In yesterday’s article about Google Buzz, I guessed that “the problem was that
the population for whom the system was designed wasn’t necessarily the only
population actually using the system.” I gave Google the benefit of the doubt:
I am certain Google tested their application thoroughly. They’ve been known
to do extensive usability tests for the seemingly tiniest of changes to their
web site. But even the most well-implemented tests are incomplete if they’re
not performed on a statistically representative sample of the audience.
But today, the BBC reported that Google has admitted that they only tested Buzz internally, and
bypassed their regular rigorous testing procedures — possibly in an attempt
to get it out the door as soon as possible. I’ll let the pundits decide if it
did more harm than good to the firm, but it’s a warning to other software
developers: skipping testing can lead to embarrassing failures.
In the first few days after the release of Google Buzz many people (including myself) criticized
Google for exposing their users’ private information. This was a couple of weeks after Apple got a lot flak
for their unfortunately-named iPad, and the same week that we heard
reports of a woman who broke up with her
boyfriend after finding some suggestive text messages on his cell phone -
messages that came pre-loaded on the phone. I think that all these cases were
not caused by a lack testing, but by testing the wrong audience. Let’s
examine these three cases and see what we can learn from them:
I came across some comments made about an open source program that I had
written in perl. The user was complaining about how he couldn’t get it to
install. The reason was that the program relies on other modules from the
archive of open source perl software known as CPAN (Comprehensive Perl Archive Network), and one of them failed to install.
As of this past weekend it’s been fifteen years since I started my career as a
software developer. With the exception of a few months here and there, I’ve
spent all these years working on Linux or Unix-like operating systems. I’ve
noticed that despite the wide variety of tools and applications I have used
and continue to use, some key skills are always in demand in this field. One
of these is mastery of a text editor.
Last night my Macbook Pro would not wake up from sleep. After jiggling the mouse and hitting the
space bar a few times I powered it down. I powered it back up, and I could
hear it booting up, and could feel the hard disk move, but there was nothing
on the screen. After a little Googling I suspected the video driver was dead.