Software Quality Insights

Jul 31 2009   9:27PM GMT

Software testing blog digest: Bug, team woes; memes; Ford Motors

Jan Stafford Jan Stafford Profile: Jan Stafford

If you don’t read software testing blogs, you’re missing some great advice and thoughtful ramblings on testing philosophies. I tap into those blogs daily, and here I’m sharing the wealth with this reader’s digest of the testing posts I enjoyed this week.

Why bugs are hard to kill

On Maverick Tester, Anne-Marie Charrett describes the mistakes she’s made when doing offsite exploratory testing under tight deadlines. Then, she reveals how she’s stopped making those mistakes in her list of offsite exploratory testing guidelines to bug reporting.

One tidbit of her advice: Write reports right away, even if you are super-busy. She writes that “it takes longer to write them up at the end, when you have to review heaps of cryptic phrases in Session Tester or in your notebook.”

I love the post’s title, “Do your bugs only glow when it’s dark?” It reminds me of the “putting out fires” metaphor. How many times have I gotten emails from co-workers, site experts and others saying they’re late with a response or a deliverable because they’ve been putting out fires? Hey, I’m guilty, too.

In my own work, I see that most of these fires were started when haste made waste. Why is it so hard to take things one step at a time? Oh yeah, there’s a deadline and not enough time to make it.

When familiarity breeds success
Moving on, two posts on Matthew Heusser’s Creative Chaos blog explore thought-provoking topics: team cohesiveness and memes. In his post on Jelled Teams, he ponders the good results of working on a team that’s been together for over a year. How much creativity and productivity is lost, he asks, when companies often shift people from team to team as casually as they do? Too few managers realize that teamwork flourishes when people know each other well enough to feel comfortable sharing their ideas. When a team works well together, it’s an added-value asset in and of itself.

So, project managers, think twice before breaking up good teams!

I see a connection between that post and Heusser’s musings today in The meme’s the thing. Wikipedia calls a meme “a postulated unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, and is transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.” Good grief! I think Heusser’s short definition is better: “It’s an idea – a concept that spreads from person to person. ”

Any married person knows that familiarity and mind-melds go hand-in-hand. It stands to reason that team members that’s been together a while will start understanding how each other thinks, and the ideas will start flowing. Community work along the same lines. That’s why, I think, the open source software community has made such great strides so quickly. Another is that open sourcers are so communicative and have created vehicles – sites, projects, message boards and so on – that foster collaboration.

Heusser believes that software testers should be thinking along the same lines and said:

“I believe that the communities I belong to…have ways to test software that are significantly better than the status quo, and we have ways to communicate them and techniques to teach them. Yet if our testing ideas are memes, we need to think about ways to package and present them to win.”

Carrying on with the teamwork theme, there’s a nice exchange on the topic of how to handle unhappy testing teams on Jerry Weinberg’s blog, The Secrets of Consulting. A software test manager at an insurance company wrote to Weinberg, and they –- and others – brainstorm on the subject in an informative message chain.

On the lighter side

Once you’re a software tester, you look at everything from that point of view. So, Software Quality Insights blogger and independent consultant Mike Kelly describes Ford Motor’s web application flaws whe he was trying to spec a new Ford truck. In his entertaining post, he concludes that it’s easier to build and buy a Toyota online. This is something Washington has missed when discussing bailouts and the state of U.S. auto companies, I think.

There were plenty of other good reads in testing posts this week, more than I can cover here. Please comment below if you read something good this week or have a favorite testing blog.

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