I’m overwhelmed

So I haven’t posted in almost four months.

Why is that?

Mostly because I am overwhelmed. Not only by all the things we do here at the military.. it’s also all the extracurricular activities I try to squeeze in – most of which is testing related.

Every spare moment goes into trying to keep up with all the new information out there in the world. The problem is this – half a year ago I thought I already knew a lot about testing. Now, however, I know that there is simply a ton of stuff I still have to learn. For every blog post I read, I find a new entirely must-read blog archive. Or a collection of articles. Or a person. My inbox an rss feeds are piled. Michael Bolton just posted a challenge on twitter. My coffee is getting cold and I haven’t had the time for a single sip. Life is crazy.. and I love it.

Cant wait to get out into the real world and do this 24/7

Oh yeah.. James Bach is coming back to Estonia this fall. Burning to meet him again.

Also, there is the stress of hopefully maybe making it to CAST2011.. only time will tell.

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Christmas at the military

As the title suggests… fun.

We ran into an interesting problem recently:

How to explain rapid/exploratory testing to the customer (i.e. a sales pitch)?
What if the customer knows a lot about the factory school of testing/knows almost nothing about testing?

/fun fact: while writing this post, I found a bug in wordpress…

/ / Make that two 😀

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Another status update

So I got out again last weekend and spent most of my free time at the office with Oliver. This time I decided to bring my laptop with me to the battalion. Oliver had a usb modem to spare so here I am, blogging again. Actually it is pretty hard here to find the time to do so…

Anyways, about that RST course.

The three days with James Bach were great, and I really learned a lot.

It was not about individual techniques or heuristics, but about getting into the right mindset; learning to find that balance between a careful approach (the system appears to be working correctly this time, for this certain operation) and self confidence (this is definitely a problem / we won’t have to worry about that one for now).

Another thing I liked was the realism of all the examples and exercises: nothing was dumbed down; nothing looked like a pretty little textbook example that would crash under the weight of the actual world we live in. However, most of us (myself often included) subconsciously tried to see it in that context-free way – trying to solve the problems by only looking at the problem itself; thus stepping nicely into James’ marvelous traps.

As you have noticed, I won’t give away any details – otherwise I would spoil you fun 🙂

So much to write and so little time.. Next time I get to boot up my laptop (might be no earlier than Saturday), I will try to write about the other poor people here (my brothers in arms are mostly IT-guys like myself) and about a little idea I had about bugs in general:

Why not differentiate more between the symptom of the bug and the cause. I will expand on that later.

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What RST made me do

It’s 1:11am now and I can’t sleep before I tell you this story.

After our RST course was over for the day, me, my boss Oliver from CH, Raimond from EMT and two nice girls from Ixonos went out for a couple of drinks at a nearby pub. We talked about my being in military service, about cars (Raimond likes his Mercedes-Benz 300 CE) and of course mostly about testing. Oliver ran the girls through some great exercises where they had to come to a complete understanding of a strange situation by only asking yes/no questions; they caught on pretty quickly.

Meanwhile, being familiar with the exercises myself, I started looking for anything to test that I could find. I finally ended up with a small print-out of drinks offered at the pub that looked like this (it’s in estonian and I will not translate it… on purpose):
!– print-out starts here –!
OKTOOBRIKUU ERIPAKKUMISED
KLIENDIKAARDI OMANIKELE:

Enne /Nüüd
Õlu saku Kuld 0,5l            37.-/ 25.-/1,60€
Õlu Paulaner 0,5l              45.-/ 32.-/ 2,05€
OKTOBERFEST
Õlu Foster’s 0,33l             35.-/ 25.-/ 1,60€
Brändi F.de Castilla 4cl    40.-/28.-/1,79€
Siider Ecusson 75cl           90.-/63.-/4,03€
Liköör Vana Tallinn 4cl    40.-/28.-/1,79€
Kakao Minttuga                 65.-/46.-/2,94€
VEINID:
Pasqua Vigneti 75cl         180.-/126.-/8,05€
Pinot – Chardonnay Frizzante Rose (Itaalia)
Golden Kaan 75cl             265.-/186.-/11,90€
Pinotage Rose (Lõuna – Aafrika)
Le Belle 75cl                      275.-/193.-/12,30€
Rosè d’ Anjou (Prantsusmaa)
Bigi EST! EST! EST!        265.-/186.-/11,90€
Di Montefiascone (Itaalia)
Bigi Vipra 75cl                   270.-/189.-/12,10€
Bianca Umbria/ Rossa Umbria (Itaalia)
Rey de los Andes 75cl      255.-/158.-/10,10€
Cabernet Sauvignon/ Sauvignon Blanc (Tšiili)

Soodustus laieneb ka kokteilidele,
mis nimetatud tooteid sisaldavad!

    KUI SUL VEEL KLIENDIKAARTI EI OLE, KÜSI TAOTLUS
    TEENINDAJALT NING KAARDI SAAD KÄTTE KOHE!

TÄHELEPANU! Tegemist on alkoholiga.
Alkohol võib kahjustada Teie tervist

!– print-out ends here –!

The formatting got messed up because of the blog environment, but otherwise, this is exactly what it looked like.
Now get this: I thought I had read it through at least 3 times, before I even got the idea to test it. After I actually tested it, I found 9 bugs on this page alone. The funny thing is… one of the more prominent topics covered today was Inattentional blindness.

Here are the bugs I found, in order of discovery (I left out the more boring formatting bugs):

1) At the end of the very last line, there is no punctuation mark. This was just something I expected to find.
Oracle: Consistency with itself. The line before that did have a punctuation mark.

2) At line 6, between Paulaner and Foster’s there is a capitalized OKTOBERFEST. What the hell is it doing there?
Oracle: Suprise/Completely out of place/WTF?

3) Line 11, Kakao Minttuga (Hot chocolate with Minttu) doesn’t specify how much minttu (a mint-taste spirit) you get. It later turned out to be just 2cl, not 4cl like the rest of the list.
Oracle: Other things on the list specify the amount.

4) All the prices. Prices are given in Estonian Kroon’s (EEK in short) and in Euros. However, EEK’s are never mentioned. Although it is normal in Estonia to use a notation like 45.- (which means 45.00, which in turn is supposed to say 45 EEK’s and 0 cents), it does not seem very consistent with itself (Oracle right here).

5) Line 12. This is a header announcing wines! Where is the first one about beer? (The presence of the second is the oracle for the absence of the first)

6) The prices again. This is the big one I was staring at all along but didn’t bother to check. Why? Because I wasn’t really interested in the prices since I was drinking dr. pepper that night, which was not on that print-out. So get this: hopefully you noticed, that there are two prices in EEK. This is because the whole print-out is actually about a discount you get when you have the membership card of the pub. However, the prices given in euros are actually the discount prices for cardholders! There is no way for a foreigner to understand that when he orders a beer based on the cost in euros, he actually has to pay more! This is a critical bug! But it was the last thing I checked, because I wasn’t really interested in buying these drinks, about the how much it cost in euros and also the fact that I expected it to show the normal price all along.
Oracle: Moral guidance, statutes (if I understood my law student girlfriend correctly, the pub may not charge you more for the drink than what you expected to be charged based on what you saw on the print-out).

So these were the more interesting bugs I found.
Today I discovered that everything must be questioned. EVERYTHING. Even a tiny little helpful-looking print-out can be full of lies and deceit. And the worst (and also, the greatest most interesting) part is that you have to look really close and learn to focus and defocus your thinking in order not to be fooled.

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Status update

As you can see, there is a pretty big gap between my last post and this one.

This is because I have been in military service for the past four months. If I find a way to fit my laptop into the slim wardrobe we got back at the base, I may even be able to blog every once in a while…

So how come I can write this post at all?

Well, because James Bach is in the country and after several phone calls, formal letters etc., Oliver managed to get me out of the battalion and into the Rapid Software Testing course 🙂

It’s the second evening of the course today, more on that later.

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Testing water

About that last article.

The (admittedly pretty bad) idea to write that last article came to me when I was working on an interesting exercise given to me my boss, Oliver. The exercise was to test a specific bottle of mineral water and add oracles to each test using the HICCUPS mnemonic.

Unexpectedly, this was not easy. It was hard to wrap my mind around the problem, because I tried to derive questions directly from the HICCUPS statements.

Staring at that bottle of water in front of me, it just didn’t seem right.

Of course, the problem was that I just took something and tried to make it work on something else, without thinking about the context. Then again, I suppose that was the point of the exercise.

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Things that should not be tested

Sometimes I spontaneously try to test things that should not be tested…

Here is what I came up with:

Try to test women using the HICCUPS mnemonic:

(The list is copied from Michael Bolton’s recent blog post, I hope he doesn’t mind.)

History: The present version of the system is consistent with past versions of itself.

Image: The system is consistent with an image that the organization wants to project.

Comparable Products: The system is consistent with comparable systems.

Claims: The system is consistent with what important people say it’s supposed to be.

Users’ Expectations: The system is consistent with what users want.

Product: Each element of the system is consistent with comparable elements in the same system.

Purpose: The system is consistent with its purposes, both explicit and implicit.

Statutes: The system is consistent with applicable laws.

I have my own list of ideas in my mind, but I don’t dare to publish it yet..

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