HOLY COW!!!

HOLY COW!! It’s been long time since I blogged.

I was thinking for a while about what are the most important skills that help a tester to craft his own methods instead of following industry standards or best practices? This triggered while reading through one of the old posts of James Bach again recently,  especially this particular quote that grabbed my attention, “Following is for novices who are under active supervision. Instead, I craft methods on a project by project basis, and I encourage other people to do that..”

Heuristics

Extensive research is never possible in testing commercial software, due to time and budget constraints. So, how to test software quickly? Heuristics are used to speed up the process of finding an optimal solution. It’s something that helps you approach a problem and take decisions, which should be applied wisely. In order to write better on heuristics I wanted to know the Tamil (my mother tongue) meaning for heuristics. I decided to search in Google, from my knowledge and experience I believe Google would help me to get Tamil meaning of heuristics, but unfortunately it couldn’t get an answer for that. So, I decided to ask in Twitter addressing to few Tamil experts. This is heuristics, an approach to problem, but no guarantee that it solves problem.

Oracles

If heuristics help in approaching problems or take decision, Oracles help to identify problems. Some of  oracles used in testing are

1. Requirements

2. Comparing against competitors products

3. Consistency with in the products

L

“A tester is someone who knows that things can be different.” – Jerry Weinberg.

Y- Why?

“Questioning ignites thinking, leads to progress”  – Dhanasekar

Whenever I train novice testers, I provide them with few tasks, when they come back with a solution, I probe them with many questions like why was this done? why was this necessary? why do they think this is right solution? why not do it in a different way? Most times there won’t be concrete answers. My next step is to ask them to find answers for my questions. After finding answers  they would realise there were many more to learn and explore, but still many wouldn’t realise that those questions ignited their minds. The important thing is not to stop questioning. What we observe is not testing in itself, but testing exposed to our way of questioning.

Cognitive

Observation

If HOLY Sea(C) is preparation and practice for a battle, observation is the real battle. For instance, if your application sends emails, have you ever observed how it appears in the email alert message pop-ups in  many popular clients on windows platform or popular notifiers like Growl in Mac OS X? This example is out of an observation made on such email pop-up. This client we worked for, put their branding advertisements at the start of the email, so the alert pop-ups showed the first two lines of the content which is purely marketing text, but not important content. Because of which user might assume this to be spam and ignore it. This test idea would have never triggered if I missed to observe the alert pop-up. Making observations after executing tests is not end of testing, subsequent test ideas mostly result out of those observations. So, missing critical observation is missing potentially risky tests.

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iTest

Last week I participated in a competition conducted by 99tests.com, a crowd sourced testing start-up from India.  This is  my approach\experience report on how I tested and won the competition.

What were the givens?

No requirement, no design documents, no test cases, no use cases, no user stories. All I had were credentials to login and the URL to test. So, do I need to agitate and not to start testing until I get requirements? Do I sit and write test cases? Any conventional scripted testers would’ve struck wondering what to do. So, here is a warning for all those scripted testers it looks things are changing because of agile approach and such crowd sourced testing services.

How did iStart?

I didn’t waste any time exploring the application. I thought the best approach with the givens (actually no givens ;-)) would be, jump straight into using the application and observing the behavior. I thought that would help with forming test ideas and then to build from there.

Being a user of such online shopping sites helped me to frame some initial expectation. So, started with Follow the (user) Flow heuristics. I decided to create my own credentials instead of using test credentials and login. Then observe how easy or buggy it is to find an item, add to cart, check out, paying through a third party payment gateway and choose a shipping address of my choice.

Did iFollow the flow?

Registration was successful  upon giving correct details. But I didn’t get to see any error message, so decided to enter some invalid data to find the application behavior. What I found in giving invalid input was the error messages were not user-friendly, not just in terms of the message, in terms of usability as well. Error messages were in a different page and users needing to click back button to get back to the registration page. On click on back button the entire data entered were lost. So, this made me take a deviation from my initial plans of Follow the flow. Decided to test this module thoroughly, wondering why? Read bug advocacy of this bug below.

How iDid bug advocacy?

I didn’t just log the bug with a summary line, description, steps to reproduce and screen shots. Instead, I also explained how and why this might bug the users and impact of the bug.

The user registration page plays a vital role in giving the first impression about the application behavior. Also, users use online shopping sites mainly to save time, by displaying errors in another page and asking the user to come back to previous screen to correct the data is actually wasting sufficient time. This advocacy helps in understanding the real impact of such bugs. So, always explain how any bugs\issues found would potentially affect the user experience.

Your bugs are your representatives. The bug logging also depends on context, if you know your developers very well and if he is sitting next to you, the bug logging, or advocacy may differ from the way you log bugs in crowd sourced testing. Here you have no clue about, who is doing bug triage, developers and their understanding of the product. So always give as much detail as possible so that they can’t reject your bugs.

Always remember this  most famous movie dialogs of all time, from “The God Father” movie while logging the bugs

“I’m going to make him an offer (details) he can’t refuse (to fix).”

Did iJust log bugs?

No, I went through most of the bugs logged by other testers. I posted comments, raised questions where ever I felt the bug was really not a bug or if the priority was inflated or if the issues were duplicated. Also, I neither missed to appreciate some good bugs reported by other testers nor missed to learn from fellow testers. I was actually a little disappointed that there were a significant amount of bugs without clear description and duplicates.

What were my objectives?

Than winning the competition, my objective was to log the maximum number of valid bugs. Ended logging 50 valid bugs, maximum by any tester. Also wanted to maintain a high bug acceptance ratio, 86% of the bugs were valid. Happy with that but still wanted to improve on acceptance ratio.

So, What iDidn’t test?

I found few even tested the Facebook ‘Like’ gadgets, Payment gateway and spell checks in the application’s blog. Though few of such bugs were valid, those were not from the application under test, so they got rejected. So,

Know your boundaries, so you do good enough testing in given time.

Ready to try some bug advocacy?

Here are a few other bugs logged by me, try to advocate for them. The application under test was an online shopping site.

  • “Similar Items” feature is missing.
  • Same book title, but displayed with huge difference in price tag.
  • The amount should always be right justified.
  • On entering the special characters the system through an “invalid gift message”
  • Pre order items are shown as Available and Buy Now.
  • Is the final price displayed in product description inclusive of taxes?
  • Can’t store search results.

Happy Bug Hunting!

P.S.

Some of my favorite lessons in Bug Advocacy chapter of “Lessons Learned in Software Testing”  book

55: You are what you write.

58: Your bug report is your representative.

83: The summary line is the most important line in the bug report.

89: Use market or support data when appropriate.

101: When you decide to fight, decide to win!

Test[ing this] Case

The first thing flashes in most software testers mind immediately on hearing software testing is Test Case. Even most of us explain our work to others and even to fellow testers something like this “I understand requirements, write test cases and test the application, log the bugs and mark the test case pass or fail based on the expected results”. I too started my testing career by explaining what a test case is and SDLC model that was (never) followed to an interviewer. But soon, I realized that it is practically not possible (or I am not intelligent enough) to write most test ideas (cases) even with detailed requirements. Most test ideas don’t popup while analyzing the requirements, but while performing the real testing on the product. The test cases written with requirement documents are only based initial abstract understandings made on theory, but the real practical ideas come while testing. But even recently many people advice to write detailed test cases, that even a layperson can understand. Are they recruiting a layperson or a smart tester? Why still the main focus is with writing detailed test cases even in agile world? Looking back the water fall model, what I can think of reason for writing detailed test cases is, there was  a phase in SDLC were developers are busy writing and developing a product for months together, before delivering into testing team. So, probably some smart manager got this idea of test case writing to keep the testers engaged during that phase. Few rituals still followed without analyzing, if those suit the context. 1.  Write detailed test cases for the projects where there is good clarity on requirements. We got clear requirements so write detailed test cases. 2.  Write detailed test cases where there are no clear requirements . The requirements are not clear let use have detailed test case document. 3.  Even if the project has very tight deadline, a certain percentage of time is allocated for test case writing instead of focusing on real testing . Because Test case documents are (mis)believed to be the only Savior of testers. 4.  I’ve even seen reverse engineering of coming up with test cases from a well functioning application, with the help of help files 🙂 5.  There is something called traceability matrix, which traces all the detailed test cases back to your requirement, I think this is designed especially to say the whole world, see we’ve spent so much of man power to duplicate the requirements and here is the proof for that 6. And test cases are again considered as Savior in this job hopping era, but reality is forcing to write such detailed test cases and asking the testers to blindly execute just the documented test cases too are the also one of the reasons for job hopping. Why a similar kind of test cases is demanded everywhere for every context?Why do test case document looks similar where ever I go? 😦 . The only standard that is followed more or less correctly in testing world is test case template. The problem with such detailed test cases writing and following them is, soon the application will develop resistance against bug, because testers were focused only on what is written in the test case nothing less nothing more. Any tests executed blindly by a human just against expected result is as good as (as bad as) automated test checks. Such practices never help to spot the Black Swan* [The disproportionate role of high-impact, hard to predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations] you have to explore more with real application to spot the Black Swan. Testing according to James Bach Testing is the infinite process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous so as to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous. So, let me try to form a different Black Swam theory, as a tester our job is to predict and spot the Black Swan before the customers or client spot it. 🙂 Even writing test cases need exploration, but it becomes a concern when the explorations stop (or forced to stop) once test case are written. So, constantly come up with new ideas to add more value. Instead of wasting time in writing detailed test cases cheat sheets like this  Test Heuristics Cheat Sheet would cover most of the basic test cases, why to write again? If you feel You Are Not Done Yet, then check this You Are Not Done Yet. And choose SBTM or any relevant format that suits the context. Any available basic requirement document plus the above cheat sheet should be more than enough to do a good enough testing.

Testers aren’t  for documenting, they are for providing valuable information.

P.S: Can you recollect  the color of each letter of Google logo in its home page? (Of course with no doodles), the page most of  us visit every second hour. If you can’t, then you are affected with major Black Swan blindness.

Happy testing your Case!

Dhanasekar S.

* I’ve just started reading The Black Swan book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Yet to read it completely.

Configure, Operate, Observe and Analyze

In one of my previous post I wrote about the below Windows  OS (XP with SP2) error message. This is one of very interesting behaviors that took me few hours to crack down.

As a novice Window’s(OS) user.

Access is denied.

Ah!  I am the only user of my machine, and I am the one who created this folder, no one else has any rights to restrict me from accessing my own folder.

Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected.

What the hell! Don’t say all this nonsense. I didn’t protect it from writing. I can write whatever I want in the disk. How do I know the disk is full? How do I write-unprotect? Or an unwrite-protect 😉 ?

That the file is not currently in use

No, I am not renaming any file. I am renaming a folder, what is your problem?

User annoyed and calls customer care.

Now, as an advanced computer user.

Access is denied.

Looks like the permission settings for the folder is changed, may be my wife? Son? Or Pet? Possible. Let me see the permission setting for the folder. Oh! This user has full access. Then, what is the problem?

Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected.

Nope, my drive has enough space, not write protected.

That the file is not currently in use

Files? I am renaming a folder. Let me see if the folder is kept open. Yes, so let me close and try. Still I am getting the same error.

Annoyed user might solve the problem by logging off or closing all files and folder or restarting the machine, which forces him to close all the programs kept open.

As a testers, start analyzing (Step 4 of testing Analyze, Step 1: Configure, Step 2: Operate, Step 3: Observe) the error message and follow the error message to see, to find the problem area.

Access is denied.

Does the application provide reasons to the Error? Yes it is it says

Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected.

The basic disc properties say it is either full or write-protected.

That the file is not currently in use

No, I am renaming a folder, but still let me check if the folder is  kept open? Yes.

So, let me close the folder and rename it. Even after that I am getting the same message.

Are there any files inside the folder?

Yes, there are few.

Are they open?

Yes, a word document inside that folder is kept open.

Is that causing the problem? Let me close it and try.

At last I can rename it, so “When a file inside a folder to be renamed is kept open, the user is not show with an appropriate error message” the problem summary?

I have just solved the problem but haven’t got the exact steps to reproduce.

The problem was identified without knowing the proper base step up or configuration. So let me go to base state, also let me note down or take a snap shot of the current state where the problem was first spotted, including other files\folders those kept open, processes running to name a few.

So, what is the base state? I may even restart my machine or log off or close all opened files and folders.

Step 1: Configure

Let me log off and log in. Note down the entire process running (and use some tools like Systracer that takes a snap shot of your machine)

Step 2: Operate

1.    Open the Disk Drive (Say D :\)

2.    Open the folder (Say D:\Test)

3.    Open a file inside the folder (Say D:\Test\test.doc)

4.    Use back button to get back to disk drive

5.    Try Rename the folder

Step 3: Observe

Ah! This time I am getting a proper message.

So, what could be the problem?

Let me try changing the sequence, let me do this

1.    Open the Disk Drive (Say D :\)

2.    Open the folder.(Say D:\Test)

3.    Open a file inside the folder. (Say D:\Test\test.doc)

4.    Close the folder

5.    Reopen the folder

Now the sequence of opened windows changed, now file first then the folder.

Nope! I got proper message. Tried with different types of file kept open like excel, txt files, folder within folders and also be keeping few more similar file types open in same\different folders.

With no success decide to get back to the dirty environment and try again, I opened few other windows ,files, browsers and application those were kept open when I first found this issue, and tried all the above steps, this time I noticed, I was  able to reproduce the error once in a while but not consistently. But after more than an hour I was not able to find the exact steps or pattern to reproduce it.

Then decided to quit and try later (Plunge and quit), but that one hour of exploration gave me confidence that it can be reproduced.

Few days later with lots of windows and browsers kept open I tried again to reproduce this. Initial few attempts were not successful.

When I was about to rename the folder, I noticed one of my friends pinging me in IM, so I went to the browser and replied to him, then came back to folder window to rename the folder.

Whoopee! I got error message I am looking for this time. It looks if I navigate between different windows I might be able to reproduce, but even trying that didn’t reproduce the error consistently. What next?? Trying out few other ways and finally was able to narrow down the steps to reproduce it consistently.

And, Here are the steps to reproduce.

1.    Open the Disk Drive (Say D :\)

2.    Open the folder (Say D:\Test)

3.    Open a file inside the folder  (Say D:\Test\test.doc)

4.    Use back button to get back to disk drive

5. Wait (approximately) 10 seconds

6.    Try Rename the folder

7.    Bingo!

Note to Readers:

  • Heuristics applied to solve are of James Bach’s Learning Heuristics SACKED SCOWS

Scouting Obsessively – discover the sources and tool you need
Authentic Problems – engage the mind
Cognitive Savvy – work with the rhythms of the mind
Knowledge attracts Knowledge – the more I know the easier I learn
Experimentation – make learning vivid and direct
Disposable Time – lets me try new things (I tried this in my disposable time)
Stories – are how I make sense of things
Contrasting Ideas – lead to better ideas (Skepticism, Critical thinking, Lateral thinking, Systems thinking)
Other Minds – exercise my thinking and applaud my exploits
Words and Pictures – make a home for my thoughts
Systems Thinking – helps me tame complexity

Also, Procrastination , Plunge In and quit.

  • How to reproduce is solved. Now find why this happens?
  • Never let the user to get annoyed. As a tester, analyze every behavior of your application.
  • Read How to Investigate Intermittent Problems to learn the ability and the confidence to investigate an intermittent bug.
  • “There are no accidents” –Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda(Movie)

FaceBook Logoff

I have this habit of logging into any shopping site like Flipkart with same ID, same time in two different browsers (Firefox and Chrome). With one of the sessions, I browse through the items, and other one to add to the shopping cart. This is very helpful to me, to do shopping faster.

I thought I would do the same with Facebook as well. I would use one of the sessions to read all the status updates and other session to chat or render the videos and watch, so I can browse through all the updates from friends in quick time. But I observed logging into second browser forces to log out from the previous browser session

Is this a problem?

I don’t think as a tester you can decide if this is a really a problem assuming either one of those scenarios as an industry standards ;-).Even if one of those scenarios is set as an industry standards it is not necessary to follow them blindly. So Face off 1 yourself as a user to analyze such scenarios.

We cannot think of everything before we start.

You don’t know what you want until you see it.

While shopping user (like me) has two sessions opened. I am done with my shopping .I do check out after adding all the items to the chart and make payment, check my mailing address,which  takes close to 5 to 10 minutes. And then I log out of this session but completely forgot about the other session opened in different browser, and if the user is using a shared computer which is very common in India. So, here it looks it is better to log off all the sessions in the machine if user log off from a session. But one way it is helpful to user if he can access more than one session at a time.

So, which is the correct behavior? It is always decided by what your users are up to. So face off like a user and analyze the observed behavior.

Even let say Flipkart decides to change this and allows only one user session similar to Facebook by maintaining the sessions in server instead of cookies. It should be communicated to user in a very positive manner by highlighting the security risk. Any change like this cannot go without educating the user. Users who are very used to such behavior may not accept those changes.

User satisfaction comes from handling change, not mitigating risk.

Wait. Did I say it is the user always? No(w), I am seeing some new terminology being used these days apart from user friendly, its advertiser friendly ;-). Sometimes you have to consider advertisers as well, so no harm in annoying user for some time.  There you should not think about user friendly close buttons.

Aware of your potential user\customer very well, to analyze what you observed is really a problem. None of the so called industry standards or testing techniques like orthogonal array, boundary value analyses or whatever it is, will help to capture or analyze such scenarios, and we can’t estimate for such analyses in advance. So

Apply your sapience and heuristics. Don’t follow rules.

“Hell, there are no rules here, we’re trying to accomplish something” ~ Thomas Edison

Note to Readers:

  • Here I have given just one possible scenario that I generally do as a user, I like you to bring\think in different perspective to analyses.
  • I had a vague idea about this log off session, was thinking on how to shape this in to an article. Finally this got this shape after  reading this wonderful post by Nathan Smith Estimation is bunk

1 –  Face off (movie) – A revolutionary medical technique allows an undercover agent to take the physical appearance of a major criminal and infiltrate his organization.

Focus on Defocusing

Two weeks before I broke my spectacle that was bought just six months back. Now needless to say, I have to buy a new spectacle. So I went into a spectacle store. On entering the store I saw four to five sales executives with a warm smile (Yeah! Two of them were good looking girls ;)) .I was totally confused whom should I approach first. You have to believe me that I did not go to the cute looking girls, instead decided to Go to Gemba as one among them was wearing spectacle. I thought he (yea, unfortunately it is he 😦 ) would be the correct person to help me out in selecting the better spectacle.

I approached him, and asked for nice frames that would be within  my budget and yea,good looking too. He helped me with many of the frames displayed. He suggested with few frames that would make me to look even smarter ;). I tried out quite a little and focused on the mirror to know if I am looking smarter. I shortlisted three frames but still not able to decide on which one to select. With the confusion I went and took a seat, to get my eye power tested.

I had my previously tested power details noted, so I gave him the card that has my eye power details. The salesperson asked for my older spectacle as well to cross verify the power in it. So I handed over both the card and broken spectacle, after measuring the power, I found there was a 5 degree difference between the power details in the card and the spectacle. I remember the last spectacle was ordered with the power prescribed in that card. So I asked the salesperson why there is a difference, he said that could be a manufacturing defect, a manual or machine fault. Then I asked is the 5 degree difference a major concern, though I did not find any issues with that lens. He said it is not a major issue and up to 10 degree will not have any visual difference.

I just wondered what if people go with this mindset and then design, develop, test, maintain and use a machine that is to be used to destroy cancer cells or a MRI Scan machine, where precision is very important. So it is

Good to bring prior knowledge and experience, but not the mind-set across different projects.

Needless to say this time I checked the power again in the new spectacle at the time of delivery, I am a tester and I test every thing.

Back to the story, I was still wearing one of the new frames I shortlisted, at the time of the discussion  about power difference, I realized that the frame is not so comfortable .I felt some irritation near my ears and nose. That’s when I realized my focus on how it looks to me, made me to ignore many other important factors. When I defocused from one factor, I was able to feel\realize many other missed factors. And I didn’t even focus on comfort, just defocusing from one factor automatically helped to realize other factors. Now I focused on the comfort factor and ended in selecting a frame better frame. So before starting of testing list down the factors prioritized like Functionality, Usability, Testability, Maintainability, Reliability, Compatibility, Scalability etc., then start focusing on them one  by one based on priority.

Defocusing is as important as focusing.

But was this the better frame and will it be free from problems? I don’t know because

Problems unfold over time in ways that are often not predictable.

Here is one great example I read recently how any system cannot be defined with a boundary and how problem unfold that are often not predictable. When Denver airport was built, it was claimed that the airport would never close, even for a snowstorm. The advanced technology would permit flights to take off n land even in adverse weather. When the first big snowstorm hit, every flight got cancelled. Why? Pilots lived in mountains nearby and they could not get to airport in storm.

Happy Focusing and Defocusing!

Dhanasekar S (with new good-looking spectacle :))

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