Brewing Trouble

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A checklist for beginning a test might look like this:

Important! Before you begin your test:

  • Make sure all delivered files have the correct version.
  • Set up your test environment to emulate the real-world environment as closely as possible.
  • Ensure the system is in a known state before you begin testing.

Now there's plenty that you might add to this list. Adding a few things specific to your environment would be a good idea. But remember the power of brevity. The more items you add to a list, the more likely someone using the list will inadvertently skip over items, inviting disaster.

When constructing a list like this, try filling in the blanks in these sentences:

  • If anything is going to go wrong here, it's most likely ________________
  • The top three most damaging kinds of failures would be: 1) ____ 2) _____ 3) ______
  • The three most common causes of failures are: 1) ____ 2) _____ 3) ______

The answers to these questions form the basis for your checklist. Let's see how this would apply to the process of releasing software after it has been tested.

  • If anything is going to go wrong here, it's most likely: the software that ships isn't the software that was tested.

The top three most damaging kinds of failures would be:

  1. Shipping a virus.
  2. Failing to install and load.
  3. Breaking other software (e.g., the operating system) on install or uninstall.

The three most common causes of failures are:

  1. Not verifying that the final release matches the last build tested.
  2. Failing to virus-check the final release.
  3. Untested configurations.

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