Steve Rowe's Blog

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  • Blog Post: The Data Driven Quality Mindset

    "Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer's problem." - Mark Cook, VP of Products at Kodak I've talked recently about the 4th wave of testing called Data Driven Quality (DDQ). I also elucidated what I believe are the technical prerequisites to achieving...
  • Blog Post: Prerequisites to Data Driven Quality

    A previous post introduced the concept of data driven quality. Moving from traditional, up-front testing to data driven quality is not easy. It is not possible to take just any product and start utilizing this method. In addition to cultural changes, there are several technical requirements on the product...
  • Blog Post: Perceived vs. Objective Quality

    I recently heard this story, but I can't recall who told it to me. I don’t have proof of its veracity so it might be apocryphal. Nevertheless, it illustrates an important point that I believe to be true independent of the truth of this story. As the story goes, in the late 1990s, several Microsoft researchers...
  • Blog Post: Data Driven Quality

    My last three posts have explained how test lost its way. It evolved from advocates of the user to a highly efficient machine for producing test results, verifying correctness as determined by a specification. Today, test can find itself drowning in a sea of results which aren't correlated with any discernible...
  • Blog Post: Test Has Lost Its Way

    In a blog post , Brent Jensen relays a conversation he had with an executive mentor. In this conversation, his mentor told him that, "Test doesn't understand the customer." When I read this, my initial reaction was the same as Brent's: "No way!" If test is focused on one thing, it...
  • Blog Post: A Brief History of Test

    In the exploration of quality, it is important to understand where software testing came from, where it is today, and where it is heading. We can then compare this trajectory to the goal of ensuring quality and see whether a correction is necessary or if we're going the right direction. I have been...
  • Blog Post: What is Quality?

    Most of my career so far has focused on software testing in one form or another. What is testing if not verifying the quality of the object under test? But what does the word quality really mean? It is hard to define quality, but I will argue that a good operating definition is fitness for a function...
  • Blog Post: Pruning the Decision Tree in Test

    Yesterday I wrote about the need to reduce the number of things a project attempted to do in order to deliver a great product.  Too many seemingly good ideas can make a product late or fragmented or both.  The same is true of testing a product.  Great testing is more about deciding what...
  • Blog Post: Pass Rates Don’t Matter

    It seems obvious that test pass rates are important.  The higher the pass rate, the better quality the product.  The lower the pass rate, the more known issues there are and the worse the quality of the product.  It then follows that teams should drive their pass rates to be high. ...
  • Blog Post: Five Books To Read If You Want My Job

    This came out of a conversation I had today with a few other test leads.  the question was, “What are the top 5 books you should read if you want my job?”  My job in this case being that of a test development lead.  At Microsoft that means I lead a team (or teams) of people whose job it...
  • Blog Post: Why We Conduct Bug Bashes

    My team recently finished what we call a “ bug bash .”  That is, a period of time where we tell all of the test developers to put down their compilers and simply play with the product.  Usually a bug bash lasts a few days.  This particular one was 2 days long.  We often make a competition...
  • Blog Post: James Whittaker Netcast

    James Whittaker is the author of books like How To Break Software.  He ran one of the few university-level testing programs at Florida Tech.  He's now as Microsoft and helping Visual Studio become better at testing.  The guys at .Net Rocks caught up with him for an interview .  James...
  • Blog Post: The Five Why's and Testing Software

    Toyota was able to eclipse the makers of American cars in part due to its production and development systems.  The system has been popularized under the rubric of "Lean" techniques.  Among the tenets of the Lean advocates is asking the "Five Why's."  These are not the...
  • Blog Post: James Whittaker on Why MS Software "Sucks" Despite Our Testing

    A friend turned me on to this post by James Whittaker.  I didn't know he had a blog so now I'm excited to read it.  He has a lot of really interesting things to say on testing so I encourage you to read his blog (now linked on the left) if you are intrigued by testing. Microsoft prides itself...
  • Blog Post: Test Suite Granularity Matters

    I just read a very interesting research paper entitled, "The Impact of Test Suite Granularity on the Cost-Effectiveness of Regression Testing" by Gregg Rothermel et al.  In it the authors examine the impact of test suite granularity on several metrics.  The two most interesting are...
  • Blog Post: Test Code Must Be As Solid As Dev Code

    All good development projects follow certain basic practices to ensure code quality.  They use source control, get code reviewed, build daily, etc.  Unfortunately, sometimes even when the shipping product follows these practices, the test team doesn't.  This is true even here at Microsoft...
  • Blog Post: Test For Failure, Not Success

    We recently went through a round of test spec reviews on my team. Having read a good number of test specs in a short period of time, I came to a realization. It is imperative to know the failure condition in order to write a good test case. This is at least as important if not more important than understanding...
  • Blog Post: We Need A Better Way To Test

    Testing started simply. Developers would run their code after they wrote it to make sure it worked. When teams became larger and code more complex, it became apparent that developers could spend more time coding if they left much of the testing to someone else. People could specialize on developing or...
  • Blog Post: Know That Which You Test

    Someone recently related to me his experience using the new Microsoft Robotics Studio . He loaded it up and proceeded through one of the tutorials. To make sure he understood, he typed everything in instead of cutting and pasting the sample code. After doing so, he compiled and ran the results. It worked...
  • Blog Post: What Tests Belong in the BVTs?

    BVTs or Build Verification Tests are standard Microsoft parlance for the tests we run every day to ensure that we didn't break anything important with our checkins the day before. I've previously written about the importance of keeping them clean . Within the range of tests that consistently pass, which...
  • Blog Post: When to Test Manually and When to Automate

    There's a balancing act in testing between automation and manual testing. Over my time at Microsoft I've seen the pendulum swing back and forth between extensive manual testing and almost complete automation. As I've written before, the best answer lies somewhere in the middle. The question then becomes...
  • Blog Post: What Is Test Automation?

    I talk about it a lot, but I don't know that I've ever defined it. A reader recently wrote in and asked what exactly this was. I suppose that means I should give a better explanation of it. Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, testers were computer-savvy non-programmers. Their job was to use the product...
  • Blog Post: Testing A Daily Build

    It is becoming accepted in the industry that teams should produce a build on a daily basis. Every project at Microsoft does this as do most projects elsewhere. If you happen to be on a project that does not, I suggest you work to get one implemented soon. The benefits are great. After a daily build is...
  • Blog Post: New MSDN Tester Center

    MSDN now has a home for test information. Check out the new MSDN Tester Center . It has articles, videos, and a collection of blog posts all revolving around the idea of testing. If you are a tester or test developer, bookmark this site. It looks like it will be useful.
  • Blog Post: Metrics of Software Quality

    This post over on TestingReflections brings up an interesting point. Michael answers the question, "What are the useful metrics for software quality" with another question. He asks, in a roundabout fashion, what is it that we value about the software? He rightly points out that some of the things we...
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