Planting Seeds and Encouraging Growth

cross section of pepperLast night I was cutting up the last of our pepper harvest in preparation for freezing. As I was cutting them, I marveled at the number of seeds that are in each pepper. Each of these seeds represents a potential pepper plant, which could then produce multiple peppers, each containing a large seed pod. If even only a portion of those seeds were to germinate and bear fruit, the increase in peppers would be enormous. Perhaps it was the capsaicin fumes coming off of the peppers, but I turned my thoughts to the figurative seeds that we plant and nourish when we help and teach and encourage others.

I have written about this in previous blog posts in terms of leaving a legacy, but I want to focus specifically on the act of planting seeds. I want to share a story of people who planted seeds that allowed me to grow and give an example of how I try to plant seeds for others. I hope you will in turn share with me your stories of those who helped you and how you help others.

An Act of Kindness

My first paying job was delivering newspapers when I was eleven. It was my job to deliver the daily newspaper and to collect subscription money at the end of the month. There were some customers who did their best to dodge my collection attempts and others who were very gracious. One older couple went out of their way to invite me into their home and always fed me toast and jam on cold Saturday mornings. As I reflect on their kindness, I realize they were planting seeds that would help me in my life. I learned the value of doing a good job to earn that kindness, and I have also come to realize that I can extend that same kindness to others. Their seeds continue to flourish in me and are extended to those I interact with.

Planting Seeds for Others

I do a lot of volunteer work with a youth group and a few years ago I volunteered to run a leadership course for young men and women. The instructors were primarily older youth so although my main task was organizing the course, I also taught the instructors how to teach and to connect with others. In other words, I was planting the seeds of teaching skills with the instructors who, in turn, were planting the seeds of leadership with the participants. I got to see immediate benefits with my staff, and hopefully we planted the seeds of leadership skills with the participants. I have worked with some of those youth since that time and, whether they realize it or not, they are using the skills they learned.

I planted seeds, and then my staff planted seeds, and now it is time for the students to plant seeds. I have no idea how far our influence will spread, but healthy seeds can be carried and take root, sometimes in unlikely places.

Thoughts

At times it feels like everyone these days is isolated in their own world, but I see examples of people reaching out to others and planting seeds that will be harvested, probably for generations to come. Some seeds don’t thrive and bear fruit right away, maybe not even in our lifetime, but be assured that our deeds will bear fruit, for better or for worse. I hope you will choose today to plant seeds that will carry benefits for a long time to come. Let me know about the seeds that you plant.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Print Friendly

The Drone Controversy: Do Personal Drones Compromise Privacy?

drone over farmlandI was recently asked to research personal drones. While I have been watching the development of drones for some time, I didn’t know much about the details, so this is a perfect opportunity to learn.

Definition

The term drone originally referred to the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or unmanned aerial system (UAS) used by militaries to navigate war zones. Some of these were and are used for surveillance and some even carry weapons. This term often conjures up safety or privacy concerns. Personal drones, in contrast, are remote controlled vehicles typically priced under $1,000 that are small enough to be carried by one person. Personal drones often carry GoPro style cameras, but no weapons. They are commonly used for recreational filming or in industries such as farming or mining to view terrain or crops.  Unlike satellite images, drones can provide video as opposed to still images, and they can deliver those images on a cloudy day.

Availability

A new personal drone is the Iris+ by 3D Robotics, which is a quadcopter available from Amazon for $750, base price. This drone weighs 8.2 pounds and comes with a mount for a GoPro camera. Paired with a GPS enabled Android device, you can set it to provide third person viewing. Synch it with your smartphone or wearable and it will follow you on your adventure, creating the ultimate selfie. Skydiving, surfing or skiing can now be filmed as if you had your own videographer. Paired with a tablet, you can draw the flight path that you want it to take and it becomes completely autonomous. This unit has a flight time of 16-22 minutes on one battery charge.

Another popular personal drone is the DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter. This has a flight time of 25-28 minutes and comes with a mount for a GoPro 3 camera. You can program a flight path for this device by pairing it with an iPad. This unit weighs in at 9 pounds and sells for a base price of $829.

There are also kits available for hobbyists who want to build their own drones or micro drones that fit in the palm of a hand. Personal drones are becoming more popular and more available, but are they legal?

Legality

Are personal drones legal to fly? It depends. If you live in Washington D.C., the answer is no. According to an article earlier this year in Time magazine, there is a Flight Restricted Zone for ten nautical miles surrounding Reagan International Airport. This includes even small personal drones. Yosemite National Park in California and Zion National Park in Utah have similar bans, according to the article. Outside of those areas it is legal to fly a drone, based on FAA policy, if it remains under 400 feet. If you are within three miles of an airport you must notify the tower that you will be flying your drone. There is no cohesive policy yet from the FAA, so I expect that there will be a patchwork of policies that will be put in place until an umbrella policy is enacted. In other words, we are still in the wild, wild west on this one.

Privacy

Legality is one thing, but privacy is a completely different issue. As a society, we are still struggling with issues of privacy concerning Google Earth from satellites or Google street view from roving cars. Google does a reasonable job of filtering out faces and license plates, but there have been lawsuits by people who claim they are recognizable in the images, thus breaching their privacy. Personal drones can go where satellite and car cameras cannot, so we are going to have to collectively deal with how we respect each other’s privacy now that we can fly a camera into someone’s backyard.  What are proper boundaries we can agree on? What actions need to fall under a policy or law?

Thoughts

I think this is a case where new technology has gotten out in front of policy. How we use this technology will determine how laws are shaped. Personal drones have many applications, from entertainment to farming to mining to disaster relief. I can see a personal drone or drones being used to survey damage from a natural or manmade disaster.  They could help aid organizations quickly develop relief plans and possibly even save lives.

There are a lot of positive applications for drones if only we are careful about how we use them and how we respect others’ rights. The future use or restriction of this technology is up to us. Let me know how you feel about the use of personal drones.  Are you excited or apprehensive? Do you think they represent an opportunity or a threat? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Print Friendly
triumphant woman at computer

The Power of Data

triumphant woman at computerMy last blog post was on the power of information. This week I take a different twist and talk about the power of data. Some would argue they are the same thing, but I believe they are two sides of the same coin. I could write an entire blog post on the difference, but I will save that for another time. Two things prompted me to write about this topic: a TED Talk by Susan Etlinger about critical thinking when dealing with data, and my recent attendance at the ARMA International conference of records managers in San Diego.

Critical Thinking

In Susan Etlinger’s talk, she stresses the need to apply critical thinking to the ever-growing stream of data we face. Unfortunately, computers cannot yet generate the thinking and cognitive processing necessary to extract nuggets of information and wisdom from raw data. Computers can only apply patterns that we introduce to them; the real job of providing context and meaning to data still comes from us. Having the smartest person interpret facts and figures in a meaningful way and in a way that will yield innovative business approaches is what provides competitive advantages for a company. We are at a point where most businesses have access to the same computing capacity and the same data coming from the same cloud, but the differentiator is increasingly the thinking human being at the end of the process.

All That Data

I was fortunate to attend the ARMA conference in San Diego last week—a gathering of records managers and information professionals. As I listened to the presentations and met with professionals, I was struck by the incredible amount of data that they are tasked with managing. Some of that data is in the form of old paper records that are being converted to digital content and indexed so it can be mined and searched. Some records are already digital but are held in many different repositories and cannot be searched across platforms and databases. For these professionals, job one is to collect everything in one place. Job two is to create meaning and context by intelligent queries. The data and the facts are present, but they cannot be converted into innovative answers until someone asks the right question. I was impressed by the practitioners I met that work in fields such as medical care, law enforcement, higher education, and government. They truly understand the monumental task ahead of them but also understand that they can make a personal difference at the end of the day.

Thoughts

I just finished teaching a course in information systems and management for the AIM Program. Whenever I teach, I understand that I can either present just the facts or I can help build context and meaning around those facts. I want my students to wake up in the middle of the night with an idea that they developed by analyzing the facts but also by applying critical thinking and asking the hard questions. I want them to synthesize the data from many sources until they arrive at that “aha” moment that leads to a breakthrough. This is what great research is all about and this is what great learning is all about. If I can help inspire those new and exciting combinations of data and ideas, then I have truly been successful.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Print Friendly
Hand on digital matrix

The Power of Information: Finding Relevancy in an Information Avalanche

Hand on digital matrix

I have written before about the power of information, but I am continually reminded of it as I watch world events unfold. We recently posted an article to Facebook contrasting soft power, meaning the power to change a position with information, and hard power, which uses guns as the means of persuasion. Using information as a soft power often results in a more permanent solution to the immediate problem. Using violence, or hard power, often begets violence and escalates conflict. With that in mind, I want to discuss a few examples where information truly is power.

The New Digital Age

In the 2013 book The New Digital Age, authors Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Google executive Jared Cohen talk about a future where information will be used by peacemakers and terrorists alike. “The power of information is underrated,” says Schmidt. Their premise is that the use and dissemination of information (or disinformation) will be one of the new war fronts and the side that can deliver trusted information about situation will have the upper hand. Political regimes have physical power, but it is possible to overcome that with timely and persuasive information. Schmidt warns that there is a dangerous gap between the technical world and the geopolitical world. I believe that the gap is closing with the help of information and the Internet, even in countries that traditionally suppress technology and free speech. Information is political power.

Crisis Information

Information is being used to minimize the impact of natural and human created disasters. Applications such as Ushahidi can play a big role in collecting and disseminating information so that emergency and relief agencies can make smart decisions. Ushahidi is an open source platform that was originally developed in Kenya to track areas of violence and was used after the 2010 Haiti earthquake and other recent disasters and conflicts. This application depends on crowdmapping, social media, and visualization to present vital information. The collection funnel includes social media data points such as Twitter feeds to pinpoint areas of stress and generate a map that guides aid groups to critical areas. This is an example of ideas and information developed by concerned individuals to assist others. Information is collective power.

Health Information

We have more health information than ever before. We have the opportunity to learn about our personal genetic makeup and understand our health risks before they become problems. We have unprecedented access to nutritional information that could help us to live healthier and longer lives. It is remarkable to me to think of the progress that we have made in combating diseases over the last 100 years, due in part to the timely information available to us all. Even new viruses are quickly isolated and contained, partly by sharing information. We have become empowered to be responsible for our own health and not rely solely on the medical community. Information is personal power.

Thoughts

Information is power. Our world of understanding has expanded since Gutenberg created the printing press in the 1400s and ushered in a new age of literacy and information sharing. Sometimes it feels like we have access to too much information, but if we can learn to glean the relevant and the useful points, it can help us personally and as world citizens. Have you been able to use information to make your life better or to help others? Let me know.

Author Kelly Brown

About Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and professor of practice for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Print Friendly

Technology In Action—How Professional Sports Are Benefitting

Runner with digital graphicsI am always interested in where technology is making a difference in our jobs and in our lives. Lately my thoughts have turned to how technology has changed professional sports. In the U.S., we are heavy into football season and just winding down with baseball. Major league soccer and basketball will start within the next couple of months.

There have been many innovations in how sports are played, watched and officiated, some welcomed and some controversial. Some feel that innovations like instant replay slow down play on the field or court, but others tout the additional fairness and accuracy of officiating. Whatever your position, I think that technology in sports is here to stay and will increase in the future.

That Yellow Line

This is what originally caused me to ponder technology in sports. The trademarked “First and Ten Line” system by SportVision, launched in 1998, displayed a virtual line on a professional football broadcast to indicate the location of a first down. Over the years, other colored lines have been added to represent other things, such as the line of scrimmage. I turned to the very cool website HowStuffWorks.com to find out how it really works. It turns out that it takes four people, six computers, and a tractor trailer full of gear to paint one virtual line. They have to consider the position of all of the on-field cameras and track the movement (pan, zoom, fade) of each so that the line is in synch with the broadcast. The camera view can change at any moment and the virtual line needs to also change.  The size of the field and the slight curvature of the field (for rainwater run off) are factored in and the on-screen color pallet must be constantly recalculated so it is not painted over the top of a player or official and to adjust for changing weather and light conditions, like snow or darkness. These are very sophisticated algorithms that should make any technologist proud.

Hawk-Eye

Hawk-Eye is a ball tracking system first created by engineers in the UK in 2001 and used originally for cricket. It spread to tennis and European football and was used recently at Wimbledon to aid line judges in making calls. This product is mainly used in officiating but can also aid commentating and coaching. It employs sophisticated monitoring to track ball trajectory, impact, and landing.

Keeping Players Healthy

Technology in sports is increasingly being used to keep players healthy. Professional football and basketball teams, including the Dallas Cowboys and Mavericks, are using microchips worn under the jersey during practice to understand and limit injuries to muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They also help to refine performance by emitting real-time data on accelerations, decelerations, changes of direction, and jumping. This information can help a player understand whether they are favoring one side or the other and can be used to monitor a player in rehabilitation. Using GPS and accelerometers, teams can protect their players as well as seek a competitive edge through data collection and analysis.

Thoughts

These are just some of the ways that technology is being used in sports to enhance performance and entertainment. Many other professional and amateur athletes are using existing technology to track their personal statistics in the hope that the data will yield insights that will help them become the next champion.

Do you personally benefit from technology and data collection? How has it helped enhance your experience of participating in or watching sports? Let me know your thoughts.

About Kelly Brown

Author Kelly BrownKelly Brown is an IT professional and professor of practice for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Print Friendly
shutterstock_215672077

Pervasive Computing: Lifelogging and the Quantifiable Self

shutterstock_215672077We recently shared an article on our Facebook page about a new mobile app developed to analyze and detect whether a person is stressed or even depressed. This app falls under the category of “lifelogging,” which is tracking personal activity data like exercising, sleeping, and eating. Going one step further, if you take the raw data and try to draw correlations to help you improve your life, you are entering into an area called “quantified self.” Personally, I like my life fairly unquantified, even though I am always trying to improve.

The app to detect depression was developed by a group of Dartmouth researchers, and their findings were presented at the ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing, held last month in Seattle. This is a fairly new area and one that interests me, so I went through the proceedings to see what I could learn. I think that some such apps and devices could be helpful to those willing to use the data they collect to work towards a goal, but other people might go overboard in data collection, with no plan to act on what they learn. Some of them are technologies to deal with other technologies that are already deployed.

Ongoing Research

Also at the recent ACM conference, there was a presentation titled “Promoting Interpersonal Hand-to-Hand Touch for Vibrant Workplace with Electrodermal Sensor Watch.” This uses a simple wrist-mounted thermal detection device to record high-fives and rewards the user with points for multiple touch encounters.  It is designed to encourage more touch in the workplace, which the researchers equate with higher employee satisfaction. Basically, this is the gamification of personal touch.

There was also research on methods for detecting public restrooms to automatically turn off the data-logging feature for devices such as Google Glass and other video logging systems. Apparently there are some areas of lifelogging that are still socially taboo.

Other research focused on Internet-connected, video logging home security systems and how receptive parents and teens are to them. Not surprisingly, the study found that parents liked the ability to remotely monitor their homes, while teens felt that it was an invasion of privacy for a parent to remotely monitor their movements.

We have the technology to perform pervasive computing, but I think that we will continue to struggle with the appropriateness of lifelogging, particularly when it involves others. There are issues of privacy and issues of personal space and freedom that we need to deal with as this technology becomes more prevalent.

 Thoughts

Socrates is reported to have said, “A life unexamined is not worth living.” I wonder, what is the value of a life TOO examined? It appears that technology is making that possible. Are we losing the mystery and surprise in life? Are we losing some of the spontaneity that makes life interesting when we plot and calculate and manage every twist and turn? The technology makes a hyper-examined life possible but the choice is still ours as to how or if we want to use it.

Have you used a lifelogging application or device? Did it help you, or was it more noise than value? Were you able to change your habits or behavior because of it?  Let me know. I would love to hear about your experiences.

About Kelly Brown

Author Kelly BrownKelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Print Friendly
shutterstock_100060127

Educational Trends: MOOCs Revisited

shutterstock_100060127In the education community there was a lot of talk over the past two years about MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses. Some saw it as a panacea for delivering education to all at a low cost. Others believed it to be the next generation in online education. Many saw it as the beginning of the end of traditional universities and degrees.

There is not as much talk these days about MOOCs, so I set out to research why. Are they so mainstream now that they do not get press, or did they prove to be a passing experiment? Is the answer somewhere in between? I completed a MOOC last year and am scheduled to start another one in January, so I have an active interest in the trends.

Definition

A MOOC is an online college level course that is generally offered for free. Because there is no cost and no residency requirement they often attract thousands of students (thus, the “massive” in MOOC). There are three main providers: Coursera and Udacity, which are for-profit corporations; and EdX, a nonprofit organization founded by MIT and Harvard. There are also several smaller players. MOOCs are taught by college professors. There are usually no graded assignments and no college credit given, although this is changing. University of Washington started offering credit for enhanced MOOC courses in 2012. Enhanced means that there are additional assessments and a fee, in return for college credit. A press release from Antioch University in May 2014 announced that it will offer college credit for a Coursera MOOC, as the first school to purchase newly offered licenses. It will not be free, but Antioch officials say it will be less expensive than a traditional California university system course. Antioch is calling this a “facilitated MOOC,” so I suspect that they will be administering tests in a hybrid version of the traditional online course.

Detractors

Detractors of MOOCs point to the high dropout rate as evidence that this is a flawed experiment. In a recent online MIT physics course approximately 17,000 students enrolled but only 1,000 earned a certificate of completion. Interestingly, the research showed that students who completed the course progressed “comparable to what some MIT students showed when they were required to take the introductory course on campus.”

The argument against the value of MOOCs generally centers on the fact that because the course is free and no college credit is awarded there is no motivation to complete it. In other words, the reward of credit leading to a diploma is the only reason that students start and finish classes. The detractors claim there is no motivation to learn strictly for learning’s sake.

Supporters

Supporters point to the fact that college education is now available to anyone with an Internet connection. They say this levels the playing field between the haves and have-nots. To some extent this is true. There are many courses offered by Coursera, EdX, Udacity, and others, at little or no cost, that will enhance or replace a conventional college education for motivated students. The caveat is, as I pointed out above, the individual has to be motivated to learn and to progress for the sake of learning, knowing there will be no traditional diploma to show a prospective employer. There are certificates of completion, which may become currency in the future, but such credentials are not yet widely recognized.

Thoughts

Recent statistics compiled by Edudemic helped me understand the current landscape of MOOCs. This infographic illustrates who is enrolling in MOOCs and if they are getting a quality education. Here are some interesting statistics from the article:

Coursera now has 3.3 million students in 196 countries and sixty-two university partners.

  • 61.5% of students enrolled in a MOOC are from outside the US.
  • Brazil, China, India, Canada, and the UK boast high percentage of enrolled students.
  • 70% already have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • 80% take other courses online for credit.
  • 50% are age twenty-six years or older.

MOOCs burst onto the scene in 2011 and the New York Times declared 2012 “The Year Of The MOOC.” In 2014, the number and range of course offerings, the number of students, and the quality of education delivered appear to have stabilized. Two questions remain in my mind: 1.) How do we engage students in a MOOC to increase the completion rate, and;  2.) What is the value of a MOOC certificate to a future employer? I will be watching this trend closely.

Have you taken a MOOC? What was your experience? Would you take another one? Let me know your thoughts.

About Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

 

Print Friendly
modern electric meter

Technology In Action—Utilities

On occasion I like to feature a job or profession that makes use of technology in new and unique ways. Recently I highlighted technology in farming and today it struck me as I was walking down the street that a lot of cool innovation is in use by our utility companies. This seems like a fairly staid industry at first glance, but utility companies are deploying some technologies that make their products (electricity, gas, water) more cost effective and their delivery and monitoring more efficient.

Electric Utility

Utilities such as Pacific Power here in the Northwest are installing automated meters that can be read from a vehicle on the street rather than requiring a person to enter a customer’s property. The new meters are equipped with a radio module for transmitting data and are read by a roaming utility vehicle equipped with a radio receiver and computer. That information is downloaded to billing and accounting systems to generate utility bills. Perhaps driverless cars can take over in the future, or data can be transmitted wirelessly to the utility, thus eliminating the use of a vehicle. This is a way that IT can add value to the electric utility industry.

Water Utility

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is installing automated water meters that  transmit water usage to nearby rooftop antennas. This eliminates the need to drive around reading meters, which in New York City is a big plus. The technology reduces the need for estimated billing based on prior usage, which was always a best guess and caused a utility to either charge too much or too little. Automated meters reduce the error and the need to adjust bills. This technology enables customers to view daily usage via an online interface and may inspire them to conserve water.

Gas Utility

Natural gas meters use the same automated devices as water and electric utilities. One of the benefits of these devices, particularly in places like New York City where data is transmitted up to four times a day, is the utility company can promptly detect and respond to a leak. Current data is compared to a known baseline or to an averaged norm and if there is a large anomaly the system can flag an inspector to investigate. No more dangerous gas leaks, flooded yards, or large gas or water bills. IT to the rescue!

Thoughts

I began thinking about this technology while walking down the street and noticing black mushroom-looking devices on the lids of pit meters embedded in sidewalks and driveway aprons. I had never seen them before and my curiosity got the better of me, and there was a utility worker nearby I could ask. Many cities have already completely converted to automated meters and enjoy the conveniences of accurate data collection and billing. In future blogs, I will continue highlighting technology in other sectors. Have you ever thought about unique applications of technology? Sometimes it can come to you out of the blue while you are walking down the street.

About Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Print Friendly
shutterstock_162820130

Streamline Software Testing with Data Driven Automated Testing

Today’s post is written by Michael Grater, a 2005 graduate of the AIM Program and Quality Assurance lead at R/GA, a digital design firm that provides applications, design, and digital advertising for some of the largest companies. In this blog, we asked Michael to share his thoughts on his experience with the automated software testing process and provide methods on how you can improve your own testing and quality assurance.  In software testing, it is very difficult to anticipate all of the different actions that an end user might want to take. Large applications can often include a million lines of code or more and it is incumbent on the quality assurance professional to test all of the potential scenarios within the application. It is very cumbersome to test these paths one at a time, so it is common to automate the testing into a series of repeated scenarios.  This is much the same as employing a robot to test the new iPhone 6 to ensure that the customer experience is error free.  Often, a 100% success rate is impossible because of the complexity of modern applications, but the method proposed by Michael below will make the process quicker and more efficient and will uncover a higher number of errors that would have otherwise slipped into the final version of the software. 

shutterstock_162820130There are instances in the software testing process when in a shortened amount of time you either have a large number of scenarios to cover or a large number of features. These scenarios may also involve running the same tests repeatedly over a period of time. In cases like this, it becomes advantageous to use a method of test automation known as “data driven testing.”

 

As an example, in most cases, when viewing a login screen, there are essentially two fields and a button, and the steps would look like this:

  1. Open URL,
  2. Click on Login link,
  3. Enter User ID/email address,
  4. Enter password,
  5. Click on login button.

At the same time, there are multiple scenarios when it is necessary to test such features as:

  1. Entering a valid user ID and invalid password,
  2. Entering an invalid user ID and valid password,
  3. Leaving the user ID field blank but entering a password,
  4. Entering a user ID but leaving the password field blank.

Using an automation test tool, the steps can be programmed once and consist of entering a user ID, entering a password, and clicking on a button. Then the test can be configured to run based on data in a file (spreadsheet, flat file, xml file). The data is imported into the test and the execution steps leverage the data to either enter values in fields, provide URL links to be opened, or code values that are equal to features such as buttons or navigation.

The logic behind the test would look like this:

Load data file (contains URL, User ID, and password data)

If

  • Open URL (variable, parameterize),

–      Pull value from data file—insert into test,

  • Click on Login link,
  • Enter User ID (variable, parameterize),

–      Pull value from data file—insert into test,

  • Enter password (variable, parameterize),

–      Pull value from data file—insert into test,

  • Click on Login button.

View page—confirm successful login.

Is there more data?

Then, go to the next record.

Although the test consists of approximately four or five steps, it is configured to loop and execute based on the amount of data stored in the file.

The benefit of doing it this way is that the test can be reused over and over again. If a particular feature has to be retested, the automation test can be executed, generating a report of whether the tests have passed or failed. This also frees up QA staff and allows them time to focus on other areas of the project to test, maybe in places where automation is not an option.

When working with test automation, having adequate time to plan, setup, and verify that the test is working correctly is needed. Test [R1] automation can become a very efficient way to test software but it is not always a viable solution.

This concept can be applied to any automation tool. In my current position with R/GA, we’ve used this technique on multiple projects with tools such as Selenium and Jmeter.

Michael Grater

QA Lead, R/GA New York

Print Friendly
padlocked cloud

How Safe is the Cloud?

padlocked cloud

A lot of attention lately has been paid to the security of the cloud, particularly Apple’s iCloud service. There have been recent high profile celebrity hacks resulting in the sharing of photos that were thought to be private. The question I have been reading in the last couple of weeks, even in my local newspaper, is this: Is the cloud safe? The answer, maddeningly, is yes and no. This blog post will cover the definition of the cloud and how you can make the answer to that question “yes.”

Defining the Cloud

The cloud is really just a term for offsite storage. It is a convenient place to store files, whether they are photos, contact lists, or e-mails, so that you can access them from multiple devices in multiple locations. Say, for example, you take a picture from your smartphone and wish to view those same pictures from your tablet or your laptop or share them with friends. Rather than carrying those pictures around on a hard drive to view them on different devices or show friends, those pictures are stored in a common place, in the cloud storage. The cloud goes by different names such as iCloud, Google Drive, Google+, and Microsoft OneDrive. It also goes by names such as Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. Basically it is a common place to store, retrieve, and manipulate your files. The question then becomes: What if you want to take a picture but NOT store it in the cloud?

It’s All in the Sync

The key is to understand when your device is synchronizing with the cloud or with another device. In Android, for example, there is a Google Drive app that is an interface to help you download and sync files between your Android device and the cloud. You can also swap files between Android and your Google+ account or between Android and your Dropbox or Box account using a simple app.

Developers have done their best to make these apps intuitive and user friendly, but they have also masked the complexity of moving files back and forth to the cloud or to another device. As a result, some smartphone users just push the “sync all” button, which duplicates all files to the cloud. This is great for backup, but it also means that your files are now in a less secure area than just your phone. As recent events show, there are still some vulnerabilities in the cloud, and occasionally a cloud service is breached and personal data is compromised. One answer to this is to employ an application such as Encdroid for the Android OS, which encrypts your files and makes them more difficult to hack. Another solution is to understand where your files are and how they are getting there.

Thoughts

My challenge to you this week is to review your files and take an inventory of where you are storing everything. You may have signed up for a Google+ account and forgotten about it. When you get that new Android phone, however, you can bet the good folks at Google have a record of that account and would be happy to send all of your files to be backed up there. Be a savvy technology user and make sure you understand whether you are vulnerable and in what areas. In the end, that knowledge will make you and your data safer.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Print Friendly