Friday, February 4, 2011

Google-Microsoft Saga: When Testers become Detectives ?

2011 has certainly started with a bang (or a Bing!) Of the most talked about topic on the web in the recent history is Google accusing Microsoft of Copying its Search results. Refer this Google post for more details.

To give a brief background of this, am quoting the above blog-
It all started with tarsorrhaphy. Really. As it happens, tarsorrhaphy is a rare surgical procedure on eyelids. And in the summer of 2010, we were looking at the search results for an unusual misspelled query [torsorophy]. Google returned the correct spelling—tarsorrhaphy—along with results for the corrected query. At that time, Bing had no results for the misspelling. Later in the summer, Bing started returning our first result to their users without offering the spell correction (see screenshots below).

Once Google got a Sniff (Suspicion) of this, they started detailed investigation into this and even inserted some sort of Pseudo-results while Searching using some unusual parameters and to their surprise they found Bing results to be exactly the same. Now, that’s something! There are several thoughts and terms that comes to mind when talking about Investigation of this magnitude and its relation with Software Testing.

Is it similar to Competitor Analysis ?
In a typical Software Product Testing setup, when one organization is competing with other- Testing serves many additional purposes and one of which is Competitor Analysis. In this Analysis, a tester tests the product vis-à-vis the features in the Competitor’s products with a primary intent to figure out what we lack and what we are good at. For example- Comparing the how long it takes to access and use a certain feature (Performance Test) with Competitor product is a common practice. The data that we get after such analysis is very useful for the Product Management and even the Sales teams to help prove a point to the Customers.

Is it similar to Patent Infringement Test ?
Its well-known that Organizations reaps great rewards on the Employees who help Organization develop a Technology or an Innovation that could be Patented. One of the lesser known facts is that the same Organizations reaps even greater rewards if their Employees can help and find that their Patents or Patented Technology is being used by a Competitor. This is something that can help Organizations prove Patent Infringements, which not only gets hefty sums in winning Lawsuits but also help to pull down a reputation of customers. The Tests done to prove Patent Infringements require In-depth skills and Technical Orientation and it is usual that these are found accidently than in an Structured manner.

Is it similar to Hacking ?
Hacking may be an extreme term to describe Google-Microsoft Saga but the underlying principles of hacking remains the same i.e. You start Investigating with an Intention to prove something- it may be your Technical prowess, gain competitive advantage, damage reputation etc.

Whatever it may be, under each of these similarities and even more like these- there is one common theme- Investigation or in other words Detective Testing . Have you ever seen a Detective TV serial or a movie ? The way Detective goes about doing his or her job is by gathering the facts, gaining access to the Clues, finding the ways to establish the complex correlation between different events, form some hit and trial stories to solve the mystery and finally nailing the culprit.
The nature of testing that Google exhibited is nothing less than Detective Testing. Once they had a sniff of something fishy in Bing (Gaining access to the Clues), They formed a team of Detectives (20 Testers), Gave them laptop with IE8 installed with Bing toolbar, Created dummy test data, checked the results in the Bing (finding the ways to establish the complex correlation between different events), Tried more data (form some hit and trial stories) and then finally arrived at a conclusion.

This is an interesting correlation. Probably is true for situations when we test fully aware of what the end result we want to achieve. Suspicion may be thought of as a negative emotion in many a situations but when it comes to Testing such situations, it may prove to be a boon.

What’s your take on Testing based on Suspicion?


Vittal said...

Hi Anuj,

Thanks for writing. As usual a nice post and a nice read.

I had a point for the last part
"Suspicion may be thought of as a negative emotion but when it comes to Testing such situations, it may prove to be a boon "

Instead of calling it suspicion, for me i believe its curiosity which drives a Tester. Curiosity to learn.

Curiosity to know more, attempt to find patterns in the events we see. Attempt to become a observer of events rather than just seeing it. Building relations between points, coming up with a theory about what we observe and build experimental setup to either prove it or disprove it. And in the process, learn. Learn, what else is to be learn't, to eliminate what is unknown.


Anuj Magazine said...

Good point, Vittal. Curiousity is definitely one of the key traits for Software Testers. I just mentioned Suspicion played a part in specific Google-Microsoft story and in larger context- you are right- Being Curious is the key not only in Software Testing but any other knowledge based profession.


Vittal said...

I couldn't agree more. Its not a technique, its just a way of life.


Offres d'emploi au Cameroun said...

Your Blog is one of the best top 100 software testing blogs listed in this article:
but for me, it's just one of the best! Keep the great work!

Anuj Magazine said...

Thank you for your comments. They mean more to me than my blog being in Top 100.

Kamyar Alexander Katiraie said...

Is Bing A Better Search Engine?

We have created a logical test that shows which search engine provides better search results. Google or Bing? I will explain the test on this page.

First, I would like to make the test concept more clear with several examples:

Say we take a series of Titles to search on Google and Bing for comparison.

Here are several example: (all the tests are at

Title 1) Patients are willing to undergo multiple tests for new cancer treatments

Title 2) Conference on composite materials for structural performance: Towards higher limits

Now, I explain the way this test works.
Each title is about two or three main keywords.
For example Title 1 is about cancer treatment.
Title 2 is about composite material.

I propose a logical test that uses Google, and also Bing search results that extracts the main keywords in a logical manner. The better search engine will provide a better and more relevant extraction based on this logical test. I like to emphasize logic.

Now what is this logical test?
The better search engine provides search results that contain higher number of main keywords in the search page results (usually in bold).

For example, if we take title 1 to either Google or Bing and make a search on the whole title and then count the number of times the main keywords appear in the search results (usually in Bold), the better search engine will give us cancer treatment and not other words. That means if you count the number of times the keywords cancer treatment appear in search results in both Google and Bing, Bing provides a higher quantity.

I used both Google and Bing for the test on the page and Bing provided a better search. You can do this test in-house.

I will propose this test in search engine conferences. It is a valid test.
I can email you the perl file that performed the test. Call 949-500-8638 or email

In fact, if you continue the test to second page results, it also shows which search engine provides better search results for the second page or third page or....

Why is this test valid?

It is not very complex to prove why this test is valid. If you type a sentence that contains several main keywords, you prefer more information about those main keywords. The higher quantity of those main keywords prove the page is more relevant and the search engine has delivered more relevant results.