The Red Team Rules for Software QA

I found the Original 12 Red Team Rules recently (there's profanity in the list), and a lot of them are relevant to life as a software quality advocate/analyst/engineer/assurance person with a bit of modification.

Rule 1: Know when the test will be over.
(Was: Always have an escape plan).

Rule 2: Be aware of the environment for your app, database, network, mobile devices, etc. (Was: Be aware of your surroundings.) Different environments require different testing strategies and tools.

Rule 3: Assume nothing.
(Was: Assumption is the mother of all f***ups.) Get your acceptance criteria spelled out, and if there's not code in place to stop you trying something, do it.

Rule 4: Vary your attack.
(Was: Always have a backup plan.) If you don't find a bug the first time out, try something different. Someone that always tests the same way won't find new kinds of defects.

Rule 5: Never get caught by surprise.
(Was: Never get caught.) Know your application, who will be using it, how they will use it, and its vulnerabilities.

Rule 6: Collaborate effectively.
(Was: Keep your mouth shut.) Quality is a collaborative process, but talk with respect, and don't log a half-baked bug report that can't be replicated.

Rule 7: KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.
This applies equally to QA and the Red Team. Write stories, acceptance criteria, bug reports, and regression test plans that a total stranger could follow. Because in six months time, that total stranger could be you.

Rule 8: Simple and light equals freedom, agility and mobility.
Don't get bogged down in a document-heavy test process. Test Driven Development will help if you can read code (and QA people should be reading the code).

Rule 9: Do the job and then go home.
(Was: Plan, execute, and vanish.) Tired and cranky people do poor work.

Rule 10: Automate the boring bits.
(Was: You don’t have to like it - you just have to do it.) Sometimes we have to do repetitive stuff. Automate it if you can so you don't have to do it again, but don't duplicate automated tests.

Rule 11: Always invest in good quality stuff.
Get the right tool for the job and learn to use it well. JMeter is unfriendly but provides excellent information.

Rule 12: Trust your gut.
If you have a hunch there's a bug in an area of the application, keep digging until you find it.

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Candidates, things your interviewers want you to know

(This is close to my heart because I’ve done a bunch of interviews lately, some good, some not so good.)

If a skill or qualification is on your resume, I will ask you about it, especially if it's one I also have. Claim to know C# and I’ll ask you C# questions. Claim to know Java and I have a set of Java questions ready to roll. If you say you’re an ISTQB certified tester but don’t know their core testing principles from the syllabus, that’s a problem.

Never lie to me. If you didn’t do your pre-interview essay questions yourself, it will be obvious when I talk to you. I’d rather you said "I don’t know how to do that, but here’s how I might try." Even if you're on the wrong track, a valiant attempt is far better than a copied answer.

Never ever give me someone else’s answers. Seriously. I can’t believe I have to say this. Things you found on the internet, copied in wholesale, and tried to pass off as your own leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Have some questions to ask me. Because your questions to me are also part of how I assess you. If you ask about the vacation policy, required working hours, and working from home in the interview, those questions worry me.

Don't have sections copied and pasted from elsewhere on your resume. Why bother telling me the same stuff twice or four times? Don't waste space and don't waste my time.

It’s a conversation, not an interrogation. Brainstorm with me, think out loud, if I draw on the whiteboard and hand you a marker, use it. Bad art skills are never a disqualifier for software quality jobs.

Have examples to common questions ready, because I’ll ask you for specifics.

Smile. Even if you’re nervous, fake it if you have to.

Don’t bad-mouth your past or current employers. Even if they’re horrible, find a way to say it that doesn’t involve saying awful things about them. We already know there’s some reason you want to work elsewhere.

You’re interviewing us too, and this job may not be a good fit for you. Better to find that out now than take the job and hate it.

Have a reason for why this job at this company. If you don't want to be here, I find it odd that you'd go to the trouble of interviewing.

If it's a phone interview, make sure you answer the phone when I call. If the line is engaged or I end up in voicemail, that doesn't start the interview off well.

Getting both in to and out of the building are also important. I had one candidate call HR to say the building was locked and she couldn't get in. It wasn't locked. Same candidate also walked straight past the elevators and into the kitchen when I said goodbye, and just stood there looking confused for a bit. If you can't figure out building navigation when you're nervous, not a good sign.

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Your software project might have a QA if…

Some of these are mine, some I lifted from the company Slack channel for Quality Advocacy.

  • You're used to finding Cyrillic or Greek or Mandarin in the database
  • There's code in place to stop you copying War and Peace into the app multiple times
  • You know how the system reacts with 10 users, or 50, or 500, or 5000
  • Your developers know what happened between 4th and 15th October 1582
  • You have client-side and server-side data validation
  • This conversation: "But why would you even do that?" "Because there was nothing to stop me."
  • You know when Daylight Savings Time starts in Australia
  • Names and addresses make you nervous
  • Your app looks stunning with the colors reversed
  • You know how to close your h3 tags
  • You fear what will happen to everything run by computers in January of 2038
  • Your app survives a genuine DDoS attack in production and everyone shrugs because "she's done worse to us in dev."
Posted in Geek/Tech, Humour, QA | 1 Comment

“You’re an introvert? Are you sure?”

I get that a lot. My usual response is that I can play extrovert really well, but it's draining. With one person, or two, I'm just fine. With people I'm familiar with and comfortable with, like my knit group, I'm OK. With a big group, or a lot of people I don't know well, interaction is work, and there is a cost I'll have to pay in terms of tiredness, irritability, and generally wanting to hide in a cave.

Before a party, all-day company meeting, or gathering of strangers, I have a routine. First you put on the battle armour, clothes and shoes picked with a goal in mind, whether it be comfort or looking good. Next is the war-paint, tactical amounts of make-up to hide behind. You can't see me, you see only my eyeliner and lipstick. Finally there's the smile, faked or otherwise. Afterwards there will be the "leave me alone" energy crash, time when I need to recharge and be in a silent house with just husband and cats. We've been married nineteen years and long ago he moved from "people that require work to be with", to "people I like to be with even when I'm all people'd out".

Some people sit in their heads and think about what they want to say, then say it. Other people talk to figure out what they want to say, and then they say it. I've come across a lot of introverts that think first then talk, and a lot of extroverts that talk first, then say the useful thing. As an introvert, there's a lot going on in my head at any one time. Right now I'm noodling on what the plot will be for my NaNoWriMo novel this year, planning a gift swap parcel for an online knitting group, thinking about career feedback I've been getting, and a lot more. I like to consider what to say before I say it, and if that means waiting through an awkward silence, I'm fine with that. Most people baulk at silences, and around the seven second mark will jump in and say anything that comes to mind, just to make it stop. Silence is my natural environment. I'm comfortable there.

I don't see being an introvert as a disability, or an illness, or a defect. It is how I am wired. I am rarely bored because there is a lot going on in my head. I've always created story worlds when I write, and though only a fraction of that shows up in the finished story, it is the underpinning of the whole thing. But people, especially strangers in groups, require effort.

(Today I met an introvert who talks to figure out what to say, they do exist!)

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Sh*t my QA says

There is a bug, I just haven't found it yet.

Well, it's broken on my machine!

In the Danish version of Windows, if you click really fast, the app just crashes.

It doesn't work when I put Cyrillic text in. Or Greek, Hebrew, or Mandarin.

One copy of "War and Peace" in the description field was OK, but the second crashed it.

What if you rotate the screen/turn on airplane mode/get a text/drop the phone into the toilet from ten feet up?

The app doesn't handle itself well if you delete its database after you log in.

Ooh, I haven't seen it do that before! Wonder if it'll do it again?

Can't stop, I saw a bug and I'm trying to find it again.

(From a QA friend) There you are, you little sh*t! I have you now!

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Favourite writing tools

My TWSBI 580 fountain pen is one of my favourites. It's not the most expensive fountain pen, but it always starts well, writes smoothly, and the piston-fill ink reservoir holds a LOT of ink. It's currently filled with the original formulation of Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses ink, a gorgeous dark purple burgundy colour. Planning to swap out the medium nib for a fine one at some point.

2014-09-20 07.23.47

The newest pen is a Tactile Turn Mover in teal anodised aluminium, and it is gorgeous. The exploded view shows some of the nifty design, the clip is inset into the top part of the pen, and held in place when you screw the click part in. The grip section has a pattern on it that makes it very easy to hold, much nicer than holding smooth metal. The click is almost silent, and the pen is a nice thickness. I've got small hands but I like thicker than average pens. All around this is a very nice pen that went straight into my everyday carry set.

I also have the Bolt, from Karas Kustoms. It takes a Fisher Space Pen refill, and the bolt action is fun to play with. Currently it has the turquoise refill in. The Fisher refills feel like the ink is thicker than a standard ballpoint but they always just write. The Bolt is fun to play with, after a little practice you can operate it with one hand.

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From electronic to paper

I'd been using an electronic task list for keeping my to-do's, and it worked well enough, sort of. I got stuff done, but the list of completed tasks was flaky and didn't always display. The main list stopped updating, some tasks would duplicate, and it wasn't working well.

So I thought I'd try the paper solution. I picked up a pack of Word notebooks from JetPens. There was a Nock Co Hightower sat around from their Kickstarter campaign last year, and it all came together at once.

This has become my constant companion. The Word notebooks have a circle on each line that you cross out when the task is done. Work tasks and lists in the back, personal ones in the front, and a small set of things I should be doing all the time in the middle (drinking water after each caffeinated beverage, karate practice, some others).

The Facebook lists of movies that stayed with me, and books that had an impact on my life, are in there. The definition of what I want my role at work to be is in there, and a list of exactly why the client should want us doing automated regression tests (halving the defect rate for one). I always have my three favourite pens and something to write on. It's a happy orange colour you really can't miss. This combination, the paper to-do list, the orange case, and the three pens, works wonderfully. I get stuff done and I can see what's left undone. And when the notebook is full, I have a journal of sorts.

For this round, paper beats electronic.

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Come With Me Now BY KONGOS

I think with my heart and I move with my head
I open my mouth and it's something I've read
I stood at this door before, I'm told
But a part of me knows that I'm growing too old

Confused what I thought with something I felt
Confuse what I feel with something that's real
I tried to sell my soul last night
Funny, he wouldn't even take a bite

Come With Me Now by KONGOS

Been hearing this song lately and something about these two verses just grabs me every time.

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Just once

I'm done reading Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series because I tripped over yet another "infertile character gets miracle cure and magic baby and becomes a Real Woman® " trope that everyone writes and is so hurtful to the one in eight couples who are infertile.

Just once, would someone please write an infertile character who doesn't get the magic baby and figures out how to live life as a valuable and valued person. Stop assuming that not having a child cripples you so much that society has no use for you and nothing but pity.

I've never read an infertile character that isn't pitied and broken until she gets a magic baby, then everything is alright. Never. Not once.

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Second degree brown belt

Driving home, drenched in sweat, exhausted and grinning. I got my second degree brown belt today from Tracy's Karate today.

One of my resolutions for 2014 was to get this belt. Second brown is the 6th of eight belts (black is the 8th), and the first one requiring sixty self defense techniques (thirty new ones and thirty from third degree brown), plus all twelve kata I've learned so far. It's a lot to memorise. There are three brown belts, third degree, second, then first, counting down towards first degree black.

Tests are done in full uniform, which is heavy canvas pants plus a gi top. Mine is from the same weight canvas as the pants and feels like a winter-weight bulletproof vest. It's stiff and thick, hot and heavy.

Now I'm on to learning the 1st degree brown belt material. Thirty more techniques, but no new kata.

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