Posts Tagged “quality”
Aug 19, 2020
About a year ago I decided to make a comic with rvr about Quality Engineering/Quality Assurance, explaining what it is and why it is important. There were a couple of breaks in between, partly because of this virus you might have heard of, but it was finally published recently. This post explains a bit the creative process behind it.
As soon as we decided we were going to make the comic, we started brainstorming to figure out how exactly we were going to explain it. We were mostly thinking of metaphors to describe QE people, but also added some associations and aesthetic ideas to the list:
- Wizards, detectives
- Team players, drummers
- Mad scientists making robot helpers
- Creativity, more freedom to build what is needed and adapt
- Build for developer, build for yourself
- James Bond’s Q / Q branch
- Proactive Mr. Wolf
- Rick and Morty
- Something like Mouse Guard? See also paper crafts.
- “Continuous disintegration”.
- SDETs are the real 10x engineers
One of the ideas for the script was to use some kind of Starship Troopers metaphor (“people killing bugs”, or “people making the weapons/tools needed for the soldiers to kill bugs”). We had a certain tension between being serious and in-depth, and being “fun” and grabbing the potential reader’s eye, and we ended up with the idea that we could open with a Starship Troopers scene, but then reveal that it’s just someone’s imagination, and let the rest of the comic be “serious” and more on the explanatory side.
At first we were discussing how to iterate with the storyboard: we were looking for some online collaboration tool that allowed us to build the storyboards, comment on them, and modify them. However, we didn’t find anything I was happy with, and I prefer working on paper for those things, so I decided to just draw a very crude storyboard and take a picture of it. The initial storyboard was like this (click to enlarge):
We discussed it a bit, and after the feedback I create new panels to replace some of the initial ones, and stitched them together in a Frankenstein monster fashion, like so (again, click to enlarge):
If you want to know more about the rationale behind the panels, notice a few things:
- Each line has a meaning, like a sentence in written language. Namely, the first line is opening/attention grabbing (“what happens when there is no QE”), the second expands a bit on the first one but from a serious perspective, the third explains why a development team needs QE, and the last explains the details of how QE achieves what they do and closes.
- Every line ends with a “cliffhanger” to make the reader want to read the next line, and introduce what it is going to be about.
At this point we decided that the storyboard was stable enough to start figuring out how the art would be.
Now that we had a stable storyboard we could look into the final art. We figured that we would still have to iterate, partly because once we used the final art, final font, and final sizes for things… we would probably see things differently: some panel might have too much text, some idea that seems to work in the abstract doesn’t work that well with the final art, etc. So from there we iterated further, but mostly on the language and on details that were relatively easy to change.
The first version with the kind of art we were going to use was this, in black and white:
This gave us a good sense of scale and available space, both for text and for illustrations, so it was much easier to tweak and improve. After a few iterations, we reached the first version with colour! You can see here that the art here has improved, and is at the level we would use in the final version.
Then we kept iterating and, after all the tweaks, reached the final, published version. Notice the difference in the last two panels, and also the text in 3-3:
There you have it! I don’t claim to know what I’m doing, but I love reading about (and writing about) creative processes, and I thought some of you might share my passion for that.
Now the idea is to make at least one more comic related to QE, expanding on more specific problems QE helps solve, or on specific facets on Quality Engineering. We’ll see what we come up with…
Jul 19, 2009
Those who know me professionally know that I care a lot about software quality assurance. I think it’s a mostly misunderstood field, and generally “the world” would be better off with more QA (and/or better QA). Of course, I’m always looking for more arguments to support my view :-D and the last one I found came from a very interesting blog post, Plane Crashes, Software Failures, and other Human Errors. This post explains how mistakes are made in the aviation and healthcare industries, and claims something that sounds shocking but actually makes quite a bit of sense: “errors occur most often when a senior, experienced person is performing”. The reason why it doesn’t happen as often when the less experience person is performing (again according to the blog post): “because it means the second pilot isn’t going to be afraid to speak up”.
That got me thinking. No matter how expert one person is, he can’t take all the right decisions without help and feedback: a second opinion is always useful and can save the team from embarrassing (or, in some cases, fatal) consequences. A second opinion can give perspective or aspects not thought of by the first person.
If you apply this to software development, I can’t help thinking that one of the roles of QA fulfils this need: being experts in the field that provide second opinions and critiques on anything the team decides or produces. And they shouldn’t feel afraid to speak up because… well, it’s their job after all. And while yes, fellow developers could serve as “second opinion” too, having a more or less formal position for a “Quality Assurance Engineer” is helpful for a variety of reasons. First, as I said the chances of being afraid to speak up are much lower, because it’s their job. Second, not producing the result themselves gives some perspective that people having to fight with everyday details can have, but usually don’t; at least not as much. And last but probably important, it’s their job so they can focus on it and they don’t stop doing it because “they have deliveries soon” or because “they don’t have time”.
Finally, there is another blog post, linked from the above, that also supports my vision of QA: Toyota “Stop the Line” mentality. But this one is about processes and taking a step back when something is wrong, trying to find the root cause instead of an immediate solution. Enjoy the blog posts :-)
Dec 17, 2008
That’s the title of a really good book by Scott Berkun, the fella that was project manager for Internet Explorer when it could still be called a browser ;-) The Myths of Innovation is very easy to read, funny and has some food for thought. It dissects a bunch of myths about innovation and innovators, points out typical difficulties and dangers that innovators face, and analyses why these myths are common, why people like them, and why they are so handy to refer to the history and reality of innovation, which is of course much more complex.
One chapter that made me think a lot was chapter 7: “Your boss knows more about innovation than you”. It explores the relation between (traditional) management and innovation, and claims that managers can work against innovation if they just try to increase efficiency and keep things under control. In that sense, quality assurance engineers can be like those project managers, so I wondered a lot about my role and my duties with regards to innovation. On the one hand, you do have to control things that are being done and be conservative to a certain extent. On the other hand, innovation is such an important part of an IT company (particularly if it’s Internet-related) that you really don’t want to risk blocking or stifling it.
Fortunately, it also explains how to keep the workplace open to innovation, including things like having toys and “funny” things at the office. It turns out that they’re not there to spoil the employees, but to provide an environment where people feel free to “think different” and are not afraid of new ideas or to say what they think.
All in all, I think it’s a great book. Recommended!