This isn’t the job you were hired to do

When you start a new job, you can’t really work without a mental image of the job: “This is my role. This is what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.” But that image is about 90% wrong (yes, I made that number up), and you need to let go of it …

Quick writing tip: What’s the default, and why?

As a technical writer, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is “what are the default values of the choices a user can make, and why”. For example, if an option is disabled by default, what does that tell you about the average user and their workflow? Are you trying to protect …

Lessons I Learned as a Tester, 7: Stop. Think.

In a lot of offices, if you’re not typing or clicking – you’re not working. It’s an odd view for any member of an industry that prides itself on thought and creativity. To analyse a problem, understand it and come up with a creative solution to it, you need to think about it. Thinking, for …

Lessons I Learned as a Tester, 6: The Secret Usefulness of Bad QAs

We’ve all worked with testers who were bad at their job; it was frustrating and felt┬álike a giant waste of time and effort. But hold on to those bad testers: they’re more useful than you think.   In my experience, bad testers have several common traits: they’re fairly illogical, disorganized, forgetful (and never write things …

Lessons I Learned as a Tester, 5: It’s not a Feature, it’s a Bug: Fixing Bugs Your Users Enjoy

Some bugs, even quite severe ones, can seem to your users like very nice features. Bugs that are likely to reach this status are those that make work smoother at the expense of security (for example, not enforcing part of the permissions mechanism), faster by letting users skip steps that should be mandatory (for example, …

Lessons I Learned as a Tester, 4: Testers Should Write the First Draft and Approve the Last Draft of Release Notes

You might say I learned this lesson as a technical writer, too. If you’re publishing release notes (and you really should), it’s for things that have gone through QA. Ask your testers to provide the first draft of the release notes, then ask them to verify the final draft. This has two benefits: 1. If …

Lessons I Learned as a Tester, 3: Chinese Whispers Are no Basis for Testing

Written in collaboration with Efrat Wurzel The basic premise of QA is that developers – being human – make mistakes; but too many testers think that developer mistakes are limited to the code they write. The truth is that developers can misunderstand the spec, forget a part of it, never notice that a spec is …

Lessons I Learned as a Tester, 2: Sanity is Relative

The further away you are from the QA department, the looser the definition of version sanity. By the time you get to the back of the development department, where the newbies sit, the definition of sanity is “compilable”. This is a major point of contention in some companies, especially small ones where everything is slightly …

Lessons I Learned as a Tester: Don’t Let Developers Go Crazy With Testing Instructions

When asked to provide testing instructions for a new feature or bug fix, there are three types of developers: some are surgically precise, some are fairly precise while erring towards caution, and some give the widest set of instructions they can get away with, usually in an effort to protect themselves against accusations of insufficient …