Sick of Chaos

I have a recurring dream when I get sick. In the dream I’m tasked with riding an elevator up and down to various floors. On each floor I encounter a bunch of numbers bouncing around acting out of control. Part of my task is to make sense out of these numbers on each floor. Like, maybe put them in order…I’m never sure. However, I usually give up and ride the elevator to another random floor and try again. The dream just loops through this sequence. It sounds silly but during the dream it is quite scary and unstoppable for some reason.

What does this have to do with testing? The state of our project feels so chaotic that I keep getting flashes of this dream. My days are filled getting emails or people stopping by my cube with error messages accompanied with vague or no repro steps. Each email is critical and the next seems to preempt the previous. The amount of tests I’ve actually executed myself has been minimal over the past month. Instead, I’ve been attempting to determine what other people are doing. The email threads typically get hijacked by people chunking in non-related problems and I can often identify people misunderstanding each other because each thread becomes more ambiguous than the next. These threads contain bugs that get lost because nobody can figure out enough info to log them. Ahhhhhhh! So I get back on the elevator and see if I can make sense out of the next floor.

IMHO, much of this chaos could be avoided if people would log the bug, no matter how few infos are known. In an extreme case, I still believe it would be valuable to log the bug if all you have is a crumby screen capture of an error. Something like:

Bug#20074 - “No repro steps but someone got this error once…”

The next time this error is encountered we now have something to compare it with. “Hey, this is the same error as Bug#20074, did we notice any clues this time? No?” Well, we can at least update the bug to indicate we saw the error again in the next build and someone else got it.” The emails referring to this problem can say “This may be Bug#20074”. And so on. Once we have a bug, no matter how hollow the bug is, the problem becomes more than someone’s sighting of Bigfoot. It becomes a problem we can actually collect information against in an organized manner. And hopefully, I can stop riding the elevator.


  1. Anonymous said...

    IMHO, take the stairs next time.

  2. Anonymous said...

    You're in luck. I'm a dream therapist. Your dream means that your real calling is to become an oompa loompa and work at the alternative wheat factory making wheat substitutes and wheat-free products for consumption in preparation for when the world runs out of wheat. Wheat agnostic people throughout the world rejoice.

    Regarding repro steps, my solution is to install keyboard and mouse loggers on their machines and have video cameras behind each person so that we can replay what they did. Privacy is a small price to pay, and I'm sure they'll be delighted since they won't have to try to remember what they just did a few secs ago. Ask your manager to put in a purchase order for the equipment. Also I have a patent pending on this idea so you'll have to also pay me 50% of your QA budget to put this process into place.

  3. Brent Walker said...

    I've had similar dreams in times of deep problem solving but at least they were over quickly. It sounds like you've got a good plan... now I guess someone just has to go ahead and be Mr. Unpopular and insist that it be done that way.

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