Are You Really a Software Tester?

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This article explore's the mindset of a true software tester, and how a tester uses his knowledge to improve the lives of others around him.

The adventures of Super Tester! (Episode one)

Are you really a software tester? Not just by job title. I mean, deep down, is software testing in your blood. Do you think like a tester?

OK, I admit it, I was bored. Our scene opens at the local bookstore–a late, cold winter day–a Sunday if I remember correctly. As my wife and kids were off looking at books and CDs I ventured over to the Computer books (Symptom 1). Not being able to find the book I was interested in, I went to the nearby computer terminal to do a quick search. While the search seemed to take forever, it did ultimately report back that the book I wanted was not only in stock, there were 2 copies of it, and it identified the location. Excited, I returned to the precise location identified by the search–nothing! Hmmm.

I started asking myself those tell-tale questions (Symptom 2–Do you ever find yourself saying: "I wonder what would happen if I...."?) I abandoned my search and without entering a nearby phone booth or men’s room, donned my tights and cape and became "Super Tester!" I figured I'd run a few rudimentary tests, inform management of my results, and then reap the rewards that they were sure to bestow upon me! ( I was hoping for a free cup of coffee)

Test 1–Data Validation. Identify a title, it's location, and the number of copies available on the shelf, then verify the search returns the correct results. I went to a randomly selected section of the store (Travel), picked a random section (Europe), and a random title (Frommer's Germany 2005) d noted the number of copies available (4). I then returned to the search terminal and did a search on that book. Eureka–the test passed! The system correctly identified the title, location, and number of available copies. Not satisfied (my tester's intuition told me I was just lucky)–I tried again. This time–Mexican Food Cookbooks (I was hungry and craving chimichangas). Same test–I identified the title, noted the section and number of copies, and returned to the terminal to conduct my search. This time the results were semi-positive. The title was correctly identified as in stock, and the section was correctly identified. However, the inventory was incorrect (the system showed 2 available–I only found 1). Hmmm. It could have been in a customer's shopping cart and they had not checked out yet. I made a quick note (logged the defect) and moved on to Test 2.

Test 2–Data Validation, part 2. This was actually the reverse of Test 1. Do a search for a title on the system–note the section, and number of copies listed, then verify the results by correctly locating the book and number of copies on the appropriate shelf. Nothing! I found the correct section but not the target book. Hmm. I once again made a quick note before moving on to Test 3–Negative Testing! I admit it–negative tests are my favorite. Surely, this test alone would confirm the existence and secret identity of Super Tester!

Test 3–Submit an Empty Search Form. I was somewhat giddy at this point. Visions of being hailed as Customer of the Year, and having my true identity exposed entered my head. Surely my picture would be transmitted nationwide and would appear on the company website. But I regained my composure and moved on. After all, a good tester doesn't let the expected glory influence their test results. I returned to the computer terminal, went the Search page and without entering any data, clicked the Search button. Boom! OK, maybe not boom (Metaphorically speaking). I broke it.

I had seen enough. Off to inform management, report my results and reap my expected rewards (I really just wanted a free cup of coffee).

To say they were lukewarm to my test results would be an overstatement. They were somewhat receptive to my search test results. They didn’t believe me, but were receptive. One manger quickly located a somewhat idle customer service representative and, after restarting the system, they repeated my first 2 tests. Same results (I'm thinking mocha latte please). Then they repeated the negative test–once again–Boom! (Metaphorically speaking again). Make that a large mocha latte! The response, unfortunately, was typical. Unexpected, but typical. To Tests 1 and 2: "Thanks. We're doing inventory next month which should fix the problem." OK. I'll buy that one. Not a great answer from a customer perspective, but I'll take it. Now on to Test 3. Again the response was typical–"Why would you do that?” My answer was also typical–"Because I could!" So I went into my usual "benefits of testing" spiel. Deaf ears! I got a half-hearted "Thanks" and they left. No mocha latte, nothing!

While I was never directly asked to leave, I could sense a "coldness” from both management and staff. I decided it was time to buy a cup of coffee. Not wanting my wife or kids to feel any of the rejection they were sure to receive by being associated with Super Tester, I hung my head, and sauntered over to the coffee shop alone. I pondered my results after calling them on their cell phones to tell them where to find me. The evil grin on my face when they found me must have given me away which would explain the "What did you do now?" comment from my daughter. My son had only one word: "Freak." My wife just headed for the car. She's used to it by now–for she knows the true identity of Super Tester.

Moral of the Story–My story didn't make the local news broadcast or newspapers (yes, I actually looked). To this day, I feel like I'm being watched whenever I enter the book store. My wife thinks I'm being irrational and paranoid, but I'm guessing there is a Wanted poster of me in the employee break room.

I did steal a chance to return to the bookstore's search computer about 6 months later. I discreetly repeated my tests, and, to my surprise–they all passed! Maybe management actually listened to me. The store manager was promoted (typical), and most of the staff has changed, yet they still seem to know me. Hmmm. Even though I could empathize with Rodney Dangerfield (No respect!) deep down, I felt good. So goes the life of Super Tester.

Next episode –Super Tester visits an e-commerce Web site!

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