Friday, February 17, 2012

Stepping in the shadow of a monument of process, or standing up?

Somewhere in an old and run down railroad boom town, stands a hundred churches.  Most of the churches were built nearly a century before the Americans with Disabilities Act was even contemplated on the floors of the US Congress.  Some have been updated with ramps or elevators, but most like this one old red brick church have only concrete stairs that lead up and into the hall where the people meet each Sunday morning.  Every Sunday a hundred people or more, women, men, children, and elderly walk up those old concrete steps before that service begins and then, retreats back down those stairs again after the service has concluded.

On this particular Sunday morning, many feet trod up and down those stairs. Each pair of feet appear only conscious of their forward motion, an attempt to keep things moving forward, progress, a process.   So one step after another and soon they reach the destination on another iteration of that Sunday morning hour or more of fellowship and learning.  These little feet may be blissfully unaware, or perhaps they know all too well  that the church is a hundred years old, and has stood tall for longer than those feet have been able to move.  Furthermore, it might seem to those feet, as the creep up those stairs in the shadow of that hundred year old steeple that those feet will continue to visit the same pattern of stairs until the trip can no longer be made.

Of course, then there will be other feet will take its place, and as many feet will continue this pattern to mark up and down those stairs, with their purpose focused on the zenith  where the door opens into the terrace of worship.  So common and repetitive might this routine become that these feet may pay little attention to anything except to each footfall after footfall.  While the conditions of the stairway may sometimes be traveled in the dry, the wet, or perhaps with salt or kitty litter spread about to enhance traction when snow or ice threaten the weekly ascent, but always these feet work their way upward, looking towards the doorway at the top, and yet despite the variety caused by the cycle of seasons, still these feet remain oblivious, giving less and less attention to the grind, the steps each foot falls upon as the habit of the process over takes the analysis and observation that once, during those first few trips up and down those stairs, where the mind noticed the grade, the hardness, and sound of those foot falls on their ascent.

Yet then one Sunday Morning, a half hour before the celebration of this years Scout Sunday a lone boy finds his way up these stairs.  He has walked these stairs before, but it has been months since he last made that climb.  While others around him may feel this is nothing but a normal routine, he takes in the moment, the smell of the cold snowy air, the feel of the chill wind against his cheeks, and the sound of each footfall as he climbs step by step, turning at its half way point to the side, and then up one more step to the doorway. That's when his senses detect it.  A sound altogether different from the sounds of all the previous steps he has heard ring out.

The sound catches his attention, and he lingers for a moment on that step, noting that it is different, but not so sure about it, he opens the door and enters the old church.   Others behind walk up the same step, and not one notices, or comments on the sound he heard as he stands back from the doorway and ponders, waiting for the latest bunch of congregational attendants to finish their ascent.   This boy doesn't attend this church regularly, he goes to another church nearby and across town.  He was only visiting on this occasion in support of the church that had graciously helped support his Cub Scout unit.  Yet a question forms in his mind, unlike all the other habitual comers and goers, going through the usual and traditional process of that weeks iteration that raises his curiosity.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Weekend Testers Americas #24 - Black Box Software Testing: Practice 3

Today I participated in Weekend Testers Americas Session #24.  The mission for this session was fairly open ended.

* In today's mission we would like you to frame your exploration on your 
* We are about to give you a 'black box machine'. 
* You will have 60 minutes. 
* At the end of the timebox present your notes (no more than page long) to the group chat.
* What to report and in what format - we leave it up to your decision. 
* We hope everybody will bring a unique bit of experience we all can learn from.

Ultimately it boiled down to an exploratory testing session on a practice  flash applet.  Because of the way the mission was framed, each individual tester, or testing pair defined the mission for themselves. Since the general feel of the mission was so open, and my instincts were to work the practice as an exploratory session, I felt there was a lot of room to try things, perhaps things I wouldn't normally have done.   While some of the testers paired, I elected to go it alone this time though.

Before I get into my synopsis of the exercise and my conclusions of how that session went, I'd like to give credit to James Lyndsay who I am told is the one who produced this particular practice over at his site  There are a number of practice exercises that could be used for some general and basic practice of exploratory testing skills.  From what I've read he also has some more in depth training as well, which could be a useful if exploratory testing is an area you feel could help you in your testing efforts.  I'll leave it to my readers to decide that for themselves.    Now, if you'd like to try the exercise before reading my report, head on over to and explore it to your hearts content for up to an hour.  Otherwise, what follows would be considered a 'Spoiler'.   So when you are ready to continue reading, please click 'Read More' below.