Friday, June 27, 2008

Oh Management

Sure enough, the fact that software industry is crippled by technologically-challenged project managers is mind-boggling. But I have been recently flabbergasted by the shameless disclaimer of such a manager who, in the middle of a crucial meeting directly concerning her project, announced: "Sorry, I am not technical". Hence all this discussion was sheer geeky mumbo-jumbo to her and she could not grasp that her project was going astray.

This is sad. Not even funny. Just plain sad. Direct management of software developers can not be that clueless.

But I have prepared my childish revenge. Next time a manager will ask for estimates, I will pretend not to understand and will feign the following excuse: "Sorry, I am not managerial".

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Zephyr is blowing

My attention has been recently drawn to a new tool named Zephyr, which dubs itself as "The Next Generation Test Management Tool".

My very first impression is that the Zephyr team has done a great job putting on-line a complete workable demonstration environment. This is great to quickly delve into what the software is really about and getting assured that "it works on my machine", which is crucial nowadays as the corporate IT landscape is much more diverse than the traditional Windows + Internet Explorer desktops environment it used to be.

As far as platforms are concerned, Zephyr seems to run "on standard Windows desktop" (sic). I reckon they meant "Windows server", though I have seen production systems on desktops! Hence, I could not test the ease of install nor investigate the technologies used. Neither could I estimate its capacities to scale or work across a WAN.

The second impression is that the graphical interface is compelling, if not mind blowing. These guys did a great job of making arid forms filling an almost bearable task. Indeed the tool is brainy enough to avoid manual data copying and is able to pre-fill or filter data according to the context of the task.

Zephyr is also smartly aware of agile principles, as the notion of Scrum's sprint is hard wired into its dashboards. And dashboards is where Zephyr really shines. I love dashboards of all sorts, even complicated ones. But Zephyr's are truly awesome:

The dashboards and workspaces are tailored to the user profile, which makes navigation easier because you do not have to filter out a lot of non-relevant features. The tool does a great job at integrating and aggregating all sorts of QA related data, including the ones coming from defect tracking systems.

And I think this is where one of the challenges Zephyr will face resides. It currently connects to Bugzilla only, but there are many others out there. Moreover, companies have developed an habit of using their defect tracking system as a management tool for QA. How is Zephyr going to convert these users to this new platform? How disruptive for the practice would it be to move from the use, say, of JIRA to using Zephyr?

The thing that really truly bugs me about this tool is that it does not go further than the traditional "QA monkey" work, in which a human beings are presented a list of actions to perform and report the results thereof. That a tool with an agile penchant does not incite people to evolve their QA practices to more automation is flabbergasting. Where is the Selenium integration? Where is the FIT connector? Though manual QA will never be fully replaced, at least supporting a blend of automated and non-automated tasks would be a great first step. What the software industry really needs is lazy QA teams who mainly use their brains to work on automating their tasks!

To finish on a positive note, Zephyr takes integration seriously. It exposes JSON and REST APIs, the assurance that if you opt for this tool, you will not end up with yet another instant legacy application. This is something I would like to see more in so-called enterprise grade applications!

If you are looking for ways to improve your QA management, I can only recommend that you get Zephyr now, as the free 3 users licenses will allow you to see what this "Next Generation Test Management Tool" can do for you.

UPDATE 31-MAY-2009: Zephyr version 2.5 now comes with test automation features that include the ZBot technology.

ZBot allows you to execute testing scripts on remote machines and aggregate all results back in Zephyr. This is a great move, which addresses my concerns about the lack of support for automation in the previous releases.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Best. Game. Ever.

Ok, so I am an old timer and there are plenty of great games nowadays, so it is probably no the best game ever.

But Carrier Command is a true jewel of playability combined with a perfect mix of strategy and action. This is rare. Moreover, it the only game I have played 11 hours uninterrupted: it was 20 years ago and I still remember this all-night session!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Just Read: Dreaming in code

Dreaming in Code is a scary book, the kind of book that makes you wonder if it is really wise to keep pursuing the vain ambition of writing software. By telling the storing of Chandler, an open source project aimed at revolutionize Personal Information Management tools, the author takes us deep in the moving sands of software development.

The most daunting aspect of the book is the following: if the best developers in the world gathered together under the supervision of a level 5 leader (Mitch Kapor) struggle to build software like the rest of us mortals do our pesky daily jobs, then is there any hope?

Maybe hope is in the unintentional software we build while intending to build something else? We got Ruby on Rails, Blogger and Flickr that way, after all.