Shakespears Test Data

Posted: December 5, 2006 in Technical

       Testing an application is IMO, the most critical phase of any project. It is the point where the client finds out what they have been paying you for. It has been quite common, during my tenure,  for the client staff to conduct the testing, sometimes based off test cases I have drawn up, sometimes using internal standards. While fortunately, it has not happened frequently, occasionally you end up in a predicament where a client tester does not do their jobs correctly. For various reasons, they will rubber stamp some tests that to them are obvious, and have a low chance of breaking. This is especially the case when they are re-testing something for the 2nd or 3rd time during a test cycle.
       The end result, being you roll to pilot/Beta (if you are lucky enough to have one) and some horrendous error pops up. This impacts the users perception of the work, hurts your credibility, and worse, hurts the credibility of your project sponsor within the organization.  Over time, I have developed a simple yet effective way to help detect and to an extent prevent this occurance. Instead of the boilerplate latin spaceholder, or just nboring test data that the users have seen over and over and over again. I infuse bits and pieces of Shakespear into text data, usually with some creative substitutions. Now I have done this with random quotes, jokes, etc. Of course using Shakespear has the illusion of makgin people think you are a little more enlightened and more importantly it is much less likely to offend anyone in your trsting group.
       So what does this do to help the problem? It helps on 2 fronts. First of all, if the testers do not say something to me about it 9 times out of 10 they are not even evaluating the data on the UI to verify the correct functionality. It also gives me a good way to ask if about the data, if there was anything wierd about it, etc. If they have been doing their jobs, then you can rest assured they will mention that they saw "strange" text. Second, it makes the testers jobs a little bit more lighter, if they are being at least slightly entertained by it, they will look at it more closely.
      Sad to say, but the actual best case scenario for me is catching a tester not doing their jobs.  Once they are busted, they will beat your application so hard, if you have ANY cracks on the code, nobody is more likely to find it than a tester scorned. Just make sure when you are done with the project that you take them our for a drink or two. That is if they do not want you dead.   

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