Backtracking for testers

“I cannot reproduce it.”, I admitted to my scrum master. He replied with:
“You can do exploratory testing, but you have to note down the steps, which led to this situation.”

How did I get in this mess?
I sanitised this story BTW.

On my screen were some filters and buttons. It was not possible to use the action button any more. That was NOK. I made a partial screen shot and put it into my test charter. I would later come back to reproduce it.

Somewhat later I looked at the screen shot. I thought it would be easy to reproduce the situation. After three attempts I gave up. That was NOK.

My scrum master had a point though. I had lame excuses like no recording tools and extra bureaucratic steps. Back to The Bug. If I could find it.

A little bit of theory
Backtracking is a term I picked up during my study. It took me years to understand the principles.

It is basically solving a labyrinth: continuously pick a direction and walk, until a dead end is encountered. Then go back to the place where the last wrong decision was taken and take a new direction.
Rinse and repeat.

This tactic can be applied to find the toilet or to solve a puzzle.

Sorry for this theory interruption. I will now continue with my blog post.

A lot of practice
The first thing was to examine the screen shot again. I realised I was on the wrong screen. So I switched screens.

Then I rebuilt the situation. I added the filters with the same values. I pressed the action button. That went right. I kept my mouse on the button. It could be used again.

I used the other buttons on the screen. After a few presses I returned to the action button, which was still completely functional.

I did a reset and started to rebuild the situation. If I pressed the other buttons before the action button, then it might become insensitive. After adding the last filter I pressed on one of the other buttons and clicked on the action button. It was still functional. Business as usual.

It was time for my visual memory. The adding of the filters went from left to right. It felt great. Every time the set of available filters became smaller. It was like dealing cards. The stack became smaller and the cards were put from left to right.

I looked to the most left filter. It was a date filter. I already had filed some bug reports on that one. Wait a sec. This was my starting point for bugs. I might have set it to a wrong value and quickly checked the side effects.

The word quickly triggered my mind. I was so used to this filter, that all date filter related actions were absolutely normal for me. It became natural and therefore easy to forget. Because I moved my mouse so fast, the movement was not stored in my memory. That made sense to me.

So another attempt to reproduce my bug began. I set the date filter to a single bad number and added the other filters from left to right. And I pressed the action button. It worked. Then I tried to use it again, but that was not possible. Bug reproduced.

Now I wanted to reduce the number of steps. My assumption was that the invalid value in the date filter triggered the bug. Time for a short cut.

I reset the screen and only added the bad date filter. The second push on the action button was useless as expected. I was able to backtrack my steps and reduce them afterwards. That was OK.

At the end of business day my scrum master groaned, when I showed him the bug.
“What else did you find?”

Test Twilight Zone

When I grew up, there was a TV program called The Twilight Zone. It was about people getting in really strange situations. Logic and laws of nature did not seem to apply.

The reason it appealed to me was that it could happen to me, the writer. Ordinary situations became unordinary situations.

This TV program had a tune. There are 3 notes which I still remember, to create a gloomy atmosphere. Those 3 notes became the tradenark of this zone.

Then the voice over would start like:
“This is a story of a woman. Let’s call her A. A is a very good UX designer or User Experience designer. She takes care, that people can use a program on first sight.

If she would design a kitchen tool, she could easily skip the manual. The product is so intuitive the moment you see and touch it.

She thinks that this is normal for her and not for other people. But she is about to enter the Twilight Zone.”

A looked to me and asked me:
“How many bugs did you find?”
I mentioned a number above 40.
She swallowed.

I had no specs and not enough domain knowledge. Only a briefing from my PO or Product Owner. Still I had found some strange things.

She said that she had found about 20 bugs.
“What did you find?” she asked.
I described some bugs I had found. There was a bug with an input validation. I had just enough domain knowledge to point this one out.
I told about the details of the elements, which had confused me as a user. And …
“You are doing UX.”, she exclaimed.
“I am only testing.”

Then the voice over would come back: telling about the UX designer’s meeting. Mentioning the morale and The Twilight Zone.

“Next story.”
“There you read” => PM

Then the voice over would start with:
“Mister X has more than 10 year of experience in “.

Let’s skip the scary part.
Okay with you?
Works on my web site.

Mister X and I were sitting at a table. We were talking about business on Sunday. That is typical Dutch by the way. Somehow the word migration was dropped and I could not stop myself to tell my deployment plan story.

My telling triggered the attention of Mister X. I told how I merged 3 plans and how I set up a meeting to discuss the result. X asked familiar questions which I had already covered in 2 piece Q and A.

“What was your role?”
“I was a tester. I wanted this project succeed, so I became the chairman.”
[Actually I made a mistake: I was a test coordinator. But still …]
Ten minutes in my story I heard:
“You were doing project management!”

At that moment I made contact. The next time he would remember my story about the migration. I would not be another faceless tester, which is to be avoided according to James.

During a meeting last week I spoke up:
“I do not have a clue, but I have a weird idea.”

I almost forget the tune.