Who can test my site?

The above question appeared on Quora, a question-and-answer site that I’ve come to love over the last few months. Now given that I love testing stuff, I couldn’t possibly pass this one by, so here is my answer, reproduced below for posterity. I’ve tweaked it a little bit here and there, but it’s essentially the same answer.

 

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Short answer: Me! I’ve worked as a Software Tester for years, mostly on websites, web applications and the occasional mobile app.

Longer answer: Define “test”.

My own definition is that:

“Testing is a process to gather as much useful information as possible for the stakeholders.”

So, by asking me to “test your site” do you want to know:

  • That it functions as intended?
  • Everything that it can do? (This is not necessarily the same as the above)
  • That it is usable?
  • That it is accessible to those with disabilities, be they mental, physical or both?
  • That it works equally well across different web browsers? (Some handle JavaScript better than others, HTML5 is less of an issue now.)
  • That it is equally usable across different web browsers?
  • That it looks the same across different web browsers?
  • That it functions well and looks good on a range of different mobile devices?
  • That any APIs in use function as they are supposed to?
  • That any information gathered, stored or transferred is secure and complies with relevant data security and privacy legislation (such as the Data Protection Act)?
  • That any databases connected to the site are secure, well designed and appropriately normalised?
  • That Cookies are delivered to users and behave as expected and intended?
  • That the site performs any functions quickly enough?
  • That the site can withstand increased loads of traffic? Incremented slowly up, spiked, or sustained loads?
  • That failover systems work correctly?
  • That data backups are being performed properly?
  • That the disaster recovery plan is effective and up-to-date?

All of the above will provide useful information, although some will be more useful than others.  All of those questions will involve testing the system but they will require a vast array of different methods, tools, techniques and skill sets. If you want Security Testing or Penetration Testing done, I’ll introduce you to a man I know who will do the job far, far better than I can. Likewise Accessibility Testing.

If you want your website tested for functionality, browser compatibility and to determine not just what it should do but what it can do than I can offer you my services as an experienced Exploratory Tester who uses context-sensitive testing methods to do the most testing with the least exterraneous processes and documentation, so you get the biggest bang for your buck.

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State of Testing survey

A shiny new State of Testing survey is now running on Joel Montvelisky’s excellent QA Intelligence blog; I must confess I’d not actually read any of it until recently, but I’ve skimmed through a couple of several articles and it is now officially on my “to-read” list of blogs and articles related to QA and Software Testing.   The survey itself is a collaboration between the guys at Tea Time With Testers (a monthly e-magazine also well worth reading) and QA Intelligence.

I’ll be extremely interested to see the results of this survey, but that hopeful statement comes with a caveat.  Survey results are only as good as the final data set.  The more Testers and QAs who answer this survey honestly from more countries and companies of all shapes and sizes, the better a picture those crunching the numbers will be able to provide.  So, if you work as a  Software Tester/QA/Grand High Poo-Bah of Bugs[1] then please do fill this out.  Admittedly, there are issues around a self-selecting survey sample, but I’m assuming that whoever ends up doing the data analysis and commenting on the survey results will be taking that factor – amongst many others – into account.

If you want to help make the survey a success, do take heed of the suggestions already made by Joel, which can be summed up as blog about it, mention it to all of your tester friends and colleagues and generally plug it all over whatever flavours of social media take your fancy.

In a similar vein, Cole Henley has been running a survey for the last three years with a focus on Developers rather than testers, focusing on freelancer rates.  An excellent breakdown and analysis of the 2012 results are on Cole’s blog here.   The results on the 2013 survey are on the Mud Blog, which covers how freelancers work as well as how they charge what their rates are.  I hope that the State of Testing survey will be as thorough in its approach.

The State of Testing survey can be taken right here.

[1] Delete as applicable.

SOPA and PIPA

The two four letter words above are not, as some may think, the main characters of a new Swedish thriller about to reach our TV screens. Nor are they swear words; well, not to everybody. Not yet.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock with no Internet connection over the last week or so, you’ll probably have heard all about SOPA and PIPA which are two pieces of legislation currently going through the Houses of Congress and Senate.  A lot of people are protesting about this, including Wikipedia for 24 hours.

If you want a technical analysis of SOPA, then have a read of this analysis by Dr Leonard M Napolitano, Jr, who is Director of Computer Sciences and Information Systems at Sandia National Laboratories.  My thanks to a Berkeley graduate student for the link to the above and a non-technical summation with the minimum of jargon which will be very helpful to those whose eyes glaze over when reading about tech stuff.

For information on PIPA, you can watch this short (3m52s) YouTube video:

In fact, the Internet is awash with lots of coverage and technical analysis of both Acts and why the blackouts and protest banners are happening.  There’s also been some very big names, such as Google, the Editor of Boing Boing on Al Jazeera and some guys called Mark Zuckerberg speaking out against SOPA, who got 75000 “likes” to his comment in just 10 minutes – popular guy!  Well, according to RT.com the blackout of Wikipedia, Boing Boing, et al has been a resounding success (video for the report is embedded on the page, or can be downloaded).

The real point is that the Internet was developed (initially by the US Military for its own purposes) to be an open, well-connected, multiply redundant system for connecting data nodes in such a way to all but guarantee the unimpeded flow of information from point to point over such a vast network.  It’s grown from being a way to ensure military communications in the event of a Nuclear War that has thankfully not come to pass… to a way for people to communicate and transfer ideas, information, products and messages at near instantaneous speeds over vast distances.

Now, people may have different attitudes to online piracy, but the Tweedledum a Tweedledee of US Internet legislation would, if they became law, allow the filtering of the information available to the general public in a manner not seen outside of far more restrictive and totalitarian countries such as North Korea, Iran or China.  Now that is a somewhat ironic situation for a country which has the First Amendment as such an iconic piece of legislation,  which is deeply felt and revered by the vast majority of it’s population.  Talking of free speech, this is also bad for writers as Chuck Wendig points out most eloquently and there’s now also an open letter by many different Artists and Creators, inclding Neil Gaiman, MGMT, Trent Reznor  and Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame.

Edit to add this paragraph: Going back to the issue of piracy for a second, I’ve just found an article about how copyright holders are conning Congress by providing data which not merely contains errors, but downright lies.  Big businesses telling fibs to better their own positions, I hear you say?  Surely not!

Even worse, this legislation could result in those who link to other parts of the Internet being liable to fines or jail time.  Yeah, you read that right – for creating a link.  Hell, I’ve put about a dozen or more links in this article already; if even one of those links points towards copyright disputed content, I could end up being imprisoned as a result of it under this new legislation.  In short, this could potentially destroy the connectivity of the Internet, which is is what makes it work so well in the first place.

I was going to finishing off this article with something along the lines of “Tim Berners-Lee must be despairing right now,” but instead there may well be light at the end of the tunnel given that the Obama administration said that it “will not support” any bill “that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” However, as the EFF points out, while the current incarnations of SOPA and PIPA may not last the legislative course, they may well regenerate in a new guise and come back, like an Internet version of The Master.  I just hope that the TARDIS appears in the nick of time to save us all.