Skip to main content

Saving Time?

For those of you that don't know, I'm somewhat of an amateur horologist. I love clocks, watches and all sorts of time and date keeping gadgets. To feed my passion I've decided to invest in my own custom made timepiece. This device will be my first custom made high value item, in what I hope will one day be a great collection.

To ensure I get what I want, I've taken some time and documented the following requirements for my new clock. They list what I want from the timepiece, and also what I don't want or need. Have a read through, and hopefully you'll see what it is I'm after.

A new clock should be developed for my new home in London.

The clock will need to:
- Display the time.
- Display in roman numerals and modern 'arabic' numerals.
- Be accurate enough for household use - approx' to with in a few minutes.
- Be ornamental - preferably with a intricately styled clock face.
- Have a traditional square brass clock face
- Be constructed from traditional clock materials like brass.
- Be water resistant - as it may be used in the garden.
- Resilient to wind - as it may be used in the garden.
- Not have a chime, bell, cuckoo or another form of 'noisy' time indicator.
- No special case or stand is required.

Now as a tester, I keep hearing that that we should all be writing up our test cases in advance. Sounds sensible, and assuming I have some documented requirements; I can get 'ahead of the game' and write my tests up front.

Ok, I've been bitten before. I'm not just going to write tests that check the system one way for each requirement. For example, 'Be water resistant', I'm not just going to splash a bit of water on the clock face. I'm going to splash water from at least three sides, and at least four different intensities of water.

I'll do that for each requirement. Creating a comprehensive suite of tests that I can use for testing the device when I receive it. I can also use them as a regression 'test pack' anytime in the future, without having to 'think'.

Now, lets jump forward in time. It's now the evening of 24th December 2011. My clock is sitting on the table, near the back door of my house. I've been impressed with my clock, I don't use it every day but when I have - It has worked well. But I look at it now - and I just can't figure out the time - something must be broken.

Take a look back at your tests - could they find the bug?

You can find a picture of the clock here. And a clue to why it isn't working here.


  1. Is it because it's dark and / or it's in Winter? Tried not to look at the clue first but figured that out from the date in which you were using it. It would work perfectly in the Summer months when the Sun is high in the sky, but in the Winter months the time may be completely off as the Sun is quite low.

    Good little exercise! I enjoyed reading this post!



Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The gamification of Software Testing

A while back, I sat in on a planning meeting. Many planning meetings slide awkwardly into a sort of ad-hoc technical analysis discussion, and this was no exception. With a little prompting, the team started to draw up what they wanted to build on a whiteboard.

The picture spoke its thousand words, and I could feel that the team now understood what needed to be done. The right questions were being asked, and initial development guesstimates were approaching common sense levels.

The discussion came around to testing, skipping over how they might test the feature, the team focused immediately on how long testing would take.

When probed as to how the testing would be performed? How we might find out what the team did wrong? Confused faces stared back at me. During our ensuing chat, I realised that they had been using BDD scenarios [only] as a metric of what testing needs to be done and when they are ready to ship. (Now I knew why I was hired to help)

There is nothing wrong with checking t…

Manumation, the worst best practice.

There is a pattern I see with many clients, often enough that I sought out a word to describe it: Manumation, A sort of well-meaning automation that usually requires frequent, extensive and expensive intervention to keep it 'working'.

You have probably seen it, the build server that needs a prod and a restart 'when things get a bit busy'. Or a deployment tool that, 'gets confused' and a 'test suite' that just needs another run or three.

The cause can be any number of the usual suspects - a corporate standard tool warped 5 ways to make it fit what your team needs. A one-off script 'that manager' decided was an investment and needed to be re-used... A well-intended attempt to 'automate all the things' that achieved the opposite.

They result in a manually intensive - automated process, where your team is like a character in the movie Metropolis, fighting with levers all day, just to keep the lights on upstairs. Manual-automation, manumatio…

Scatter guns and muskets.

Many, Many years ago I worked at a startup called (a European online travel company, back when a travel company didn't have to be online). For a while, I worked in what would now be described as a 'DevOps' team. A group of technical people with both programming and operational skills.

I was in a hybrid development/operations role, where I spent my time investigating and remedying production issues using my development, investigative and still nascent testing skills. It was a hectic job working long hours away from home. Finding myself overloaded with work, I quickly learned to be a little ruthless with my time when trying to figure out what was broken and what needed to be fixed.
One skill I picked up, was being able to distinguish whether I was researching a bug or trying to find a new bug. When researching, I would be changing one thing or removing something (etc) and seeing if that made the issue better or worse. When looking for bugs, I'd be casting…