Thursday, 28 October 2010

I'll try walking in your shoes

I recently attended a Project Managers meeting where PM specific, day to day problems were discussed.

Some were quite generic in nature and similar to a tester meeting, for example how do we make sure that people are properly trained, dealing with communication problems, etc. Others were more specific, for example talking about managing customer relationships, how a customer may perceive problems in a project from a completely different angle (for the better or the worse for the PM in question).

What occurred to me there is that we put a lot of emphasis in testing on adding “value for the customer”, however most testers that I know have no idea about customer management, and how our customers priorities might be different from the ones that the development team (programmers and testers) are thinking of. Managing that relationship sits squarely in the corner of the PM or Account Manager (where available). In a way it’s good that the Project Manager is shielding the development team from sometimes difficult customers, but to what degree can a tester really say that what they’re doing is actually adding value for the client?

That reminded me that what we think of as “adding value” is actually based on a model. To quote George Box “All models are wrong, some are useful”. Is our model built on validation and verification – in a broad way ensuring that the system works as intended and works without glitches? But what do we base that on since we all know that requirement documents are notoriously lacking? The argument I often hear is that testers bring their experience in adding what they perceive to be of value to other customers so it might be of value to the current project as well. With no knowledge of the customer or our relationship with them how can this be true?

At the next team meeting it might be an idea to invite the Account Manager as well or, if the PM is fulfilling that role as well, ask him about our relationship to the client. Is it perceived to be a difficult one? Have we worked with that client before? Is the project seen as a start of many others to follow? Do we know of particular things that “bug” the client that would help us direct our test effort?

I don’t know how other people address that but these are not questions that I have asked in the past but maybe I should. I attended a Project Management course and think that all testers should do that sooner or later, ideally followed with actually managing a project or two as well.
Many testers have an idea of how programmers think, many having a background in programming themselves. Maybe it’s time that we start to look through the eyes of a Project Manager as well and walk a mile in their shoes.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The pictorial challenge answered

After a short discussion with Zeger (TestSideStory) on Twitter about the pictorial challenge it was time to do some work but I came back to the picture later. Have a look at it first before reading on.

I sat back and thought “How would I test this if I don’t know what’s important and don’t know to whom it will be important?”

I then collated some high level areas of approach

• Death by Goggle:

   o Searching the net for the names on the signs to give me more avenues to consider

• Technical: It’s a .jpg of a certain size, resolution and colours used

   o Is that on purpose, in which scenarios could it be a problem?

   o Are there parts of the picture that look cut off, is there too much sky, etc.

   o Are there hints that this is a collage of pictures or is it one photograph

• Emotional: How do I react to the picture when looking at it first.

   o How does that change when picking out more details?

I started with the emotional part first because a) I can’t help it and b) to me testing a picture is more akin to criticizing a painting so I wanted see if the artist/photographer got an immediate emotional reaction from me. The signs look rusty and barely legible. Rust to me indicates age so I assume they’ve been there for a long time. The house looks like it has seen better days, my first reaction is that it’s been taken in a poor part of whatever town/country. The boy on the roof (I assume it’s a roof) would be unusual in a UK town, maybe it’s not where this picture is taken? Filed away for future consideration.

I then searched for “Zanchett” and “La Mejor Ropa”, the latter of which is Spanish for “The best clothes”. But maybe it's not "Zanchett" but "Zanchetti". That's where the font type could throw a spanner into the tester's work. You live and learn. Again, more pages but I didn't follow them up too closely as I'm more interested in the picture rather than where  it was taken. Zanchett seems to be quite a common name, there are several facebook sites, a Portuguese Tourism page to name a few. I also found links to a breastfeeding site in Brazil, so maybe it’s not Spanish but Portuguese. The boy (man?) on the roof is wearing a t-shirt, short trousers and sandals which indicates a warm country. At a guess I’d say the photo was taken in Brasil or Argentina.

The breastfeeding site also made me look at the photo closer, maybe the blue plastic bowl hanging at the outside of the house is actually a baby bath. The bike on the left, caged birds on the right and the boy on the roof could mean it’s a nursery or orphanage (because of what I assume is a poor area, I could be wrong here). In my experience Mediterranean houses don’t give the impression that they’re looked after from the outside, that doesn’t mean that they’re not in very good condition from the inside. There’s an angle of cultural differences here and since I assume Southern America here as the location I’ll have to question my assumptions. The boy/man (I'm not able to clearly distinguish the features to say for sure) is wearing sports clothes which seem new or in good shape at least so maybe poor isn't actually correct here.

I didn’t go into the technical details other than noting that the size is 601 x 776 pixels – the 601 seems odd to me, maybe it was converted from a different size or type?

I’ll get in touch with Zeger to see what he thinks about it. :)