Dead Serious

What would you do if someone died while testing the latest software release? I mean really died. Went into the Test Lab, turned on one of the newly configured test computers and then dropped stone dead moments later….

What would you do first? Would you call an ambulance of call a triage meeting to determine if it was a User Error or a bug in the software? Would you perform CPR?

There are thousands, sometimes millions of possible outcomes when we test software, but a dead person rarely ranks as a expected result!! If the expected result was “someone dies”, who would you assign to the task? Your least experienced or your oldest Tester? Would you insist on testing it yourself? Would you train a mouse or a chimp to perform the tests?

This may all sound a bit macabre, but there are scenarios where poor software testing has resulted in a real live User no longer being a live User. Power lines are governed by switching software and if the appropriate switch is set incorrectly (when the maintenance guy shows up to fix a power line fault) he may end up fried like an onion on a barbie.

Considering the test outlined above is a simple binary (on/off) test, you’d think it would be easy enough to get it right, but the truth is, even the simplest tests can go wrong.

Let’s look at another scenario – a gondola at the local ski resort crashes to the ground (with 15 people on board) when the software driving the system fails to recognise an overweight scenario. What would you do? Sue the Programmer? Sack the Tester? Go to another ski resort?

I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has ever written a Test Scenario/Test Case where the expected result is – “someone dies” or “you don’t want to know what happens next”….

Dateline: Tuesday February 18, 2014. Melbourne

No animals were harmed during the writing of this Blog.


4 thoughts on “Dead Serious

  1. Pingback: Testing Bits – 2/16/14 – 2/22/14 | Testing Curator Blog

  2. Pingback: Five Blogs – 19 February 2014 | 5blogs

  3. This doesn’t strictly answer your question but might still be relevant.
    A long time ago I worked on the Helpdesk at a company that had developed software for medical aid companies. The product handled repeat prescriptions for chronic medication, the latter automatically sent to the patient. I took a call one day from a lady who said her elderly mother had died because our system hadn’t sent the medication.

    • Hi, I just noticed your comment so I’m sorry for the delay!!! This is definitely the sort of impact I am talking about – repeat prescriptions sent or not sent has a major impact. What if a system continued to send prescriptions after the patient died ?That would also be very upsetting to the family. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

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