the people I work with. I have been very lucky to work with a lot of intelligent, articulate and understanding Developers, Project Mangers and, of course, Testers in my time.
  Secondly, there is the wider testing community. Membership of the STC has expanded my horizons in the blogs I read, the discussions I have and the people I meet. The community as a whole has shown me many ways in which I can learn more about the craft, as well as feel that I can participate to make it better as well.

  There are of course things I dislike about the job, but that is depressing and not the point of this post.

  So what things do you find enjoyable and fun about testing? Head over to the STC discussion and share. You never know, your enthusiasm may cause somebody to start their own testing career.

02 November 2011

Google Vanity

  I quite often find myself opening a browser window with no intention of actually looking at anything. During one of these moments, staring at the Google.co.uk page with no plans to actually do anything, I was struck with an idea. How many pages into the results will I find the first entry that refers to me?

  I started by searching for this blog, using the words Testing and Chef, without any quotes. 29 pages later and frankly wondering what the hell I was doing continuing with this charade, I found the first reference to this blog.

  Then I tried adding quotes around the words. This was better, with me having a result at the bottom of the first page.

  My final attempt to find the blog was to use testingchef as a single word. This returned the most results, including my twitter profile, but I had to make Google search for what I asked, it deciding that I must have meant to search on Testing and Chef again.

  Lastly, I thought I'd see where my first entry is when using my name. As you can guess, with a name like Andrew Morton there were a lot of results tedious books of royals and other 'celebrities'. I found my first mention on page 8, which happened to be my Software Testing Club profile.

  My plan (assuming I remember) is to repeat this next year and see if the results have dramatically changed.


  I'm so sad.


  I believe that one of the signs of a good tester, is somebody who makes the job of software tester indispensable to their company, but does not make themselves indispensable.
  Sharing information is key to a testers role. If you find yourself garnering information that is not being shared with others, you probably aren't being an effective tester. With a myriad of quick and easy ways to share information, from wikis and instant messengers, to e-mails and blogs, as well as good old talking to someone, you should have no excuse not to.
  Remember as well, if you make yourself indispensable you limit your own chances of moving forward and learning new things because the company cannot afford to have you do anything else. That is not my idea of career satisfaction, but YMMV.

20 October 2011

Do I Join the AST?

The last couple of months I have been umming and ahhing about joining the AST. I'm hoping that replies to this will convince me finally, one way or the other.

17 October 2011

More Than Just a Bug Reporter

  What is the output of testing? Since I believe testing is the act of providing information about the system under test, then the answer is 'Information'. This information can be imparted several ways, the most notable of which is a bug report. It is not the only avenue, nor is it the only information that testers gather. However, I do find that is seems to be the only information that is requested/expected from other project members. If they are only interested in bug reports, this leads to holes in the stakeholders understanding of the system. But what do you do when the people you are supposed to provide information to, do not tell you what information they require?
  Leading on from this is the idea that the only time we can give useful information is during the system testing phase of a project. However, many times I have discovered issues with the design of an application that would have been recitfied mcuh earlier if only I was involved with the design phase. What is particularly annoying though, is that in numerous project reviews, it is stated that testers should be invovled earlier, and it is always forgotten/ignored for the next project. And so the cycle continues.


28 September 2011


Being a bit anal retentive (which is why I refer to myself as a Test Analyst rather than Test Engineer), one of the things I look for when testing software is that there is consistency throughout, e.g. that same colour scheme used, buttons are in the same place between windows and that the grammar is the same.
  So you can imagine my annoyance when I noticed this in Blogger's new Stats page:

UPDATE: 11/11/11

Blogger has made another update and now the words are consistent.

23 September 2011

Sharing Knowledge

One of my colleagues has set up an internal wiki and I decided that this would be a perfect forum with which to note down my knowledge of various systems (particularly the things I have done with the Work Items and Process Templates in Team Foundation Server) and other esoteric knowlegde I have gained thoughout my career, with a view to help others in the company, and especially those testers that will come after me.
  The problem I'm having is, since no one has asked me to do this, I have no idea as to what information is going to be useful, or how best to present it to make it clear and informative even if I did.
  Which leads the question:

    Is what I'm trying to do actually going to be useful to someone?

  It is an important question, since if this idea falls under YAGNI, should I be spending the effort to do it? So far, the only answer I have to it is that I will probably find it useful, at least to practice being able to put my ideas down into words.

 I'm not sure that is enough, since I have a blog for that sort of thing.

02 September 2011

Tracking Testing Efforts

  Recently, I have been having problems with tracking what testing I have done, since over the last year or so I have moved away from creating test scripts (except for when I believe they are required), and instead deriving tests from various sources as I go. The main output I have is bug reports, but of course they only show what problems you found, not what testing you have done.
  My idea then is to purloin the Session report used in SBTM and adapt it for my needs. Our company uses TFS 2010, so I created a new work item that could be used to capture my session information. This means that any bugs raised can be linked to a session allowing me to track what I was thinking when the bug was found, but also the session work items should let me show what I have done whilst testing.
  The work item is created and in the system, but I haven't yet run a session. I suspect the weak link in this otherwise damn fine plan, will be my note taking (I've never learned note taking as a skill, to the point where I don't bother taking notepads into meetings, since I know they'll still be blank when it finishes). It relies on the tester being able to note what they are doing, whilst doing it, which can then be read back and understood further down the line. I shall see how it goes, but fully expect it to need further work before I can get it right.

UPDATE: I have used these session work items for a few days now. I find that I have to try writing notes as I think of things, because otherwise I'll perform the test and if I don't find a bug or issue I won't note that I've done it. Since this defeats the purpose, I'm trying to train myself to add the note, then perform the test.
  The proof as to whether it is a suitable use of my time though is going to come when I have to refer back to the sessions, which so far I haven't had to do...

26 August 2011

Cardiff STC Meetup Writeup

I attended my third Software Testing Club Meetup last night, this one being held in Cardiff. As is usual for these events, I spoke to a lot of interesting people not just testers but recruiters and developers also. I had a conversation about automation is the big thing that companies are looking for, to a developers about testability and test driven development, as well as a number of other software testing activities (e.g. documentation, performance etc).

There were four lightning talks given, the first given by my friend and organiser of the event, Sean Robbins. He showed us how to use Watir to run an automation test (in this case, search for something on google and check for results) by using it to run the browser, or by just sending HTTP requests which allows the test to run much faster. Very useful if you do not need to touch the form, which can be very susceptible to breaking your automation test from the smallest of changes.

The second was presented by a developer, Warren Seymour, who was talking about testability in code. He expanded on the concept of MVC (Model View Controller), which normally is only used serverside, to show how you can use it for client side code as well. He recommened two javascript MVC frameworks, the cunningly titled Javascript MVC and Backbone.js.

Thirdly, there was a quick overview on performance testing requirements from Vicky Dibble. She made the very reasonable point that a performance requirement cannot be simply 'the page will load in under five seconds', since that is giving no information on user load or considering the simple fact that sometimes, especially with web pages, you just get a slow response without a seeming underlying reason (hence she suggested changing the requirement to '98% of the time, the pages will load in under five seconds'). What she showed that was of particular note, was to use the User Community Modelling Language (UCML) to build up a picture of your systems typical user flows and be able to work out what tests you need to create.

Lastly, Mark Coakley talked about the issues facing him where they have lots of very old legacy systems that require regression testing, but they are also hiring a lot of new people from outside the business and have to be able to get them up to speed as quickly as possible. What he showed was how they began testing their documentation looking for clairty and accuracy. They then build up a picture for each document with a red, amber, green lisiting for each area they are looking at, which indicates that it is completely wrong (red), wrong but usable (amber) or all ok (green).

I highly recommend these meetups, so be sure to check the Software Testing Club Meetup page for upcoming events and do be sure to attend one. I'm hoping there will be another in Bristol in the next few months and will be sure to ramble on about it here when it does.

15 August 2011

An Agile Problem

  I have myself a problem with the proponents of Agile. Before I state it, I'll need to clarify a few points:

1) I have read the Agile Manifesto and support the values and ideas behind it

2) I have never worked in an Agile environment (or even an iterative development style project)

3) I very much consider myself as a context-driven tester

  With these points in mind, let me share my issue.
  Through the things I have read from those who do work with and contribute to the Agile methodologies, I get the impression that Agile is always right, and if it doesn't work, it must be how it was implemented (see we tried baseball and it didn't work). Therefore, there cannot be any context where Agile may not be suitable. This sounds suspiciously like best practice to me.
  However, I freely admit I may be entirely wrong here. As I say, it is an impression based on various things I have read and from a position of relative ignorance. I would like this impression to be changed and certainly to be less ignorant on the subject.
   Links to suitable reading matter would be appreciated.

11 August 2011


  Thanks to my newly aquired twitter account I noticed a tweet by Matt Heusser throwing open the possibilty of an Association for Software Testing Conference (CAST) to be held in Europe. At the moment EuroCAST is only a fledging idea, but it is a very good one. I urge people to show support this idea, via the usual social media or any other way you wish to do so, so that we may have a EuroCAST 2012.
  I also think we should get it held in Bristol, UK, for the sole reason that is where I live.

P.S. EuroCAST is not to be confused with the Gold and Silver finished charms from http://www.eurocast.co.uk/

09 August 2011

Value of Testing

  A couple of years ago, my company had to make some redundancies and we went from essentially a team of 5 testers to a team of 2. I was under no illusion that I would survive a second round of redundancies if they became necessary, having heard many times that testing is the first to go. That second round was announced a couple of weeks ago. 
  I am very thankful, and more than a bit gratified, to discover that not only were neither of the testers going to be made redundant, but that we weren't even required to be part of the consultations and so were never even considered being made redundant. I like to think that this proves that the work we do is not only valuable, but recognised as such throughout the company.
  Having seen and taken part in many discussions about how you show the value of testing, the moral I take from this is simple. Good testing shows its own value.

28 July 2011

A Test I Should Have Run

I'm new to this blogging business, as can be seen in the following story.

  I have comment moderation switched on and I thought as part of Bloggers settings, I had it so that when a comment is made, I'd get an e-mail letting me know. The key thing here, is that I thought it'd let me know when a comment needed moderating, but apparently it only lets me know when a comment is posted (i.e. once it has been moderated). Hence, the one comment that has been made, was originally written at the beginning of June, but has finally been added nearly two months later. I know now where the message telling me there are comments to be moderated appears, and although it is fairly prominent, it didn't twig with me before since I was expected said e-mail.
  The irony with all this is, I remember thinking when I set the blog up that I should add a comment to make sure it sent the expected e-mail. But I didn't. So the comment has sat there for two months.
  Sorry about that Sean.

P.S. On a related note, I am now on twitter. Can someone try the Follow button to the right and test it works? Thanks.

15 July 2011

Why have Testers?

Just heard a funny story about one of our developers. He was quoted as saying:

"I don't understand why we have testers, they only seem to find problems the customer would find"

If you don't get what is wrong with that statement, I don't think this blog is for you.

14 July 2011

Why low Severity bugs sometimes have a high Priority

This report from the BBC News site shows why sometimes a low severity bug (i.e. a spelling mistake) may require a greater priority in the to be fixed order.
It also shows how proof reading is another skill useful for testers that doesn't get mentioned often.

10 June 2011

Cardiff STC Meetup Announced

After the recent Bristol meetup, where a lot of testers from Cardiff turned up, they decided that it would be a good idea for them to host one, since there were a few testers from the area who couldn't make it to Bristol.

It is being organised by my friend and (so far only) follower of this blog Sean Robbins, and is being held on the 25th August. As usual, if you wish to attend then head over to the Cardiff STC meetup site and join in.

07 June 2011

Bristol STC Meetup

Wednesday 1st June was the test meetup in Bristol. Some of my personal highlights were:

  A talk on the differences between software testing and hardware verification. The bug point to come out of this is the economies of bugs. In hardware, a bug cost a lot of money to fix, since you have to recall all your hardware that you have just spent millions developing and manufacturing. However, bugs in software are becoming increasingly cheaper to fix, thanks to the cloud and SaaS models mean you can update in a single place and everyone will benefit, as opposed to having to create thousands of CD's to be sent to customers to run.
  A discussion on how to measure Quality, something that is, by its very nature, un-measurable since quality is defined by the observer and not a discrete measure.

Other talks included an overview of critical thinking. As the speaker himself stated, this was heavily influenced by Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe. There was a talk on how test Automation isn't just checking, but that the results and measures and logs should feed into and help with the running of your sapient tests.

  I have to say, I very much enjoyed myself. I met some passionate and articulate testers, came away with a lot to think about and will certainly be on the lookout for other testing events.

  Lastly a thank you to all those who spoke, but a special thank you to Anna Baik for organising the event. I'll be sure to post about the next event I'm attending and I hope to see you there.

20 May 2011

The role of luck

  It often amazes me just how lucky you have to be to find some bugs. I've found bugs when you use data that may only affect 1 in 1000 items in your database. I've found bugs that only manifest on certain days, if I'd been testing a few days earlier, or a few days later I never would have seen it.
  Once you see these things for the first time, you can add to your list of oracles and that should help you find similar bugs elsewhere. Which goes to prove the old addage, the more you practice, the luckier you get.

05 May 2011

Where I get grilled by James Bach

  During the STC testing meetup in Nottingham, there was a presentation made by James Bach. During the presentation, he issues a testing challenge, and picks on a member of the audience to try it. Guess who he managed to pick out of the crowd?
  The video can be viewed Here. My contribution starts at around the 24:30 mark. I warn you, it is cringeworthy.

P.S. Thanks to Mohinder Khosla for recording and uploading the video.

04 May 2011

Test Addict

  I've had that realisation today that I just can't see something without attempting to test it.

  A friend of mine updated a Facebook group he set up to use the new format, with the words 'Have just upgraded this group to the new format...all seems good at the moment...waits for the other shoe to drop...'. This was a red rag to me, so immediately I had to see if I could find this other shoe.
  He uses a link from his website to the group and it works fine, if you are already logged into Facebook. If not, you receive a page that says 'Sorry, something went wrong. We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can.' I'd expect you to be sent to the login page and then when you login successfully it forwards you to the group page. Turns out it was a problem with the link, which has now been fixed.
  The point is to show that I just can't resist testing. Pity me.

28 April 2011

Bristol Test Meetup

   For those of you in and around the South West area (or indeed any testers from further afield) there is going to be an STC meetup in Bristol on Wednesday 1st June, the full details of which can be found here:


  I attended the first of these meetups in Nottingham back in February and found it to be both informative and enjoyable, so am very much looking forward to a local gathering.

  Hope to see you there.