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Bugs 30% Off!!!

Update: If you’re in reader, the formatting just crapped out on me this time.  Click through and it looks much better.

Seeing a sign that says 30% off in a store might make me stop and take a look.  Of course, it depends on the store.   I am much more likely to stop and look if the store is Target vs. oh, let’s say, Versace.  Why is that?  Because I already know that anything Versace has on 30% probably started out at thousands of dollars.

Look at the pie chart on the right.  Aside from the fact that it’s adding up to more than 100%, how many people were involved in the survey? It could have been 3 or it could have been 300.
How is this relevant for testing?  Let’s look at some bugs.  30% of them are user interface bugs.  Are you thinking this is good or bad?  Actually, it doesn’t tell you much of anything at all.  Why?  Because, for starters, there’s no way to tell how many bugs we are talking about.
If there are 9 bugs total, that means 3 of them are user interface bugs.  In this case, the percentage doesn’t mean very much because the number is so small.   You can make a fancy pie chart out of that (it’s more likely your boss will) but it will be a meaningless pie chart that wastes everyone’s time.   If you’ve got a number that’s lower than about 30, there’s no point in using a percentage at all.  Just use a table.  There won’t be any flash, but your data will be clear.
But that’s not the only problem in this scenario.  The larger problem is that 30% says nothing about the size or complexity of:
-each bug
-the application
-the testing effort
What if I’ve got 49 bugs that are cosmetic and 1 bug that is causing memory, leaks, data loss or volcanic eruptions in Iceland?  (Think of the children!!!!!)
A percentage about a count that is too small is unnecessary and a percentage used to obscure large numbers deserving of attention in and of themselves is an oversimplification.  I’ve been seeing a lot of percentages lately when the count is really low or when there is no count at all. When I see this I immediately mis-trust any other data included with the percentage.
Percentages are still very useful, but they must be used with care.  Just because they are highly scannable and easily processed by the human brain, doesn’t give them any meaning.  I think I once read a blogpost or something of James Bach’s where he was referring to testcases as a briefcase.  It might be big or small but there’s really no way to tell what’s inside.  The same can be said for percentages.

Testing Alert:  WTANZ is here!

Fish!  I seez dem.
Image by Marlena Compton via Flickr

It’s been nearly a month since my post on testing in Australia.  I’ve settled into my job at Atlassian (who are still looking for testers), moved into an apartment that I suspect was once a stable and with the help of others, put together a Weekend Testing Chapter for Australia and New Zealand.

Uh-huh.  That’s right…

!!!@@@WEEKEND TESTING IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND@@@!!!

No longer will testers in these time zones have to ponder whether they should participate with Bangalore on Saturday night or Europe at um…2:30 am Sundays.

The first Weekend Testing session will take place this Sunday, April 18 at 4:30 Sydney time/6:30 New Zealand time.  The first session will be jointly facilitated by New Zealand’s Oliver Erlewein and Bangalore’s Parimala Shankaraiah.

In recognition of the respect held by Australians and New Zealander’s for work-life balance, WTANZ will be held every other week instead of every week.

For those who are curious:  each meeting takes place online and lasts 2 hours.  In the first hour, the system-under-test is revealed and you are given a mission.  You test until the hour is up.  At the end of the hour, the group has a facilitated discussion about was learned, etc.

How to participate:

1.    Register at the Weekend Testing web-site

2.     Register for the Weekend Testing Bug Repository at bugrepository.com

3.    Send an email with your Skype ID to   weekendtestinganz@gmail.com with WTANZ Session 01 in the subject.

4.     If you have a googlewave account, let us know.  We have plans ;)

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Is this the Bermuda Triangle?

Square root of two as the hypotenuse of a righ...
Image via Wikipedia

I used to hate math. I could feel it stalking me whenever I had to look at percentages or do arithmetic in my head. (Think fast: 7 x 8). Binary numbers? You want me to remember converting from decimal to binary and binary to hex? What about logarithms and big-o?

Is your heart racing? Do you feel like less of a nerd? You shouldn’t.

Math used to scare the hell out of me on a daily basis. It began in the third grade when a really awful substitute teacher felt compelled to teach me division with remainders. At this point, it’s obvious to me that she didn’t know what she was doing. All I remember is being screamed at for hours and told how stupid I was. My math grades were never the same after that.

This is just one way that a math phobia can start. It typically has very little to do with your actual ability and everything to do with anxiety and confidence. At this point, I divide people into two groups when it comes to math: those who are scared of their own shadow, and those who are not. Those of you who absolutely love numbers and have never had a problem working with them…good for you! I hope you love, cherish, and appreciate your gift while also having tolerance for those of us intimidated into doing without.

It has taken me years, to live with and even find enjoyment in math. Much of this is because I eventually found a calculus teacher who showed me that I am, indeed, not stupid when it comes to math. How did she do this? She taught me a few tricks that have helped me feel more confident:

1. Review is the key. It is math. You will forget things. You will forget things you have studied several times. When you come across something like the Pythagorean theorem, for example, there is a very good chance that you won’t remember it. Not if, but when that happens, it’s ok to say, “It’s been a while since I used this so it’s time to review.” This is normal and perfectly acceptable.

2. The best mathematicians SUCK at arithmetic. I didn’t just hear this from my calculus teacher but also from my discrete math teacher. When was the last time your life depended on 15223 / 48? Does it pay your bills? I mean, let’s keep life in perspective. My feeling is, as long as you can make change and count your money…WHO CARES! (Good for the people that do…it’s time to quit worrying if you don’t.)

3. There are people who are born not sucking at arithmetic. I admire them, but I don’t beat myself up because I can’t do what they do. To extend this, I don’t beat myself up when I have to use the calculator or excel for decimal to binary or hex. Life’s too short for me to care.

4. Pictures and colors are your best friend. Math class never came alive for me until my calculus teacher drew graphs and equations on the board in color. She wouldn’t work without it. I found myself understanding concepts that had confounded me in my previous 2 (yes, TWO) attempts at calculus. It was as if I was learning a different subject entirely.

This is not to diminish the importance of math skills. I’ve just seen too many people get upset with themselves for something that a) is not their fault b) is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Testers need to know math. In particular, testers need to be familiar with statistical concepts. I’ve seen rampant mis-use of percentages (and testers aren’t alone in this, devs do it too. Saw it at work last week). My personal theory, based on no science whatever, is that not all, but many testers like using bug counts because they don’t know anything else.

Are you feeling scared? Don’t worry. We’re all in this together. I have to review my statistics as well, and I plan on doing it here. The book I’ll be using is Head First Statistics. Another good book that I had to give away before my move was the Manga Guide to Statistics. You see, learning math isn’t the same as it used to be. There’s no need to be scared anymore.

When I was cleaning out a bunch of old papers in my file cabinet before the move to Oz, I came across an old IQ test that I took in the third grade. My math skills were rated “superior.” I chucked it with a bunch of other crap I just didn’t need anymore.

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Testing in Australia

Sydney Opera House Close up HDR Sydney Australia
Image by Linh_rOm via Flickr

My plane landed on Friday and I’m finally over the jet lag. The past month or so has been nothing but packing, packing, PACKING. I’m over it and ready do some testing.

In the brief survey of the OZ testing landscape I’ve been able make, I’m finding that Australia has a really great testing community.

Before I arrived, I’d been having some great fun conversing with testers and developers in OZ including @erik_petersen (Melbourne) ,@alisterscott (Brisbane), @jmajma (Sydney), @deancornish (Melbourne) and @sherifmansour (Sydney). They made me feel welcome before I even showed up for work.

When I wrote up my predictions for this year, one of them was that Weekend Testing would spread. It’s been my intention all year to participate in Weekend Testing as much as possible, and with my move out of the way, I’m ready to step up my commitment. Since I’m now located in Australia, I’d like to see what the testers here, including myself, can put together.

So what is weekend testing? It’s a bottom-up way of bettering yourself as a tester. A weekend testing session lasts for 2 hours. The first hour is spent testing something, sometime in pairs. The second hour is spent discussing what you learned while you were testing. Yes, it really is that simple.

Why do I love this concept so much? This is an empowering way to learn. So much time in testing is spent in justifying our choices and double-checking that what we have found really is broken. If we don’t find something, we’ve got customers to whom we must answer. The weekend testing approach removes these high stakes, in essence, unburdening the tester and placing an emphasis on just trying to break stuff. I know that I need to learn more of this. I suspect that there are other testers in Australia who feel the same way I do.

The first goal I’ve set for myself here in Sydney is to work on my own testing skills through Weekend Testing and to see what I can do about getting others here interested.

Here is the WT web-site. I encourage testers in Australia or elsewhere who are unfamiliar with WT to do some exploring and look over some of the experience reports to get an idea of what happens. This is not about hubris, it’s about having a safe space to try stuff in testing without fear of reprimand or backstabbing.

If you’re in Australia, and you would like to participate in either a European or Indian weekend testing session, Europe testing sessions occur on Saturdays from 3-5 pm…in Europe. For Sydneysiders, this means Sundays from 2:00 am to 4:00 am. Indian testing sessions are a bit more realistic. If you are in Australia these happen from approximately 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

I plan to be in touch with the Weekend Testers over the next few weeks to see what we can get together for Australia. Please check out the web-site and see what you think.

Btw…the US is seriously lagging behind in the adoption of WT. What up with that??

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Where’s Ur Data?


[Hat Tip: Chris McMahon for pointing out this awesome video.]

The response I’ve gotten from the tiny bit of work I’ve done with software testing and visualization has changed the direction of my life and shown me that I am not the only visual thinker in software/software testing.  We don’t want to look at tables any more…we want pictures!  We want line and color!  We don’t want to be limited by text in our exploration and creation of software.

So where’s our visual jet-pack?  I mean, I might do crazy viz stuff at home, but at work, I’m still analyzing tables, bug counts and raw data every day.  What gives?

Unfortunately, the only answer I have to this question is another question.  Where is your data?  How do you access information about your tests?  In my experience, most of the data I’ve seen has been in a spreadsheet or on a screen, as in, “Hey you!  You want a piece of me, girlie, you gotta copy and paste!”

In his recent interview on the blog, Indirect Collaboration, Shawn Allen of Stamen Design was asked about the challenges of working with data.  His response rang so true, that it’s the main point of this blog post.  For Mr. Allen, “just getting the data in the first place is the most difficult part of the process, regardless of the source.”

Amen!  Hosannah!  Bravo! and Thx, dude!!!

Every visualization I’ve worked on has included significant challenge in just the beginning step of gathering the data.  If you are working with one table or with tables that play nice, u r lucky. More often than not, the interesting stories are teased from disparate sources in disparate formats.  In general, there is nothing pretty at all about the raw data used in some of the most intriguing visualizations.

Mr. Allen goes on to say that in the case of Stamen’s Crimespotting project, this challenge was overcome by being provided with a KML feed.  The keyword here is feed.

Do you have a feed for your defects?  I know I didn’t have one at my last job, and wouldn’t have known what to do if one had hit me on the head.  This is, however, the world we live in.  When I gave my talk on “Visualizing Software Quality” at Microsoft, one of the comments I got was that my work did not include any type of real-time feed.  It was a wake-up call for me and a challenge I’m working on.

Part of this challenge lies in learning to work with standard formats for data.  Allen mentions KML.  There is also XML and JSON.  I have heard testers bemoaning the “pointy things” of XML, and I hope that we’re past the kvetching.  I’ll admit that I’ve mostly used tab or comma delimited data for my work, but I’m REALLY over them.  Just because I know enough about regular expressions to wear the XKCD t-shirt doesn’t mean I want to spend my life parsing data with them.

If we are ever to be successful at visualizing software quality, we must have feeds from our tests, defects and even the code we are testing.  I don’t want to spend my time figuring out how to get my testing meta-data to play nice.  I would much rather spend my time figuring out which data belongs together and understanding the story it tells.  After all, that is the real value in visualization, no matter what type of picture we create at the end.

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Get out your snake bite kit…it’s Pycon!!

A Bon Voyage - Dilbert Style

Today was my last day at my job.  I have de-badged. When I showed up yesterday, I found that some friends of mine decided to send me off in grand style.  Green and yellow are Australia’s team colors.  In addition to the lovely draperies, my cube was filled with green & yellow balloons.  My boss took me to lunch and gave me some survival items for Australia, among them was a snake bite kit (Thanks Mark!)

I planned for my last day to be Thursday because Friday is the start of Pycon!  As Adam Goucher said to me on twitter, Pycon is THE Python conference.  I see this as the opportunity I’ve been looking for to spend some quality time with this language, break away from Java for a bit and take advantage of this transition-heavy period in my life.  There are some great talks scheduled, and I’ll have a few tough choices to make.

Here are some of the sessions I’m considering attending:
The Mighty Dictionary
VisTrails
Creating Restful Web Services with restish
Deconstruction of an Object
Powerful Pythonic Patterns

There are many more because this schedule is stacked with interesting sessions. If you are planning on attending Pycon, drop me a note or a tweet and enjoy :)

What is quality? What is art? Part deux

I’m so appreciative of the discussion that developed from my previous post. I could see that people commenting were really digging deep, so I decided to address some of what was said in this follow-up post.

Here are some of the comments about the definition of quality:

Michael Bolton shared his perspective on Jerry Weinberg’s definition: “To be clear, Jerry’s insight is that quality is not an attribute of something, but a relationship between the person and the thing. This is expressed in his famous definition, ‘quality is value to some person(s).’ ”

Rikard Edgren’s definition: “Quality is more like “good art” than “art”, but anyway: I can tell what “quality to me” is when I see it. I can tell what “quality to others” is when I see it, if I know a lot about the intended usage and users.” Rikard also wrote a post where he clarifies his position a bit.

Andrew Prentice wrote about what he feels is missing from Weinberg’s definition: “I like Weinberg’s definition of quality, but I’m not convinced that it is sufficient for a general definition of quality. Off the top of my head I can think of two concepts that I suspect are important to quality that it doesn’t seem to address: perfection and fulfillment of purpose.”

The definition of quality that I learned is from Stephen Kan’s book, Metrics and Models of Software Quality Engineering. Interesting is that Kan shows a hearty and active disdain for what he says is the “popular” definition of quality. “A popular view of quality,” he writes, “is that it is an intangible trait—it can be discussed, felt, and judged, but cannot be weighed or measured. To many people, quality is similar to what a federal judge once commented about obscenity: ‘I know it when I see it.’ This is sounding familiar, no? Here is where the pretension begins to flow: “This view is in vivid contrast to the professional view held in the discipline of quality engineering that quality can, and should, be operationally defined, measured, monitored, managed, and improved.’ ” Easy, tiger. We’ll look at this again later.

Jean-Leon Gerome’s painting of Pygmalion and Galatea brings this discussion to mind. This is a link to themyth of Pygmalion and Galatea.

Pygmalion and Galatea

I’ve seen this painting in person, at the Met.  Interesting to note is that the artist was painting himself as Pygmalion in this painting. (and I like listening to “Fantasy” by the Xx while I look at this.)

The relationship in this painting is not limited to the one between Pygmalion and Galatea, the viewer is drawn into the relationship as well and the artist, himself is also participating. In this painting, Pygmalion has been completely drawn in by his own creation. The artist was so drawn in by the story that he painted himself into it. I was and am still so drawn in by the painting that it is simply painful for me to tear my eyes away from it. It slays me. When I see it, I feel the painting. I guess you could say that emotion is an attribute of this painting, but in this case, I think it’s more. In this case, the emotion is the painting. Why else does the painting exist? Would this painting work at all if the chemistry were missing? I don’t think it would. What Gerome has accomplished here is the wielding of every technique at his disposal to produce a painting with emotion as raw, basic and tantalizing as the finest sashimi.

But there is more to this relationship than just the fact that Gerome has painted himself as Pygmalion. Let’s examine the relationships that exist in this painting and what they tell us. Starting with just the painting, itself, we have the man and the woman locked in their embrace. They are surrounded with many objects. (I encourage all readers to click through to the Met’s web site. Looking at their web-site, if you double click on the painting, you can move around and zoom in and out to get a closer, more focused look.) What do you notice about all of the objects in the room? I’ve no doubt that some of you are wondering if these objects take away from the focus in the painting. If that were the case, if the painting consisted of only the man and the woman, how would we know that the man was an artist? So why do we need these particular objects? The painting could be restricted to just the hammer and chisel so what’s with all the stuff? This is where our relationship with the painting deepens should we choose to follow the breadcrumbs…

An overview of Gerome’s life, clarifies his choices. As a young artist, he spent a year in Rome which he felt was one of the happiest years of his life. At the time that Pygmalion and Galatea was painted, Gerome was grieving over the deaths of several relatives and friends. By surrounding himself with artifacts from his youth, the artist is traveling back in time to a younger, more “Roman”-tic time in his life. However depressed he may have been when he painted this, Gerome was also experiencing an artistic breakthrough in his sculpting career. Notice the breakthrough in the painting? Now that you know a bit more history, how do you feel about the painting? Does it change your perspective? This has made the painting very introspective for me. The emotion that flows from this depiction of romantic love is one of vitality and power. Perhaps Gerome is evoking these feelings as a way of tapping into his own creative powers. I remember thinking to myself when I first saw this painting at the Met, before I knew anything at all about it, “She is rescuing him.”

To describe quality as a relationship gives it a larger meaning and captures something neglected and dismissed by the literature of the “software crisis” era e.g. books such as Stephen Kan’s. Is quality as a relationship mutally exclusive to quality being an attribute of software? I don’t agree with describing quality as just an attribute. To say that quality is an attribute de-emphasizes the holistic approach to quality I try to take and for which I’m assuming Michael, Jerry Weinberg (going by his definition here only), agile, context, et. al are striving. (Full disclosure: I haven’t read any of Jerry Weinberg’s books. That does NOT mean they are not on my list. I just got out of school and the only thing I’m reading lately is visa paperwork so give me a break here.)

The software we test has its creators and has an audience of users as well. Just as Gerome had his own relationship with this painting, developers know what they want to see which leads to the building of their own relationship with the software they make. How does this affect the relationship between the software and its audience

How does value fit into this? I value the painting because of how it makes me feel when I look at it. After the examination I did, I now understand why I value the painting. As someone who is constantly seeking artistic inspiration, I am happy to go where Gerome and his muse take me. What does this say for value in software? Does the relationship between an audience of users and software create value for the audience members whether they are paying guests or not? The more I dig into this definition, the more I like it because it allows for gatecrashers, those who we did not think would be using our software, but who may find it so invaluable, they become our software’s greatest fans.

I’m going to marinate on this while I think about the 2nd part of Andrew’s comment, namely, that Mr. Weinberg’s definition of quality does not address perfection and fulfillment of purpose. After all, Kan’s two definitions of quality of “fitness for use” and “conformance to requirements” are fairly widely accepted in software.

What are you thinking? Is there something missing from Jerry Weinberg’s definition? How does measurement fit into what I’ve been writing about if it fits at all?

I leave you to think about this and the painting above. If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to click through and take a good, honest, langorous look. Put down the twitter, the kid, the spreadsheet, the reality tv show. Take some deep breaths and give yourself a few moments alone with Pygmalion and Galatea.

to be continued…

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Tossing out the map

For the past 5 years I have worked at a company that is over 100 years old.  My business group has been ordered to use the waterfall software development process.  Although my current boss along with everyone else in my group impresses the hell out of me on a daily basis, I’ve known for a while that I would be looking for a job when I finished my masters degree.  (A note to CEO’s everywhere:  asking great employees, especially the geeky ones, to innovate with tools from 1995 is a WASTE of everyone’s time.)

In the time that I’ve worked for my current employer, my husband and I have developed an ongoing love affair with America’s Pacific Northwest.  We’ve traveled there many times for business and for fun.  One of the reasons why I submitted my presentation to PNSQC was its locality.  My primary goal was to make as many contacts as possible for the job search I was planning to begin this January.  I had plans to quit my job once New Years arrived, and move to Seattle so I could look for a job.

We

We <3 the Northwest

So I’ve graduated.  This was supposed to be my need-a-tester? post.  Last year, I made a short list of a few places whose employment prospects really made me drool.  Here are the requirements I had:

  1. location must be Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington metro areas
  2. MUST be agile
  3. must have a pro-testing culture
  4. product must have web 2.0 or semantic web features
  5. I must love the product I test so much that I giggle with delight when I use it.
  6. testing must include a pragmatic approach to manual testing and test automation
  7. company must be a place where I can make a significant contribution

The reason why this was supposed to be my need-a-tester post is because I already found a job.  Yes…it IS possible to get a job in this economy.  Not only is it possible, but the job I found fits almost every requirement I had.

The interview process was incredibly rigorous and there were more than a few times when I thought to myself, “there is NO WAY I will get this job.”  I’m not just saying this because I know my new boss reads my blog (Hiiiiii!!)  I’m going from testing a command-line interface to a full-on, Web 2.0, check-this-api-byatch application of epic proportions.  Let’s just say I know a lot more about TestNG and Selenium than I did before my interview.  For those of you on twitter who remember me talking about my “bugs on a plane” testing session, that was part of my job interview.  Not only was I finding bugs on the plane ride home from PNSQC as the power faded on my Mac, but there was a screaming, pretzel-throwing 3-year-old in the seat next to me who did not stop screaming for a full 4.5 hours.

Which requirement in my list was not met?  Unfortunately, I will not be moving to Portland or Seattle, although I still LOVE them both.  I will be moving to Sydney, Australia.

Marlena at the Opera

Say what?!

Yes.

Australia Day 2010 : Jet Ski 2
Image by muffytyrone via Flickr
Sydney Fireworks
Image by Marv! via Flickr
2007 July - Rodney Fox great White Shark Trip ...
Image by Julian Cohen via Flickr

That Sydney, Australia.

I’ve been hired by Atlassian Software.  Although I applied when they began their campaign to hire 32 engineers for their Sydney office, I was already planning to send them an application.  I did not feel the need to look further because they were already tops on my list, regardless of however much of a longshot I felt it was.

I discovered Atlassian in Spring 2008, during my independant study of Web 2.0/Semantic web concepts when I was studying code coverage tools.  Their tool, Clover, not only shows code coverage, but also creates visualizations based on your source code.  And so it was that yours truly was truly hooked and Atlassian became my top choice for employment.

If you look at Atlassian’s products (most of which are $10 for 10 users, except for Clover. tsk, tsk people.) and read through some of their blogposts, you will see that they meet all of my other requirements.  Atlassian has something special going on, and I’m not the only one to have noticed.  It starts with, of all things, their core values and shows up in the quality of the products they create and their almost fanatical user base.  They have the most holistic approach to software I think I have ever seen and, although I haven’t seen their numbers because they aren’t public, they seem to have some pretty good profit margins.  So far, they appear to be winning with integrity. I’m being a bit cheeky here because this is my blog, but if I were running a company, this is how I would approach it.

I’m taking my well-planned out map of a future in the Pacific Northwest and tossing it out for an opportunity to work at a company who’s software made me reconsider what I thought was even possible for software development and also for testing.  It’s a place where I feel the best of my many crazy ideas will be encouraged.

Over the next month, I’ll be selling my stuff, filling out more paperwork and tieing things up in the States.  Working for a company as great as Atlassian and living in a city where everyone, including my new boss, runs around in flip-flops will be challenging, but I will try to manage.  Not to say that this won’t be the most challenging job EVAR, and I won’t totally be working my toucas off in the coming year…but, excuse me while I go look for my 50+ sunscreen…

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What is quality? What is art?

Fountain
Image by sunbs35 via Flickr

When you think of art that was produced in 1917, the heyday of Renoir and Monet, a men’s urinal is probably the last thing to come to mind. Yet, Marcel Duchamp submitted this “masterpiece” called “Fountain” as his statement about the quality of a certain art show. (Read more about him here and here.)

Is this great art?  Is it art at all?  What about it is or is not art?  Duchamp did not make this himself.  He bought it.  What I love about the whole episode is that it was so incendiary that people still argue about it.  People argue about this in much the same way the software testing community will be arguing about the meaning of quality until we’re all dead and the aliens are trying to decide if a McDonald’s hamburger wrapper should be catologued as that-which-the-strange-creatures-called-”art”.

This is why I love languages, writing, art and music.  They deepen the meaning of context.  They find the core of our humanity and our attempts to relate to one another.

There was a lively discussion on twitter today about art and quality:

@chris_mcmahon was asking if this is a high quality painting.  @lanettecream doesn’t think so.  @shrinik pointed out that quality is personal.  @michaelbolton thinks that it’s impossible to mention quality without also connecting the quality to someone specific (an idea of Jerry Weinberg’s in Intro to General Systems Thinking.  I guess I should read that.)  I said:  is that a trick question or what? That’s like asking someone to define art.

When I asked @lanettecream why she didn’t like the painting @chris_mcmahon linked to, she said it looked, “boring and too male.” It’s obviously not of high quality for her.

@chris_mcmahon followed up with:

it’s a painting by Franz Kline that sold for $5,122,500 in Nov 2008. does that change your mind?

Note that this is exactly the type of question and argument that goes on in any art history class.

So if quality is subjective and perception is reality, where does this leave Duchamp’s “Fountain.”  Duchamp obviously didn’t think it was of high quality.  In fact, he submitted it under the name “R.Mutt” because he didn’t want it permanently associated as his art (haha). While it was accepted for the art show, it was never displayed.  The art world is divided.  People pay millions for reproductions of it…what does that say?    How do we define quality at all?  How do we define art?

Although it is easy enough to say “context,” I question whether that is an oversimplification.  What happens when the context is shared by hundreds, thousands or millions of people over time?  My honest opinion of defining quality is that there is no one definition.  Even in defining quality and art, any levels that we give them such as high or low will eventually become superfluous much in the way that “with a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

Here is a youTube of a performance by the performance art group, Survivial Research Labs.  They build robots and unleash them upon each other until everything is completely destroyed.  I find it oddly hypnotic and comforting. I think I’ll watch it again while I ponder the meaning of testing vs. checking.

Update: Michael Bolton left a really great comment.  Those of you using a reader might want to click through.

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This is not a game.

The headlines about Haiti have been sobering. Pictures of buildings in ruins and people who are frustrated, hurt and suffering are all over the news. I’ve already donated to charity, but I’m not finished. I hope that readers of this blog are not finished donating either.

Please have a brief look at this post I wrote on my original blog over 2 years ago.  I was in games class, where we had assignments that required us to play games and write about them every week.  The game I reviewed in this post was named Ayiti and is a game about Haiti.  If you take a minute or two to scan over this post, you will see why I am not finished donating to Haiti.  If you are unfamiliar with the issues being faced by people living in this island nation, playing this game will give you quite an education.  Before you decide that I’m being played like a fiddle by the game’s designer…I’m no idiot.  I realize that the people who designed the game had certain goals in mind, but, based on the few people I’ve met from Haiti, I’m guessing that there’s not much over-dramatization in this particular case.  If you watch the coverage on the news, it’s not hard to see how little many of the people in Haiti had before they lost more than even they thought possible in the earthquake. We’re talking about a country that no longer has a presidential residence, a parliamentary building or a tax office.

This link is for the Wall Street Journal’s map of the damage. It has 3 pages so be sure to click the arrow.

There is currently a lot of media coverage around how effective different charitable organizations are in getting aid to people who need it.  Today, as I was rooting around on American consumer advocate, Clark Howard’s web-site for purely selfish reasons, I discovered that Clark has posted a link to the American Institute of Philanthropy which shows ratings for different charities of how well they’ve gotten aid to people.  Please people, let’s put aside our bickering around metrics, and give a few more dollars.

Here are the charities that had an A+

International Rescue Committee

UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) (I might be atheist, but last time I checked, a bottle of water was still non-demoninational.)

International Medical Corp.

Note: Red Cross got an A- but I’m linking to them anyway.

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