Monday, October 15, 2007

Is "Creative pause" a possible solution to minimize "Inattentional blindness" ?

Imagine a tester is working to test a last minute hot-fix of a product (which was found just before it was going to be released to a millions of consumers). He goes through the steps required to "test" that hot-fix and declares it to be fixed. A different group of testers working in a different location (and in the same project) tests the hot-fix on the same build and they found that though the bug was fixed but it resulted in some different behavior that is potentially critical from end-user's perspective.
Though there can be many reasons why the first tester missed the bug but one of the most likely reasons can be "Inattentional Blindness" (Referred to as "IB" in remainder for this post)
I was going through Black box testing presentations and videos by Cem Kaner and James Bach can came across this behavior which can have a tremendous impact on tester's effectiveness. The above situation that i have cited is not an hypothetical one but something that i have seen happening in my experience very often. And such a situation, when it occurs during the highly-critical release phase, often brings out the inadequacies of testing and there-by giving the chance for management to question the credibility of Testing group. In my experience, in the crunch situations (like the one mentioned above) where the focus is only on a certain aspect of product (hot fix in above case) and for a very limited duration- is when a tester is most likely to fall in the trap of IB. Ironically, these are the situations when usually there is a lot at stake and mistakes are the last things anyone would expect.
As an example that I can cite- I was involved in managing a team testing one such hot fix. People involved in testing demonstrated a great deal of commitment and ownership to test and release the hot-fix successfully by testing overnight and on weekends. Later on it occurred that-though the hot-fix resolved the intended issue but the testers missed to pay attention to cosmetic (but important) issue and released the fix with one of the buttons reading- "Clock here" instead of "Click here". Needless to say, such defects make the product (how-so-ever feature-rich, bug-free it may be) look unprofessional and root cause in this case was IB (probably one reason can be because the testers were involved in testing tirelessly without much of breaks in between).

All this leads to a question-
- Is there a solution to avoid "Inattentional Blindness" in Software testing ?

IB appears to be a phenomenon that is quite prevalent/common in human beings. Probably, that’s the reason for many common mistakes that a human does. Philosophically speaking, Going by the precept- "To err is human", i don't think it is entirely possible to get away from IB (i just wish i had enough data points to prove this- it’s something that i intend to explore), though we can try to form the ways to minimize the same.
The foremost way to minimize the occurrence of IB is to create awareness in the testing group about IB and its extreme effects. It is important for the testers to know about the reasons why bugs get missed in the testing cycles (IB being one of the potential reasons of the missed bugs). Being aware and conscious about the fact can help testers be more alert.
In one of my previous post i talked about the concept of Creative Pause. This is something that i feel can go a long way to help testers minimize the occurrence. Indulging in Creative Pauses are more like refreshers to testing activity. It helps recharge the cluttered minds and can help a long way in holding the attention spans of the testers, thereby making them less prone to traps of IB.
From my experience, practicing Creative Pauses requires a lot of discipline but if done in a right way can improve effectiveness (and Creativity) many fold.

Any more ideas...

Keep testing creatively!


Debasis Pradhan said...

You have provided an interesting perspective on inattentional blindness in this post! Few months back I had tried to analyze this problem (I have seen that many testers are still unaware of this phenomenon) in my blog. You can find the post here: Inattentional Blindness and Testers! Hope you would find it interesting. Don't forget to try the exercise in the attached video. And see if you PASS the test! :)

Software Testing Zone

amagazine said...

Thank you for your comment. Yes, i also do feel the need for creating the awareness of Inattentional blindness as it seems to be a valid cause for the bugs being missed.

The video in your post doesnt see, to be available now.