"The Effects"

Patterns are funny things. Sometimes it is so easy to jump to silly conclusions because we notice the obvious even if we know there might be valid explanations for them.

Take for example patterns of behaviour. Here are a few things that I see on a regular basis:
  • The Developer Effect - The software application always works as expected on a Developer's computer.
  • The IT Effect - Any weird or unexpected computer behaviour (e.g. unable to print) will suddenly start to work correctly when you call an IT Helpdesk person over and they are looking over your shoulder as you retry the steps.
  • The QA Effect - Any normally working system will suddenly stop working as expected when a Tester starts to look at something.
The "QA Effect" was my most recent addition to this list. A programmer sent me a link to a web site today and when I followed the link from the email message a new browser window appeared with the message: "We're sorry - an error has occurred. It has been logged and will be attended to shortly."

Ha ha. Is that Murphy's Law, or what?

I wonder how many other "Effects" there are in this industry? Write back a Comment to this Blog entry to let me know if you've come across any other immediate patterns. I'd be very interested to hear them.


I Know What I'm Doing!

This will sound weird but I had a strange realisation the other day. I thought to myself: "I know what I'm doing!"

Okay, this didn't just come up out of the blue and I wasn't practicing some sort of confidence-building exercise. It all started when I happened to notice a bug in the software I was testing and I decided not to report it.

What?! But you're a tester, man! Report the bugs you find!

Ah, well, yes, I plan to. But you see, I was busy at that particular moment thinking about something else, and I didn't want to distract myself by following up on a different thread that might make me lose my train of thought. To justify not reporting it I had to reflect for a moment as to how likely it would be that I would find the bug again. I had absolute confidence that I would find the bug again, so I simply forgot about it and went back to what I was working on.

I think it was later that night that the event started to settle in my mind and it started to make synapse connections with other memories in my brain. One particular memory came to me from my teenage years, some 20 years ago.

I recall one time when I was at a party and was talking to some of my older sister's friends. Coincidentally enough I think the topic of conversation was (creepy, crawly) bugs. There was this one guy who said that he was playing a video game in his home when he saw a millipede scurry across the floor. He said that his reaction was to pause for a moment, smile, and then keep playing his game. Someone asked him why he didn't just drop what he was doing and catch the icky bug right away?

His reply? He said that he knew those bugs and that he would easily find it later and take care of it then. He wasn't worried, so he didn't let it interrupt his game since there was no pressing need to take care of it right away.

I remembered that story for a long time and I always thought that if I ever saw an undesired bug I would simply take care of it then and there. Too many variables in life to let opportunities pass you by.

And so I have. For many years, I have always taken care of the bugs that I've found right away - both the creepy crawly kind, and the software kind.

So then, what happened this time? Why did I let a software bug go and not report it right away?

I realised that I was absolutely confident that I would find that bug again, and since there was no immediate need to take care of it, I let it go for the time being.

Sure enough, I got around to testing that particular area of the application and I had the opportunity to properly focus on the bug and report it with sufficient detail (it was a tricky one). I felt really great about it too.

When you do Exploratory Testing you are faced with the reality that none of your tests are pre-scripted. Exploratory Testing is kind of like what improvisation is to acting: there's no script. It certainly doesn't mean that the Improv people don't know how to act. In fact, it's quite the opposite. They are very talented actors. They just happen to know how to react to the circumstances that arise and can adapt to it with style.

I must confess that I've still been a bit nervous about Exploratory Testing. It doesn't help that I am bombarded with doubt by every other tester in the profession still doing it the traditional way: What if you miss something? How can you be sure of coverage? How do you know when to stop testing? and so on.

Well, I now *know* that I know what I'm doing. If I can totally forget about a bug and then stumble upon it again at a later date, then there must be something to this "improvisation" stuff after all.