Friday, November 9, 2007

My excuses ... and the BBST

There are two reasons for the long time lapse between blog entries. Firstly, there were a few technical difficulties involved in the relocation. These have hopefully all been resolved, but please feel free to report any bugs either as comments or via email.

Secondly, almost all my free time (and some of my not so free time) has been taken up by the BBST (Black Box Software Testing) online course presented by AST (Association for Software testing

The material within the course enhances that developed by James Bach and Cem Kaner for the Florida Institute of Technology. It is organised specifically for an online learner.

The way that the course is structured to make one think and learn has fascinated me. The modules begin with an Orientation exercise. These exercises were tough, very tough. For some of the exercises, I had to look up almost the entire question on wikipedia! The exercises challenged my thinking around a specific problem. Problems I was not used to solving. This was followed by reading material and videos explaining and elaborating on the topic. The material provided me with additional insight into the problem and not necessarily simple solutions to the problem (or that is the way I interpreted it). Then there was a multiple choice open book quiz that one had to complete. The multiple choice quiz questioned my understanding and in some cases interpretation of the material. (I never scored higher than 55% for any of the quizzes and they are open book!)

There was also a Group exercise. We had to collaborate to produce an answer to an exercise. My group team members were located in Los Angeles and Bangalore. We had some challenges in terms of these time zones however we managed to find one time around 6pm SA time that we could all be awake and discuss our answers over Skype. It was fun! As one of my team members put it, “the challenge is to end up with an answer that has both taken everyone's views into consideration and yet still ensure that it does not end up sounding like 3 different answers”. It did however strike me how difficult non face to face communication can be. Without body language and in some cases where one of us is talking “American” and another “South African” English, we were often saying the same thing, but in different ways.

Following this, we (as individuals) had to review two other groups' answers. This was hard. I learned so much from the other answers and that added to the difficulty in critiquing it. Since I had found my own question challenging, I struggled with being presented an answer that I may never have been able to come up with myself, and then still having to pass judgement on it.

Finally, the exam. There is no hiding in the exam. You have to post your answers in an open forum and you are then reviewed and graded by 2 participants. In turn you have to grade 2 participants. It is SCARY. For all of the exercises and also the reviews that you perform, there are guidelines or “rubrics” to help you form your answer or perform your review.

We are now at the reviewing stage of the Exam answers and I have just received 2 F's... VERY hard to take, but learning from them... :)

For anyone that wants to challenge themselves and their ideas, I recommend this course. I guess I am not really qualified to say (as I wouldn't ever spend the money on certification), but I would see this as infinitely more valuable than something you pay thousands of Rands for.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I'm mad

I am mad…..

One of the teams I am working with logged a defect recently on an ATM machine they were testing. The machine made a strange noise while reading the card. The functionality that had been newly added was a chip card reader so was different to the readers that had previously been in the machines. The noise was loud… noticeably loud, or they would not have logged it. It wasn’t occurring on all the ATMs with the new reader, but only a couple of them. It was also different from any “card reader noises” that they were used to hearing.

One of our developers had some MAJOR objections to our defect. The first thing he said, really made me mad. He said that a “tester’s personal subjective view should not result in a defect”. According to wikipedia, “Subjectivity - refers to the property of perceptions, arguments, and the language terms use to communicate such, as being based in a subject point of view, and hence influenced in accordance with a particular bias”. Surely, he had a subjective point of view that the noise was not a problem??!

The second thing he said, almost made me madder. He questioned the use of the word “funny” as a way of describing the noise. “Where is the “funniness” threshold for mechanical equipment defined?”, he asked. What would have made more sense? Is there a scientific term that would have convinced him that it warranted a second look?

Thirdly, he questioned us sending the defect to business after the technicians had decided it didn’t deserve further investigation. We did as we always do, i.e. highlight the problem as we see it, and send it to the people that need to be aware, and need to be given an opportunity to question or accept the answer. In my view, the team did everything right.

Anyone disagree? Why do we constantly get attacked for doing our job?