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Hidden Mickeys, Hidden Bugs, Hidden Contexts – by Shmuel Gershon

  • 12/05/2011
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR
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As I write this text I am at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. It is a few minutes past the Fireworks now, so we’re in the right mood for a testing article.

Matter of fact, EuroStar’s motive for 2011 being “In Pursuit of Quality”, there’s a lot of inspiration on these parks to think about quality, its pursuit, and what both concepts mean to different people and audiences. Quality perceptions are different for each person in physical ‘palpable’ experiences like the Disney rides and environment… The more so in abstract software solutions.

One interesting idea in the Magic Kingdom is the “Hidden Mickeys”. Did you know there are hundreds of Mickey-like figures hidden in the Disney parks? A Hidden Mickey is a representation of Mickey Mouse that has been inserted subtly into the design of a ride, attraction, or other location in a Disney theme park. It is a side dish, intended to serve as additional fun and distraction while you wait in line or go to the next attraction.
Much of it is being attentive to details, and visually thinking “what if” the scenery was rotated or had less/different elements to it? It is a great challenge for testers (I have to confess that I scored poorly on finding them :( ).

There’s another lesson for us in that.
Some visitors plan for searching the hidden treats, they come prepared with books, cameras and binoculars and make of it a family activity.
Others ‘accidentally’ obsess with looking for small clues to the point of ignoring the ‘real’ (not hiding) Mickey character and rides, detracting from the family fun.

There’s a saying that goes “there are so many trees here, one can’t see the forest”.
Are we obsessing with finding bugs, to the point where it prevents us from thinking about quality? Are we so busy looking for and reporting bugs that we don’t have time to test?

I would like to argue that testing includes finding and reporting and advocating for bugs, but these are but parts on the testing mission. Testing can be made to include asking questions, inventing usage scenarios, identifying problems in the software by-products or accompanying-process. Testing can include helping the company understand the product and its possibilities, the customers and their needs.
In the “pursuit of quality” we have to be aware about what varied perceptions there are around us for quality and pursuit. How do we ‘pursuit’ ‘quality’? Some contexts require us to look for bugs. Others ask us to look at the forest.

Happy pursuing!
Shmuel Gershon

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