Month: July 2014

Extreme participation marketing

Don’t get me wrong, as an agency person I am all for enthusiastic participation in marketing the client’s product, and as a committed testing specialist, I am all for putting my money where my mouth is, but in the following article from The Times, journalist Catherine Philp buys a bulletproof jacket from tailor Miguel Caballero and then allows him to shoot her in the stomach.

You pays your money and you takes your choice

Excellent article in today’s Guardian technology supplement by Bruce Schneier, security technologist and author. His hypothesis is that cars are well designed and software is not. This is because car manufacturers face liabilities if they make mistakes but software vendors do not. Further, both the market and the law support the status quo. He writes:

Befehl ist Befehl

The Nuremberg Defense is a legal defense that essentially states that the defendant was “only following orders” (“Befehl ist Befehl”) and is therefore not responsible for his crimes. The defense was most famously employed during the Nuremberg Trials, after which it is named.
Source: Wikipedia, Nuremberg Defense

The QA Department often hears the phrase “but it is signed-off” used by staff & clients to defend the indefensible. At this point, it is the QA Department’s job to persuade the team to do the right thing.

The Eighth P in Quality

Why would we not want to include packaging in the marketing mix for Quality Assurance?

Packaging. It is very important how the product is presented to the customer. The packaging is often the first contact that a customer has with it. Packaging can also be considered as a subfield of promotion and/or if the primary intent of the packaging is to protect the product during shipping, as a subfield of placement.


Gonzo QA: Blast from the past #2 – Social evolution

Dateline: London, March 2009

“I’m in. Start Outlook, MSN Messenger (isn’t the new Windows Live Messenger limp?), Yahoo! And Gmail. Much Spam has arrived overnight, so I take a quick look at what’s getting through; is there anything new or clever of which we should take note? No. There never is, but you never know; inspiration comes from the strangest places. Much of the bulk-mail we sent out last night has come through as well, so I take a quick look at that while I’m on. It’s far too late to correct anything that has gone out, but it’s never too late to spot mistakes and learn. Here’s an unusually long newsletter from one of our clients that, yes! It has the body copy repeated twice. Fortunately it’s not one of ours. Ha! It’s tempting to dump on the other agency that sent it but discretion is the better part of valour. Unless you’re pitching for new business, of course.”
Source: Gonzo QA: Fear and loathing in the morning, December 2006.

Since then my sign-in ritual has got worse. I ditched MSN Messenger in favour of Windows Live Messenger some time ago. I now enjoy Version 2009 which does the same old but in must-have full colour, yowsah. To Outlook, Gmail and Yahoo! Mail, I have added occasional LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter checks. Social networking arrived between then and now and I have fallen for it big time. Prim and proper LinkedIn was first, a low-key romance quickly maturing into a monthly assignation in an anonymous hotel satisfying both our needs. Then came flighty Facebook. A whirlwind courtship was followed by a rude awakening; did it have to be so all-consuming? My reaction to it’s first makeover was disappointment. It has just had a second but I think we have gone our separate ways now; we have grown too far apart for anything more than occasional drinks after work to catch up on mutual friends and talk about the old days. Twitter and I circled each other for some time before I felt able to make any kind of commitment. I am currently post-infatuation, resigned to the fact that without a business model, this pretty butterfly must surely die. In the meantime, I tweet 10 times a day; any more and I will go blind.


First posted: 14 March 2009 on

Gonzo QA: Blast from the past #1

Dateline: London, March 2009

“I arrive at work somewhat frazzled. I had set off an hour early in order to storm up a mountain of work before the mist had lifted but events have conspired to make me arrive at my desk 30 minutes later than usual. I log on to my PC knowing there will be a 15 minute delay between entering my username and password and seeing the desktop, due to network policies, virus scans and Windows patches. Every day this happens. Note to self: raise this to IT Support once more. Two hundred people at an average of £50 per billable hour waiting 15 minutes is, ooh, £2,500 per day lost income, around £625,000 per year. I’d commit to fixing that for half the price, cash in hand, no questions asked. Fortunately my diary is paper-based and the café around the corner is staffed by Croatians with a vigorous approach to coffee-making. As I wait, I plan my day with a vengeance, knowing that whoever booked me yesterday for work due today will get priority over anyone trying to book me today for work due yesterday. I kill the next 14 minutes by taking a walk round the building. There’s no one in. Reasons will vary from “my goldfish was poorly in the night” through “my social worker wouldn’t bail me” to “I forgot”. “I was working till midnight” there’s no argument with. Commitment to the work, each other, the client is all.”
Source: Gonzo QA: Fear and loathing in the morning, December 2006

With respect to the paragraph above, what’s changed between then and now? Not much. Slow starts, coffee and commitment are still the order of the day. Two and a quarter years real-time is about nine internet years though, which would explain why I have aged faster than the Queen.


First posted: 7 March 2009 on


Gonzo QA IV: Mistakes, I’ve made a few

Dateline: London, September 2007

My biggest mistake was to delete the UK master invoice file of the major chemical company I worked for at the time, shortly before going home for the evening. I had been promoted to Database Administrator (DBA) a few weeks before and I was carrying out routine house-keeping activities – or so I thought. It turned out that my recently-departed predecessor had not been naming database objects logically, had not been carrying out routine house-keeping activities and further, the database management system (DBMS) was quite capable of deleting files in use without warning or protest. The result of all this was I went home unaware. Further, the overnight batch file which wrote the days invoices to the master file and then deleted itself wrote the days invoices to null and then deleted itself. When I came in the next day, Accounts Receivable staff had just been told that as well as inputting the day’s invoices, they would have to re-input the previous day’s too, essentially doing two days work in one day and nobody was to go home until it was done. They gave me the cold shoulder, the Finance Director gave me an earful which included the full cost of my error rounded to the nearest five thousand pounds and the IT Director sent two of his people down to give me a kicking on his behalf. The Senior Systems Programmer beat me up himself; he always was a hands-on kind of guy. The previous night’s dump had been restored in my absence but it turned out that transaction logging had never been enabled, so roll-forward until a few minutes before I had accidentally deleted the file was not possible. At the time I did not know that you could run a DBMS without transaction logging enabled. My response of “how about that?” was not appreciated by sysadmin staff at all.

Gonzo QA III: Fear and loathing after dark

Dateline: London, June 2007

During the day stuff happens and I deal with it, but when the sun goes down and the shadows lengthen, doubt sets in. Andy Grove said only the paranoid survive. What did he mean by that? Should I read his book? What if I don’t?(1) Certainly it always worries me to have nothing to worry about. What have I overlooked? What disaster should I be preparing for rather than complacently sitting here watching a Norwegian ski down the up escalators at Angel on YouTube(2)? Getting fired, obviously. As Head of QA, it isn’t enough for my group to be more or less fully utilised testing stuff for the next quarter. I must plan for what needs to happen next! I need to lead from the front and do some real work! I need to check it’s all happening according to plan and take corrective action accordingly! I got that from Deming and he got it from Shewhart and they both seemed to know what they were talking about, so it’s good enough for me(3).

Gonzo QA II: Fear and loathing in the afternoon

Dateline: London, March 2007

Not much time to eat lunch today. When I got down to the canteen, three at the foosball table were looking for a fourth and I hate to disappoint. Twenty minutes later my partner and I have lost the tournament two games to one, but by Golly, we made them sweat. I climb the stairs back to the fourth floor thinking about the test plan I have been commissioned to write this afternoon; well, start to write this afternoon at any rate. Half a day for a test plan is always a bit optimistic; three days is more like it. Half a day is only usually long enough for a checklist. I wonder what Richard is doing sat at my desk and remember that I moved a few days ago. Finally back at my new desk on the third, I find a note on my wrist rest with “Call me” scribbled on it, no name, no number, no clue. I ask my group who put it there but they look at me blankly. Someone suggests a member of finance rumoured to own an invisibility cloak, but I find this unlikely. He last left his office in 1998 and all the evidence suggests he hasn’t left it since. I bin the note and then take it out of the regular bin and put it in the recycling bin. Hey, I have a conscience, you know.