• There are a couple of blogs I read just because almost everything written there makes me smile. Recently, MJ’s short piece on the modern day bedwarmer and MightyGirl’s Fame and Discretion posts
  • I think these things are trying to be cute, but in the end they’re just freakish
  • Nick has some great thoughts on the upcoming ICC SuperSeries’ team selection. Yes, I absolutely adore cricket. I’m from South Africa, after all! Anyone out there who doesn’t get it and wants the rules explained, sure, just make sure you have enough food and drink to last through my super-enthusiastic explanations!
  • Google Talk is cool. I just wish that all these IM services would give me some way of transporting my friends lists from one to the other. I wouldn’t mind supplying my username and password, it would save me that much time!!

Have come across this story in a number of places, but where I saw it first was over at Ping’s. The Australian news story says:

No longer will a visit to southern Sweden’s Malmo library be restricted to borrowing conventional items such as videos, educational aids and, of course, books.

A homosexual, an Imam, a Muslim woman, a gypsy and a journalist will be among nine people available for members of the public to borrow this weekend. Easy to locate within the Dewey Decimal System, lenders will borrow the human items for a 45 minute chat in the library’s outdoor cafe.

I also like the examples given over at Flooded Lizard Kingdom. I can see that this might be a great inspiration for corporate diversity programmes — rather than everything just being about HR policy and tribunals, let senior management take a member of a minority group out for lunch, to really understand the obstacles they face. Nothing makes prejudice more difficult than dealing face-to-face in a civilized manner with the object of your hatred. And even in much milder situations where the real problem is lack of education, open information-sharing can be extremely powerful.

I’ve realised why it is that people on all sides of the development process hate testing. Testing should be done by those who actually USE the system. Now, users get rather annoyed if you give them things to test that aren’t really quite close to correct. They find problems within seconds and you have to go away and fix things, leaving them frustrated at having made time for testing and annoyed that you hadn’t got it right. So users hate testing early on.

The result is that testing is carried out by developers (of one type or another) until quite late in the process … who are largely testing what they built. They won’t realise that the doohickey shouldn’t allow selection of the flobbit, that the order of screen elements is both stupid and clumsy, or that the design makes the process far too slow. Only real users will realise this. So developers hate testing, because they essentially regard it as useless. They know it works how they told it to, so why should they run tests??

The theory, then, is that tests should be specified at the outset, by the users. If they write the tests, then the developers can just follow them and identify the same problem that the users will. Right? But how do you convince users to write tests that a) someone with limited domain knowledge can follow and b) can expose problems that only a real user would find? The answer is that you really really can’t. In my own experience, often the users are also not anywhere near technically/logically minded enough to write tests that cover the various scenarios, never mind expose deep dark flaws in the operation of the software!

So what ends up happening is that the developers develop & test, then eventually pass the “working” product to the users, who quickly find flaws. Then the developers have to go back into their development & testing cycle. This repeats until developers hate testing, users hate testing and developers & users also both hate each other.

There are some things that can mitigate this hatred. Dynamic languages can make collaboration between users & developers more of a reality. If the time between the user pointing out that something is wrong and the developer fixing it and offering it up for retesting is measured in minutes rather than days, this can ease the burden greatly. Good requirements gathering is invaluable in making sure the right thing is being built in the first place. User- or task-centred design can make a massive difference.

But at the end of the day, everyone still hates testing.

So I was thinking, regression tests are a brilliant idea when test can be automated. Is there any way of automating user testing? It occurs to me that you can easily record macros of what the user is doing — so presumably it should be possible to record a macro of a user testing and then be able to rerun that at a later date. Does anyone know of a way of doing this already out there?

WARNING: This post is not your usual tech-management fare. We’ve bought a new house and my life for the last month has been full of DIY, so I’m inflicting this on y’all in turn 😉

This is how the bathroom in our new house started out looking, just under a month ago. That it’s dated, dark, tiny and a big grubby is fairly obvious from the picture — what might not be is the complete mess that the previous owners had made of this room.

We planned to get a plumber in to sort it out, but first we needed to see what was under it all…

Bath full of wood panelling

First of all, I stripped off all the wood panelling. Most of it came off by hand — enough to fill the bath anyway. After that we got a wrecking bar and some tools and did the awkward bits. Underneath the wood-panelling was a load of wood glue and some bright orange 10×10 tiles. These had evidently been painted magnolia at some point. In fact, the entire flat seems to have had successive coatings of magnolia paint over its lifetime and little else!

It then became apparent that on the other side of the room (the white surrounding the bath that can be seen in the picture), 20×15 tiles had been laid OVER these small orange tiles — nightmare! So essentially all around the room, an inch had been lost to crap tiling and covering practices.

Having seen that the previous owners evidently had little or no clue, we decided to investigate further on some other points. The box next to the loo that you can just see in the first picture is to hide pipes. Some genius decided to make it two tiles wide, so that some pretty tiles could be laid there. Unfortunately, in a room this small, the expansion of the box with tiles and wood-panelling meant that you could hardly sit on the toilet without ending up with splinters in your knees. Some quick work with a crowbar revealed that there was absolutely no need for it to be so big, meaning we could free up some space and also get the plumber to move the radiator down a little bit.

Sections of wall with tiles removed, some tiles remaining and a bolster on the bath

And so, I spent every waking evening and weekend moment of the next 2 weeks chipping tiles off the walls. The single layer of tiles came off well — some would shift by just slipping a paint-stripping knife behind them and flicking them off, others needed some hammering. The real pain was the double-tiled area, especially because the tiles were different shapes. My dad lent me a bolster though and after that things went smoother. They came off in massive 2mx4m plates!

The plumber and his tiler & joiner (identical twin) mates arrived this week, so hopefully by tomorrow we’ll have a finished bathroom. I imagine I’ll be able to post some photos by next week 🙂

Here in the UK, they’re talking about extending drinking hours — significantly. Currently, in something of a layover from WW2, pubs close at 11pm. Apparently they figured with people primarily occupied with the business of building munitions, letting them drink until the early hours of the morning wasn’t such a good plan. The result, over time, is a massive binge-drinking culture. People go out and start drinking heavily from the outset, so many are falling-down-drunk by 11pm. It’s not pretty.

The current government proposals will allow not just the current late opening (clubs etc can apply for a special licence to stay open until 2am), but 24 hour drinking. They claim that this is going to fix the binge-drinking culture, by promoting more of a continental cafe culture. I almost burst out laughing at my desk when I saw this retort this morning from a judge concerned that the extra drinking hours will just increase violent crime:

“Continental-style drinking requires continental-style people – people who sit quietly chatting away at cafe tables.”

He said British drinking involved “standing up, shouting at each other in crowded bars, trying to consume gallons of beer at a time”. Source