Catching Software Bugs Like a Goalie

In soccer, every shot that the goalie touches is their responsibility to stop, whether it was caused by a great shot by someone on the other team or a mistake by their team. They are the most important line of defense on the field. In software development, the testers are a lot like goalies, the most important line of defense against bugs that will cripple your project. Software testing expert Dean Biron tells about how good testers are important.

A client we were working for maintained a database of calibration settings for every test unit, and these settings were never supposed to change. The problem is that this assumption turned out to be false, as improvements to the software resulted in a change in the way the calibration values were interpreted. As a result, tests started to fail and engineers spent days on high priority firefights that eventually led to this data.

It turned out that several of the testers already knew the data was bad. They had a method for adjusting the calibration that they routinely and unconsciously used before running their tests. They just never thought to report it as a bug. This bug was outside the boundaries of the system, but still had a major impact on development. Everyone who knew about it decided that the issue was not a priority. The result was significant wasted effort and a delay in the release of critical functionality.

The lesson to be learned from this is that everything you touch as a tester is your responsibility. Anything that doesn’t look right, requires a work around or could possibly be a problem for someone else is a bug. In this context, I define “a bug” to mean a piece of valuable information about the system being built. When the source is clearly outside the boundaries of the system, even when it is something that would never be seen by a real user, the bug needs to be reported so it can be fixed. This is, in the end, the best and highest value job that testers can perform, to find out as much as possible about whatever it is you are building and report that information to the people who need to know it.

Both allowing a team to score goals or have software bugs to go deep into testing lead to bad consequences for their respective teams. That’s why it is very important to hire a good software testing consultant to make sure that all of the bugs are found in your project. What is your line of defense against bugs?

Contact Dean Biron by email at DeanBi@vmc.com or 877.393.8622.

About VMC Consulting and VMC Game Labs

VMC Consulting is a technology consulting and outsourcing company that provides flexible and scalable build, run and support solutions. VMC Game Labs is the world’s leading partner for games quality assurance and support.
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