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Lacking what ... ?
Hello everyone. This is a very nice site with a lot of good discussions. But one thing I do not see people discuss much is what they see as lacking from the overall QA area of activities. I'm not just talking about what tools may or may not do or how one tool stinks as compared to another. I'm talking about overall QA as a general practice. It seems like when you look on the Web there are not really all that good of places to get information and when you do find information it is very sporadic at best and do not seem designed to convey information. Thoughts?
Re: Lacking what ... ?
Oh, boy - you hit one of my "Cannot Shut Up About This Topic" buttons. (So, yes, this post will aggravate those of you who e-mail me and tell me I post too long of messages.) I sort of agree with AJ here, however, in that there are a lot of places within the forums that various and sundry issues have been discussed - and at great length. Various topics have come up regarding situations that people are dealing with in their individual careers or even if the future of QA as a whole is viable.
In general, however, if I am reading the intent of your question correctly, I think the biggest problem is lack of dedicated QA people to spread the word and to educate. If you do a search on the Web you find a lot of references to books and a lot of instruction sites that cost (templates that they charge you for, etc.) or consulting sites that cost even more.
I am a firm believer in open content (http://www.opencontent.org/) on Web sites. Of course that hardly matters if there is no relevant material on the site. I am also a believer in open source, up to a point. If you make a great tool solution for testing or quality practices, provide it - and the source. Let others benefit from your work - and perhaps improve on it. A few examples of this:
Test Case Manager (test cases)
Queue.xls (performance) http://www.gsm.cornell.edu/Faculty/m...ware/Queue.htm
HTML Tidy (usability/accessibility)
There are also numerous sites that provide examples and tutorials for various automation tools as well as provide wonderful scripts that they have created.
I know that everyone wants to make money - but then find another way. If you truly care about quality assurance and quality testing, you will do what you can to promote it by providing as much as possible for as little cost as possible. So do I follow my own exhortations? Well, sort of. I do have a Web site and I will be the first to admit it is not very good nor is it as in-depth as I would like it and my breadth of topics needs to be greater as well as actual solutions. I also have to provide more information and templates. But they key is: I am not adverse to doing this because I want to be paid for the material. (Right now it is just a time factor, unfortunately.)
When I acted as a consultant, I got very fed up because while I realized we were adding value I did not like the way in which we were doing it. I then became an independent contractor and my goal to myself was to show the various organizations I contracted with that they do not need me or other consulting firms - if they make a goal to commit to quality. My idea was to show them how by giving them tools and solutions that they could readily undestand and adapt. (As you can imagine, I did not make many consulting companies my friends.) Because of personal situations I am now in a full-time position but my goal is really to get back into that independent mode again. But part of my effort towards doing that is via my Web page. Another effort is this forum. Posting to boards like this is a way to return value to a community that has shaped and defined us. Contributing templates and solutions is yet another way - either via your own Web site or someone else's or through forums such as this one.
But what to educate on? I see a basic lack of understanding of what it is, exactly, that makes up a process. I see a lack of knowledge of even the most basic skills in project management (needed for quality assurance) and in the most basic notion of what makes something testable (needed for quality testing). I see people define terms very inconsistently. I see an almost complete lack of understanding for usability issues and what it means to test for them. I think a lot of this is particularly true with performance testing as well. There are so many people that do not grasp how much you can do with performance testing and what you should do with performance testing.
I see way too much reliance on magic bullet solutions; in particular, I see great reliance on tools rather than the human brain. (Note that I am not saying tools cannot supplement the human brain but I see the tools being used in place of it in many cases.) I see test planning and test scripting become "forgotten abilities" much like the story by Isaac Asimov where, in the future, a man who can do arithmetic without a calculator is just considered amazing! Please understand I am not saying that current quality testers cannot do this or are lacking - simply that we are conditioned to believe that everything should be fast and immediate and should take place yesterday - if not sooner. And that brings up "Internet Time." I see people treat "Internet Time" as if it somehow radically re-oriented how quality assurance should be done. There is this notion that "constant change is here to stay." And while that may be true at an overall level this does not, a priori, mean an overhaul of processes and methodologies. And when such changes are warranted a moderate approach to this needs to be taken.
A balancing act always exist between strategic goals and tactical objectives. This is a line that many people cross and, to top it off, do so haphazardly. Education on looking at long-term needs and short-term benefits (and doing basic risk- and impact- analysis) is critical. How many people do you know that can truly generate test cases from functional specifications and cover negative testing and exception conditions as well? How many people do you meet out there that truly understand why you want stable business requirements? How many people understand even the most basic operations behind the concepts of change management? How many people do you find who understand the distinction between quality assurance and quality testing?
I also think that there is a lack of recognition of the testing mentality as well as the quality mentality. I can think of no other way to put it in that you are probably a person that seeks great order to your life and things that relate to it. You have a concept that you "want things to be right." (Of course, defining what is "right" is part of the challenge.) It goes beyond a mere want to learn something new or a mere want to test. It is part and parcel of who you are. For those of you who have hired based on quality mentalities, you know what I mean. The basic idea is that you have made quality assurance not only your career choice but it defines, to a great deal, the type of person you are as well as a personal philosophy. (This becomes very evident in people who are writing test cases or who are doing usability studies.) You are someone who, on your own time, reads a great deal about the field of quality assurance/quality testing and keeps up to date on all aspects of it: performance, usability, wireless, accessibility, test casing, test planning, project management, cultural changes, automation, etc., etc.
As has probably become obvious, to me quality assurance and quality testing work is an art and a science. The art is what defines the science and the great thing is that, if it is done right, the art is fluid enough (with both broad and fine strokes) that it allows for flexibility (what I call future-mobility) such that the science can be reshaped and yet still be valid. Read Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" and you will have a very good idea of where my thinking is with this.
Does that answer whatever you were asking or did I just waste a lot of bandwidth?
[This message has been edited by JeffNyman (edited 11-22-2000).]
Re: Lacking what ... ?
your analyse and insight in the topic is just excellent !!!
I can definitely not improve on that, just tell you how well I identify myself with your description.
I am, however, fortunate enough to have an organization with a common (proper) view about quality.
Best regards Björn