Missed the ALM Forum Test Track? Check out Michael Larsen’s Live Blog


Michael Larsen's live blog of my ALM Forum talk, Your Path to Data-Driven Quality is perfect!   You should check out his blog to get the scoop on the other talks from that great event.  Here is his excerpt about my talk:

Now it's time for Seth Eliot and "Your Path to Data Driven Quality" and a
roadmap towards how to use the data that you are gathering to help guide you to
your ultimate destination. Seth wants to make the point that testing is
measurement, and you can't measure if you don't have data (well, you can, but it
won't really be worth much). Seth asks if we are HiPPO driven (meaning is our
strategy defined buy the "Highest Paid Person's Opinion" or were we making
decisions based on hard data. Engineering data can help a little bit (test
results, bug counts, pass fail rates). They can give us a picture, but maybe not
a complete one (in fact, not even close to a complete one). There's a lot of
stuff we are leaving on the table. Seth says that leveraging production data (or
"near production data") gives us a richer and more dynamic data set. Testers try
to be creative, but we can't come close to the wacko randomness of the real
world users that interact with our product.

First step: Determine your
Use Goal Question Metrics. Start at the beginning and see what
you ultimately want to do. Don't just get data and look for answers. Your data
will taint the questions you ask if you don't ask the questions first. You may
develop a confirmation bias if you look at data that may seem to point to a
question you haven't asked. Instead, the data may give you a correlation to
something, but it may not actually tell you anything important. Starting with
the question helps to de-bias your expectations, and then it gives you guidance
as to what the data actually tells you.

Then: Design for
production-data quality.
There's two types of data we can access. Active and
passive data can be used. active data could be test cases or synthetic data of a
simulated user. Passive data is using real world data and real users
interactions. Synthetic data is safer, but it's by definition incomplete.
Passive data is more complete, but there's a danger to using it (compromising
identification data, etc.). Staging the data acquisition lets us start with
synthetics data (reminds me of my "Attack on Titan" account group that I have
lovingly put together when I test Socialtext... yes, I have one. Don't judge me
😉 ), to copying my actual account and sharing on our production site (much more
rich data, but needs to be scrubbed of anything that could compromise
individuals privacy... which in turn gets us back to synthetic data of sorts,
but a richer set. Bulk up and repeat. Over time, we can go from having a small
set of sample data to a much larger and beefier data-set, with lots more
interesting data points.

Then: Select Data sources. There's a
number of ways to gather and accumulate data. We can export from user accounts,
or we can actively aggregate user data and collect those details (reminds me of
the days of NetFlow FlowCollection at Cisco). We need to be clear as to what we
are gathering and the data handling privacy that goes with it. Anonymous data is
typically safe, sensitive personally identifiable info requires protocols to
gather, most likely scrub, or  not touch with a ten foot pole.  Will we be using
Infrastructure data, app data. usage. account details, etc. Each area has its
unique challenges. Plan accordingly.

Then: Use the right data tools.
What are you going to use to store this data. Databases are of course
common, but for big data apps, we need something a little more robust (Hadoop is
hip in this area). where do you store a Hadoop instance? Split it up into
smaller chunks (note, splitting it makes it vulnerable, so we need to replicate
it. Wow, big data gets bigger 🙂 ).Using map reducing tools, we can crunch down
to a smaller data set for analysis purposes. I'm going to take Seth's word for
it, as Hadoop is not one of my strong suits, but I appreciated the 60 second
guided tour 🙂 ). Regardless of the data collection and storage, ultimately that
data needs to be viewed, monitored, aggregated and analyzed. The tools that do
that are wide and varied, but the goal is to drill down to the data that matters
to you, and having the ability to interpret what you are seeing.

Get answers to your questions.
Ultimately, we hope that we are able to get
answers based on the real data we have gathered that will help us either support
or dispute our hypothesis (back to the scientific method; testing is asking
questions and then, based on the answers we receive, considering and proposing
more interesting questions. Does our data show us interesting points to focus
our attention? Do we know a bit more about user sentiment? Have we figured out
where our peak traffic times are? If we have asked these questions, and gathered
data that is appropriate for those questions, if we have been focused on
aggregating the appropriate data and analyzing it, we should be able to say
"yes, we have support for our hypothesis" or "no, this data refutes our
hypothesis". Of course, that leads to even more questions, which means we go

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Hmmm, Mark Tomlinson just
passed me a note with a statement that says "Computer Aided Exploratory
Testing"? Hadn't considered it quite that way, but yes, this certainly fits the
description. An intriguing prospect, and one I need to play with a bit more :).

Next stop is STPCon, I will be giving an augmented version of this presentation there.

Stpcon Spring 2014

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