Sunday, December 10, 2006

thank you Grace Hopper

You can look at wikipedia, but there are all sorts of other references.

I am a professional software tester, almost certainly because of Grace Hopper:

If she didn't invent it, she at least made popular the term "bug"
She is largely responsible for COBOL. I began my career reading COBOL. I think if I had begun with any other language, I would probably have failed.
She was one of the first to advocate adherence to standards, without which testers would not exist.
The phrase "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission." is attributed to her, and has been a hallmark of my software testing career.
The most successful periods of my career have been with female managers. Women in IT are remarkably good managers, and without Grace Hopper's influence, there would be far fewer than than there are today.

She would have been 100 years old this month.

I am proud to note her influence.

Friday, December 08, 2006

at least look at the satellite view

Had an interesting confluence of influences this week. I sent another Better Software article to the copyeditor this week, and in it I cite (again) Harry Robinson's work. I am by no means an expert model-based tester, but understanding the basics of Harry's work is a fine tool to have in the toolbox. Harry is using Watir for testing Google Maps, as you can see if you grab the pdf and the Ruby files off of the site.

And I read that James Kim and his family may have gotten into trouble because they trusted an online map service.

I live in a pretty remote part of Colorado. A little over a year ago, my wife and I used Google Maps to navigate to another remote part of Colorado, where we were going to visit a friend. Google Maps routed us via the Mosca Pass Road.

As I mentioned to Harry, "The problem is that while Mosca Pass Road exists, it hasn't had any traffic other than hikers and horses for the last 100 years or so" Here's where Google Maps routes you today. I don't know if the bug got fixed because of Harry, but the Mosca Pass Road runs over the north shoulder of that big snowy mountain in the satellite view. You don't want to take your car there, unless you've got high-clearance 4-wheel drive and a winch for the hard parts. And we were driving at night.

Furthermore, I know someone from Georgia once who looked at a Rand McNally Atlas and figured they'd just find a dirt road running from Ouray CO to Telluride CO. They didn't realize Telluride is in a box canyon surrounded by 13000-foot peaks. I persuaded this person not to do that. This was before Google Maps existed. You can't get there from here-- at least not the way you think you can.

When you live in a city, and especially when you deal with technology for a living, so much of your world is online, you forget how much wild country still exists in the US. There are still many millions of square miles in the US where you can get into big, big trouble with hardly any effort at all.

So please, be skeptical of what the mapping software reports. And look at the satellite view.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Austin Workshop on Test Automation invites start

A few days ago Bret Pettichord announced the call for participation in the Austin Workshop on Test Automation. The theme this time is "Open Source Testing Frameworks".

I attended the last one of these two years ago, and it was very fine. I'm helping organize it this year.

One of the things about this conference that I think is really important is that it actively seeks apprentice/journeyman practitioners, and not just experts and beginners. This means that everyone there is actively looking for answers and questioning the state of the practice. If you think it's a good idea but you're doing something other than Ruby/Watir/Selenium, please consider attending. Diversity is good.

We've already received some really great proposals and issued some invitations to some fine people. If you're on the fence, please consider that the conference may run out of room, so the earlier you send your letter of introduction, the nicer it is for all concerned.

If you have any questions, please drop an email or leave a comment.