Know what you are looking for.

Metal detectors and baggage scanners (X-Ray machines for luggage) are a common sight at public places in India – whether you go to sports stadium, a Mall, a hotel, a government office or for that matter even private offices and Business Centers. Airports are where I sight them globally.

However, I get a feeling of thoroughness only with the airports officials at these security check points. At most places, I notice, the officers sitting on the screens of the baggage scanners are not even looking at the screens – which makes me feel uneasy (Will refer to this later again as Experience 1). I don’t like being frisked multiple times a day, but when I pass through a security check and I know I have not been frisked properly – I know the danger I am entering into (Will refer to this later again as Experience 2).

The routine is different for different places. Mostly – my car’s boot space gets checked, there is a mirror pushed under my car’s bonnet to check if there is anything stuck under the car (Exp 3)- and then I am asked to give my luggage and even phone away before passing through the metal detector and then my luggage is handed over to me with a warm smile (Exp 4).

These officers seem to be trying to do a thorough check. And these ones (Exp 3 and Exp 4) interest me. The ones that were mentioned in cases Exp 1 and Exp 2 seemed totally hopeless – I absolutely have no respect for a person, who don’t do their work properly. As they say – you had one job.

But at this point – I am thinking – do any of these 4 set of folks know what their job is. So I talk to them – the response is same everywhere – we are looking for items forbidden to carry. Okay – and what could that be. Well, they are obvious ones – Guns, bombs, knives, Liquids etc.

My next question to them is – do you know what a bomb looks like? or a dismantled gun looks like? They start to smile – because obviously, none of them have ever seen a real bomb. I don’t want to come across as a depressed or a lunatic who is planning something so I don’t ever ask more than 1-2 questions at a place and move on. Now, after so many experiences, I ask just 1 question  – do you know what you are looking for? The answer is mostly a smile or “kya madam” (which in my English translates best to “C’mon Mam”)

At most airports – I find officers almost intimidating – their process being more lengthy and apparently rigorous – a bit black box kinds too. One doesn’t easily get to see the scanned images – the officers are glued to the screen – And to their credit – they sure find things every once in a while. But the investment is huge. The process again remains standard – not intelligent all the time. Makes me want to say an overkill sometimes, but concerned folks say – when it is about safety better safe than sorry. Not sure, if they are even looking for an optimum solution.

As I kept probing on my own uneasiness with the fake security check I get at most places and on the other side –  overwhelming & intimidating security checks at the airports and slowly I begin to feel, this is so similar to my world of Software Testing. Do testers know what they are looking for? More importantly, can they identify a risk if it is not shaped as they are expecting it to be (mostly in their limited/fixed test cases).

  • Most testers perform testing as a ritual they have to execute, in certain order
  • More often than not Testing is in place only to put a check and say – yes we do it
  • When Automation comes into play – most testers don’t know how to make the best use of it
  • Mindless automation – again as a “must do” procedure is applied. No one is looking at the scanner screen.
  • Garbage in Garbage out Automation keeps continuing. EVERY LUGGAGE should pass through the scan. But the story ends there.
  • The regular beeping through the metal detector or not beeping at all – doesnt ring a bell to the executives. Because of so many false positives – no one bothers to check eventually. The need is to continuously upgrade the system – but it is so much of work each time that they just let it go.

Comparisons could go on…

This is where I feel hopeful about software testing more than the physical security check world – because we seem to be adopting “AI”  to keep training our systems to understand how to segregate defects from those that are not. As we begin to use more artificial intelligence in our automation and we train our verification scripts to update as per the changes in the applications, our overhead for maintenance shall reduce to minimal.

Dont get me wrong – there will ALWAYS be a need to humanly explore the unknowns but our effectiveness in distributing the knowledge of the newly explored unknown, into the whole system quickly and making it a known quantity to our testers and application owners will bring a significant success to the business owners in terms of reduced risks and reduced time to market with minimum investment.

If you wish to learn more about what you should be looking for in software and how you can reduce risks in your application without creating huge technical debt in automation and yet reducing time to market (incrementally), you could do these:

  1. Talk to me at smita.mishra@qazone.in
  2. Study testing, learning critical thinking and uncovering risks at http://www.satisfice.com/ and http://www.developsense.com/  — Infact try registering in one of their classes.
  3. Explore test tools like test.ai, testim.io, saucelabs, applitools, tricentis.
  4. Explore training and webinars with SoftwareTestPro.com and MinistryofTesting.com . They also have some of the best conferences and meetups – full of latest trending content.

These are absolute top ones that come to my mind as I am typing. This wasn’t how I had planned to end the blog, hence a very limited list.

If you explore, you will find many more leaders and platforms. What is important is – to learn. So you know what you are looking for.

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One thought on “Know what you are looking for.

  1. Pingback: Testing Bits – January 27th – February 2nd, 2019 | Testing Curator Blog

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