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.

Context Driven Testing spreading its wings

Recently, I happened to attend another test meetup in the region. To my pleasant surprise, it was very well organized by Gaurav Bansal of Xebia.

I spoke about the relevance and importance of understanding business and more importantly setting up the business context when performing testing. Further in the talk , I also bought up strategies for inculcating the trend and sustaining this business knowledge in the test teams and ways to ensure it keeps growing with new work , new testers coming in. Difference between business knowledge and business context. It was very well received and thoroughly participated by the testers attending it. It seemed they enjoyed questioning and understanding, as much as I was enjoying, listening to their perspectives, challenges, issues and answering them with my thoughts.

3rd meetup -1  3rd meetup -3

 

I had started with the statement – Testing is a cost for business and in itself adds no value. This sentence was debated by the testers in audience for good 10 minutes or more until we settled on it in the context of our discussion. Which also told me the kind of thought processes the testers were bringing in. I heard all sorts of terms – ROI, Quality, Value add, etc – coming to “Testing’s” defense. Some of the testers did seem to be very aggressively defending but it was fun.

Post my session – Gaurav and Rajneesh from Xebia gave sessions on Behavior driven testing and Exploratory testing. I could hear lot of resonance of thoughts from the likes of James Bach, Elizabeth Hendrickson and Michael Bolton. Both sessions were very interesting and informative. Attendees were loving these sessions. Brilliant job – Gaurav and Rajneesh!!

Rajneesh @3rd meetup

There was a surprise item of Lightening talks were the speakers could write their names and their talks on a whiteboard and speak to them for 5 minutes with or without presentations. There was a host of exciting topics and the speakers spoke to the topics with utter sincerity and thorough research and with lot of experience sharing examples.

Lightening Talks

 

I was proudly watching my fellow testers speak and learn through the enthusiastic cross debates amongst the attendees themselves, and with the speakers too. I had so much fun learning.

3rd meetup -2

As I was enjoying all the action &  looking around – I couldnt help but notice pretty faces sitting all over and it was such a pleasure to see such a huge turnout of women testers. I remembered those 4 girls at my earlier meetup. And then this one had so many more and all participated. It was a through treat to my heart and mind both.

Last meet up we did and then this meetup – number of women attendees increased manifold.

Women at 2nd meetup       Women in Testing- 3rd meetup

Thanks to Gaurav from Xebia and Kapil Saxena from Magic software to get so many team members from their teams to participate in the meetup.

All_Xebians

 

One thing that was noticeable was – James Bach was thoroughly loved and followed there. Everyone at the meetup knew James and mostly just him from the testing community. Mere mention of James, made folks standing nearby join our conversations. I hope James you read this blog.

This time I had a particular point on my agenda – to know what our testers thought about certification. So I mentioned that on the whiteboard and spoke on it as a lightening talk. To my surprise – everyone was looking forward to the talk that I hadnt even prepared for.

The moment I said – what do you think about certifications in Testing – the testers who had contained this thought with them for a long time now, suddenly burst with questions like  –

– What are the best certification in testing

– What are the most popular ones

– Will I get a better job if i do a certain certification

– if not ISTQB then what?

At this point I was tempted to tear apart the myths and tell these naive souls how they were getting caught in the populist theory. But I realized they were not to blame. Almost all of the attending testers said their organization gives preferences to ISTQB certification for promotions or hiring. As I tried to understand – what did they gain out of this certification – they clearly said –  does it matter?  I know i will get the job if i am certified so I will do it anyways. Plus we get a “common language” that we can speak across as testers. Standardized meaning of testing. One such tester also said – Exploratory testing was Monkey testing – only to realize later that he was absolutely wrong and the place he learnt that definition, actually taught him incorrect definitions thus resulting in “non- standardized language”. They really didnt know why would they even do this certification.

Okay – all those who are taking time to read this blog need to observe something – the speakers and topics were more than a hundred percent “context driven” in their souls and approach. But attendees clearly showed the lack of it. They were here to learn and they did learn but there will be so much unlearning to do before we learn right testing.

When I spoke to them – I mentioned that they shouldn’t focus on certification a whole lot. They should be keen on learning testing and that they should go for BBST.  And oh boy – who knew BBST there ? 2 of the lot. Only 2 had heard about it. Thats all.

But the bigger worry was – the way I looked at them – I felt they werent prepared for larger doses right now. I asked them to not bother about certification or even BBST but first go to http://www.satisfice.com and learn some testing. Then we can talk more about BBST. One of the attendees who knew BBST said – there wasnt enough information about it. Most of the attendees said – we can do BBST and would love to (after I could explain them somewhat , what BBST is) but our managements dont support them . The managements want all testers to be ISTQB certified.

As a tester who practices Context Driven testing, I have to admit that I was pleased to see what the speakers wanted to talk about and teach the crowd. But the level of ignorance testers had, about ways to learn testing was not encouraging one bit.

I am calling all CD testers to do better story telling, making ourselves more heard. We need to not only influence testers but also the managements to understand right testing.

For the benefit of those, who asked at the meetup – Will be publishing shortly what BBST means, in James Bach’ s own words. Meanwhile – go through http://www.satisfice.com.