Monday, 31 October 2011

Build your own model of software testing – or rediscover one from several thousand years ago

I was working out the kinks in my high level software testing model, and, through a process of speed reading and stichomancy I found that I have re-created an early Buddhist doctrine.
In “The Story of Chinese Zen” by Nan Huai-Chin, I find listed the five Skandhas:
  • form
  • sensation
  • conception
  • activity
  • consciousness
I was boiling my model down to:
  • model
  • observe
  • intent
  • manipulate
  • reflect
I’ve re-ordered my list to  tie in more closely to the Skandhas.
Quite a useful coincidence.
Below I list a simple set of my correspondence ‘tween the lists.
I have ‘model’ instead of ‘form’ because our world comes to us from our perception of it, not from it itself. Perception allows us to experience bias and hallucination, and provides the scope for us to change how we perceive.
As testers ‘sensation’ comes to us through our awareness, with our observation. We have to learn how to expand our range of observations and utilise tools to help us observe. Acts of observation can help us turn noise into data and subsequently into information which we can act upon.
When we test with intent, we bring purpose into our testing. We know what we set out to do/explore/check/exploit/etc. We often move off the beaten path and open ourselves to surreptitious happenstance, but only if we observe that happening can we utilise it.
Manipulate – the favourite ‘bad’ word of the hypnotist, although even as a hypnotist I felt happy using it, and as a tester I do it frequently. Shaping the system through my action.
Reflect, if all we did was progress from our initial intent then we would not learn. We reflect, to learn, move on, ever better, and more deeply.

And so, dear reader. Did you create your model yet? If so, see where else you can find it!

Follow on Reading:

Thanks to James Lyndsay for the recent chat about correspondences between my model and his.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Push your software testing personas to the limit

The notion of personas never really worked for me. “Bob is 35, single and likes kittens...” Blah Blah Blah.
Clearly Bob has all the characteristics of a fictional closet psychopath.
And that works better for me. “Bob is a closet psychopath”. I can use that sentence to inform my testing. I can attempt to  test like a closet psychopath.
Other personas you might want to adopt:
  • Sociopath
  • Psychopath
  • Paranoiac
Of course, those are just the most obvious examples of personas we could use in testing.
“Alan, you’ve clearly misunderstood the point of persona’s”
Well, persona’s have a rock solid history that the UX community don’t seem to promote. So its time to remind ourselves of what we’re really doing.
By looking at the true history of the persona we remind ourselves of techniques that help us build personas more effectively and quickly.
But I warn you now. Persona testing ain’t no walk in the park, princess.
And duly warned, we proceed to the history lesson…
Everyone knows the word Avatar now. Since I haven’t seen the Cameron movie I don’t immediately think of a blue alien animated thing.
I think of an Avatar as a personification. So a persona and Avatar merge and become one and the same.
Which neatly reminds  us that the Hindu mythos has an Avatar as an incarnated god.
And that Gods don’t incarnate in just one mythos.
Other mythos offer similar approaches. From the Vodoun, we can take inspiration from the Loa and from the techniques of the Houngan. We could attempt the deliberate summoning of a Loa and the subsequent possession to help us fully manifest a persona as part of our software testing process.
Imagine, in your next morning standup, if you adopt persona techniques in your testing, you could truthfully say:
“This morning I am going to eat raw chillis and cover myself in chilli rum to summon forth Baron Samedi. Much merriment will ensue as I perform some usability testing on the latest release.”
Clearly some of you reading may imagine that I mean this metaphorically. You may imagine my hinting that you should examine the Nanchons of Loa to find inspiration for your personas. Good for you.
The true testers among you will have already begun constructing your Vodoun altar.
Some of you may find your sensibilities more in keeping with a Western Magical tradition. If so, then fear not.
The western magical tradition has a rich set of rituals for the invocation of Gods. Looking up invocation in pretty much any book of ceremonial magic can kick start your use of possessional persona processes.
For those of you without a bent towards the traditional. Modern magic has taken the use of invocation ever further by drawing down fictional Godheads. As exemplified in Phil Hine’s Pseudonomicon, harnessing the Lovecraftian realm.
And I could go on, and on. Clearly I’ve barely scratched the surface of inspirational sources for your persona testing.
It would be inconscionable of me to leave you with a warning from the Pseudonomicon itself, which because of the power of reverse psychology will probably do exactly nothing of the sort:
“working with the Cthulhu Mythos is dangerous due to the high risk of obsession, personality disintegration or infestation by parasitic shells”
Yup consider yourself warned.
Treat the use of Personas in Software Testing with care.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Build your own model of software testing – “the quotes”

Have you tried to build your own definition of Software Testing? One that you can refine as you learn more stuff and the years go by?
That never worked for me. I don’t appear to align myself well with definitions and classifications.
Building my own models however, now that works better for me.
I have started work on a new model. I want to create a simpler meta model of my testing process.
I draw inspiration for this activity from various sources, some I have listed below:
"I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s
I will not reason and compare: my business is to create."
William Blake, Jerusalem
When we try to convey thought by writing, we are bound to sit down solidly, and construct a holy Qabalah out of nothing.
Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears
Tao was always nameless.
When for the first time applied to function, it was named,
Inasmuch as names are given, one should also know where to stop.
Knowing where to stop one can become imperishable.
Tao Te Ching, as translated by Ch’u Ta-Kao
It is the part of the scientist – of the intelligent and honest man of letters and of the intelligent and honest clergyman as well – to entertain heretical and forbidden opinions experimentally, even if he is finally to reject them.
Norbert Wiener, ‘God & Golem, Inc.’
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Inigo Montoya, as channelled by William Goldman for “The Princess Bride”
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”
Do you have any quotes that inspire you that you would care to share?
More on the model… later.