Imagination is a wonderful thing

Here’s a little something I like to do when I’m running short of bugs to find and generally getting kind of bored running the same tests over and over again. I usually find a fair few bugs this way, and if I don’t, well it’s pretty entertaining anyway.
So let’s say you’re testing an app that tracks patients for a hospital and their medical histories, as well as all the staff for the hospital. Obviously at some point you’ll want to pretend you’re using the system just like the customer is going to use it. But typing in Lorem Ipsum into every field isn’t just boring, it’s not very close to the real thing either. And it’s hard to come up with something interesting and realistic to type in for 20 different entries.
So have a think about some people who have some pretty serious medical histories that could easily fill a database this size. How about:
  • Dr House, of TV’s “House” fame.
  • The star of just about any major sci-fi show (think X-files, Stargate, Star Trek, anything with heaps of peculiar diseases)
  • Count Dracula

You’ll probably find that this will give you a pretty thorough test of the application, as well as highlighting any areas that are frustrating to use, especially if you are trying to enter many records at the same time.

Of course, if you are testing on a customer-accessible server you might want to make sure that they are not likely to get sensitive about this sort of data being entered into their system and pick fairly innocent and obscure fictional characters, just to be on the safe side. I have known more than one person who has had harsh words from their superiors about entering questionable data into a public system for testing purposes.

In fact, even if you don’t think that it is a public server, it pays to be on the safe side, as Spiff discovered when he once entered a test entry for Helga the Russian Mail Order Bride into his company’s dating service web application. By unfortunate coincidence, a marketing person in his company took a screenshot of the site to show the customer and the Helga entry was front and centre as the latest entry. Certain members of management found it to be culturally insensitive and Spiff luckily got off with only a stern warning.

But that aside, as long as you are careful with the sort of data you are using, there is no reason you shouldn’t use this fun and effective method of testing.