Blog Posts from June, 2008

The Four-Day Three-Day Conference

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

One of the hallmarks of the Conference for the Association for Software Testing is adaptability. Each track session and keynote is followed by a facilitated discussion, and if there’s energy to continue to the discussion when the official time is up, we go into overtime and find a place for the conversation to continue. This is unlike pretty much any conference that I’ve ever been to (although to its credit, QAI did something similar for a couple of its sessions in November of 2006, and I hope they’ve been keeping it up). Conferences should be about conferring. At CAST, if people want to keep talking and learning on a particular subject, we say let’s find a way to make it happen.

In the same spirit, Jerry Weinberg‘s Monday tutorial, The Tester’s Communication Clinic, sold out with more than a month to go, so we added another day to the conference—Thursday, July 17—to give more people the opportunity to attend. There are still some spots available for this second session, and a dynamite conference to precede it. So if you haven’t done so already, get yourself registered.

Search Results

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Karen Johnson just posted a blog entry on testing search algorithms. I’m soon going to write an article on accidental test coverage. The intersection of these two topics can be found here, based on a search I recently did in the frequently asked questions list on an airline Web site.

Search Results for “power for laptops”

1. Can I use my laptop during my flight?
2. Where can I locate the timetable?
3. Do you have a policy for transporting antlers?
4. What are the requirements to obtain an exit row seat?
5. What are the fees for traveling with or shipping my pet?
6. What are the benefits of purchasing travel protection?
7. I am a WorldPerks member, but I am not able to view my Electronic Credit Voucher online. Why is that?

Note a couple of interesting things.

First, the word “for” is highlighted in the list of links to found items, but “laptop” is not.

Second, when I go to the answer to item 1, the words “power” and “laptops” appear in the found article and are highlighted. If I change the search terms to “power for laptop”, the same list is returned with “laptop” highlighted, but “laptops” isn’t highlighted in the found item. So the search algorithm appears to be using the stemming that Karen talks about, but the highlighting algorithm isn’t. From this I infer that the highlighting and search algorithms aren’t quite talking to each other.

Second, check item 3 on the list. When I go to that item, the word “weight” is highlighted in the body of the found item. The word “for” appears in the text (and is not highlighted), but neither “power” nor “laptops” does. In order to check that the found word should be highlighted, I next did a search for “antlers”, and the only item returned was item 3 above. All instances of “antlers” were highlighted in the item.

And, of course, there are only three weeks left to register for CAST.

Secrets of the CAST Cognoscenti

Monday, June 9th, 2008

So it’s after May 31, and you’re all depressed over having missed Early Bird registration for the Conference for the Association for Software Testing.

So maybe you haven’t realized that there’s still a way to get the Early Bird rate PLUS an added benefit. If you become a member of the AST, that’s a scant fifty bucks. If you sign up for the conference at the member rate, that’s (considering the program—a dozen great track sessions, four awesome keynotes, and four enlightening tutorials) an even scanter 750 bucks. Put ’em together and you get $800—exactly the price of the Early Bird rate—plus you get the benefits of an AST membership into the bargain. Joy! Register now!

(By the way, one tutorial is already sold out with more than a month to go before the conference, but let us know if you’re interested, and maybe we can do something about that.)

Attend CAST

They Want To Have Used Your Software

Monday, June 9th, 2008

CBC Radio is one of the things to make a Canadian proud. There’s a wealth of stuff that I find valuable, entertaining and informative–Ideas (a largely open forum for all kinds of interesting topics); As It Happens (telephone-based interviews with people, usually on the where the action is happening, on all kinds of issues all over the world); Randy’s Vinyl Tap (in which the former lead guitarist for the Guess Who takes us on a tour of some aspect of popular music, with the original tunes, anecdotes, and even a little musicology.

In the last couple of years, The Age of Persuasion has gone on the must-hear list. It’s a show about advertising—the good (ads that are persuasive), the bad (ads that somehow miss being persuasive), and how it all works (a very well-crafted tour through psychology, language, economics, creativity…). And from that, this lesson about testing, cleverly disguised as a lesson about advertising:

“Home Depot doesn’t sell three-quarter-inch drill bits; Home Depot sells three-quarter-inch holes.”

This reminded me immediately of David Platt‘s wonderful aphorisms, “People don’t want to drive somewhere; they want to be somewhere” and “People don’t want to use your software; people want to have used your software.”

Testers: is your testing focused around things that make people happy that they have used your product? Are you identifying things that make them suddenly or inappropriately aware that they are using your product?

Jessica Hagy: General Systems Thinker

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

If anyone asks me what general systems thinking is about, I will from henceforth point them to any Jessica Hagy index card that has an X/Y chart with an -OR- in the caption.

Or I may just point everyone to it anyway. This stuff is absolutely wonderful.

and also

Note that I spared you the by-now obligatory reminder to register for the CAST Conference. Oh, damn!–no I didn’t.