Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thoughts on testing our genealogy software

Two friends are making great posts on the new Build A BetterGEDCOM Blog, a user-friendly companion to the BetterGEDCOM Wiki, where techies hang out.

Of interest to my readers is some genealogy software testing that Russ is doing. While he admits he isn't a software developer, Ol' Myrt here considers Russ a "power user". He is well known among Family Tree Maker users and at Just Genealogy in Second Life. Some of Russ' recent blog posts concern his findings when exporting and importing a GEDCOM file between various main-stream genealogy software programs. He continues to experiment and plans to report additional test results throughout the coming months. This got me to thinking about the importance of sharing this sort of information.

Without Russ' type of genealogy software testing, folks like me might notice an anomaly and just chock it up to our own inexperience with the program.
  • We see this sort of "how it looks to this user" genealogy blog entries all the time in high quality genealogy blogs -- such as Randy's GeneaMusings or Ancestry Insider's blog posts.
  • If one's tests are to be considered fair, impartial and scientific (so subsequent testers can determine if the problem is repeatable) one must name the programs, list version numbers and provide the database used. Be sure not to include information on living individuals.
  • The testers are not responsible for problems a software program creates.
  • Testers merely report their experiences -- stating their view as an end user.
  • Make sure comments are not disparaging. You are safe to report the facts of the matter.

Ol' Myrt here tries to do this in her blog posts. Occasionally, one of my DearREADERS points out a mistake I've made and I really appreciate it. That's how I learn.

I WANT someone to find a mistake in my work. It's entirely possible that if I make a mistake, then perhaps someone else will as well. The entire conversation will help improve our understanding of the process, and clear up problems in the future.

Just focus on not editorializing or using punitive remarks. That's what was so difficult about dealing with grouchy people who continually make personally disparaging remarks -- it brings a creative discussion to an abrupt halt.

Programmers WANT their software to work. It is from responsible user feedback that bugs are recognized, and updates can be made.

By sharing our experiences, we help each other learn how to take advantage of the more subtle elements of the great genealogy software out there.

Happy family tree climbing !
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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