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.

Do I need UX testing?

Do I need UX testing? Yes, More than what you think. We will comeback to this question again.

When should I get UX testing started ? Much before you think you do.

How should I test UX ? First research enough to ensure you understand your context – your target user, purpose of the software, the business in which your organization is, how different are the competing products……many many approaches and methods of UI/UX testing that can be applied at different stages of product development.
UX
Wait – so many questions and thoughts about UX – But, let me ask – what is UX? Why does it even exist?
Well, the purpose of User Experience is to provide the smoothest navigation to a user from point A to point B. And there is absolutely no standard rules to design a good UX. Like its said above, you need to research. The research will help you build context for your business/app/technology/target user/purpose – and help you understand , how to build FOR a good UX. There are multiple ways to research – you need to learn those too.

Well, coming back to the first question – Do I need UX testing? Very much. Its recommended to be added to your testing strategy.
Ketchup UX

So, once the team hands me the design document and the product then I can match the UI and do the visual testing and I should be good (Expected vs Actual). What say? 

Well, even by the standards of a zombie tester – going by mindless robotic executions, I would say – no , its not good. Testing User Interface is a subset or a part of testing User Experience but UX is a whole world besides UI. You (as a tester) need to ensure you are part of the design from the day they start talking about conceiving a design. And then test each paper design, wireframe with users – at every step and …..then …..*******Folks, if you really want to continue the discussion – come to my workshop at STP Spring 2016 – Why you need to build UI/UX testing into your test planning immediately!
Alright, alright – we get the point. We will be at the workshop. But one last question – why immediately?
Well, you can do it after your organization goes down and you or your friends possibly dont work there anymore. Or after your organization finds someone to replace you – someone, who cares more about ensuring their customers don’t migrate to competitions. But if you try to learn and implement UX Testing now, you will help your own reputation and your organization’s business for sure. Your job too (maybe)!
UX vs UI

Take your call. Hoping to see you there!! Tons of challenges / quizzes / exercises await you that will give you a glimpse of how real world apps / sites evolved to where they are today and how you can contribute towards a humongous success of the sites / apps you test and ensure that these apps you test also become a professional reference for your abilities.

Data – Making decisions one byte at a time

data In terms of data, anyone who says – I have nothing to hide, has just not thought long enough. So what is data to you? Your address book, contact lists, email lists, bank account details, your list of favorite sites you visit, your blood pressure trend this week, your sugar count in last 5 days, your heart rates, how many cigarettes you smoke, how many steps you walk, how many calories you ate, how many calories you burnt, Your emails, your presentations, updates from friends (FB) and colleagues (Linkedin / Twitter), weather updates, traffic updates, navigation to a place, news, community updates, music, pictures, jokes and forwards on whatsapp…..so on and so forth.

Any or all of these could be “data” for you. How does it make you feel to think of a day in life without access to any of these? Even worse – how would you feel if instead of you, someone else is browsing through your data?

On whom does the onus lie to protect this data? You, Your device manufacturer, your ISP, your app stores, application owners? One may not be able to say for sure who does as a generic rule. However, its easy to figure out the security ownership in a proper context. And this needs to be clearly identified.

All huge companies are protecting their data and fighting for more, they say : “Data is the new Oil”. The start-ups are also giving data its due respect, their perspective: “Data is the new Middle Manager”. This makes it imperative for the data to have high integrity, availability and reliability.

dilbert data

As part of testing community, what is our role in the wide world of data?  It is our job to ensure that our clients and organizations are reaching every goal set forward for data.  We must ensure that we thoroughly test the accuracy of the data, the building of the data, the storage, the security, and the presentation of the data.  Retailers and other organizations are becoming more and more complex in their approaches to how they use data, and we, as testers, must ensure that we are keeping up with the changes and the needs.

Does your testing team work with data?  Are you building data adhoc?  Or have you implemented a methodology that supports data creation, testing, security, and implementation?  If your work is adhoc, I strongly recommend you to think about changes within your team which will improve how you look at data and the testing of data.

My advice for you, as a tester, is to investigate the basic concepts of Big Data, Enterprise Data Warehouse, the ETL Process (Extract, Transport, and Load), and Business Intelligence.  You will see an immediate improvement to your testing practice and your product delivery if you are able to derive and approach to how you handle data.

data scientist

So you may be asking, “How can I best learn about these concepts”?  I would suggest that you look at the upcoming STPCon conference, which is coming to Boston on October 5-8 this year.  I will be conducting a workshop on the concepts of data and data testing called Maximizing success with data testing: one byte at a time on Tuesday, October 6 from 1-5pm.

Hoping to see you at STPCon!

Career Development for software testers

Hey there – We have some interesting roundtable discussions at the Software Test Professional Fall conference 2014. One of them is about “Career Development for Software Testers”. I am hosting it and plan to have some really meaningful and interesting discussions.

Most of what will be discussed there, will be the inputs from the attendees in the room. However, we are working to collect few data points around common discussion topics for tester groups, and hence am sharing a survey developed to do it.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/testerscareer

Please take the survey and be part of the discussions.

The survey results will be shared and discussed at the roundtable at STPCON Fall 2014 at Denver. Register for the same at :

https://www.regonline.com/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=1554743

Thanks friends.