On Sale for an Extra $2

To be a good tester you must be curious about technology, and eager to  learn it. You must be able to ask questions and make explanations. You  must be skeptical, but you must have at least a little faith about one  thing: the possibility of undiscovered trouble.” – James Bach

Whether they know it or not, consumers often possess the mindset of a tester. They take nothing for granted, question everything and think outside of the lab – I mean think outside the box.

In this instance, a Target shopper decided to take a closer look at what seemed like a suspicious sale. Here’s what they found:

After looking for some groceries on sale, I wandered over to the DVD section. I saw “Battlestar Galactica: The Plan” on sale for $16.99. After reading your site for a while, I learned to look behind the sale card on the DVD. The sale price is $2 more than the regular price. Looks like I’ll wait for the “sale” to end before I consider buying this DVD.”

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An In-the-Wild Test from CNET

iPad Tested In-The-WildYou already know that the testing matrix is complicated by hardware and software, plus several versions of each. But people often forget that carrier and network strength are also testing matrix considerations. Your app may work perfectly on AT&T in the middle of a heavy cell tower area, but how does it work on Sprint in the fields of Nebraska? What about on the coast of Croatia? In Thailand? Serbia? Does it work ok on O2 in Europe and Lime in Latin America? That’s what in-the-wild testing is all about.

And we’re not the only ones recognizing the need to check out devices on different carriers in different locations – CNET recently conducted their own study.

While it’s impossible to account for every conceivable variable when testing a device, having offices around the world affords CNET the unique opportunity to, at the very least, get an idea of how different networks in different countries can affect a device’s performance. We chose the iPad as our first test guinea pig.

We tested the cellular speed of Apple’s new iPad in four different cities: San Francisco, London, Singapore, and Sydney. …

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In California, the Car Drives You

Cars driving themselves…seriously, what could possibly go wrong? Thanks to recent legislation in Cali-fornia, a lot less than you might think. That’s because said legislation has established “standards and guidelines” for autonomous vehicles operating on the state’s roads and highways. It passed the state senate by a count of 37-0. Yup.

Here’s Wired.com with the details on this “in-the-wild” testing project:

The bill, authored by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), is on its way to the State Assembly for consideration, and it’s expected to pass within the next month.

“Thousands of Californians tragically die in auto accidents each year,” Padilla said after the bill’s passage. “The vast majority of these collisions are due to human error. Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle can analyze the driving environment more quickly and accurately and can operate the vehicle more safely.”

The legislation isn’t quite as broad as the law recently passed by Nevada to allow autonomous vehicles to test on the state’s roads, but would rather set up a series of safety guidelines and performance standards that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) would use to evaluate the operation of such vehicles in the state.

Further, autonomous vehicles testing in California would have to meet all applicable state and federal safety standards, and work in conjunction with the CHP and the Department of Motor Vehicles to recommend additional requirements. And naturally, a licensed driver would need to be in the vehicle at all times.

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In-The-Wild Testing, Minus the Wild

Ghost TownThe concept of in-the-wild testing is to see how a product works in real life – how it interacts with other products in populated areas that offer up a shmorgishborg of possible interference and, most importantly, in the hands of everyday people and all the silly (and foolish) things they do.

Unfortunately, it’s that second part that this new technology “ghost town” in New Mexico is missing. It’s a full scale city (15 square miles) modeled after Rock Hill, S.C., complete with roads, highways, new and old buildings and houses, and fully fleshed-out electrical and plumbing systems – solely dedicated to testing new smart devices and technology. From The Associated Press:

A scientific ghost town in the heart of southeastern New Mexico oil and gas country will hum with the latest next-generation technology — but no people.

A $1 billion city without residents will be developed in Lea County near Hobbs, officials said Tuesday, to help researchers test everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets. …

The point of the town is to enable researchers to test new technologies on existing infrastructure without interfering in everyday life. For instance, while some researchers will be testing smart technologies on old grids, others might be using the streets to test self-driving cars.

It’s an interesting concept, stuck somewhere in between lab-testing and in-the-wild testing.

Sharks With Frickin’ Laser Beams Attached To Them

I’ve been waiting ten years to write that headline. My career as a blogger is now complete. As it says, Dr. Evil’s vision of “sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to them” is now a reality. And as it turns out, this story actually has a lot to do with in-the-wild testing.

Here’s Wired.com on the details:

Marine biologist-cum-TV personality Luke Tipple attached a 50-milliwatt green laser to a lemon shark off the coast of the Bahamas in late April. The escapade was sponsored by Wicked Lasers, a consumer-focused laser manufacturer based in Hong Kong that produces some of the most brilliant — and potentially dangerous — handheld lasers in the world.

“This was definitely a world first,” Tipple told Wired. “Initially, I told them no. I thought it was a frivolous stunt. But then I considered that it would give us an opportunity to test our clips and attachments, and whatever is attached to that clip, I really don’t care. It was a low-powered laser that couldn’t be dangerous to anyone, and there’s actually useful applications in having a laser attached to the animal.”

Tipple said the experiment was instructive in a number of ways. For starters, he was able to further test his clamping apparatus, which is typically used for traditional data-aquisition equipment.

He also wanted to verify anecdotal evidence that sharks avoid laser energy of specific spectrums and wavelengths. Curiously, at least with the Wicked Lasers model, he found the opposite to be true: “Although further testing is necessary, time and time again, sharks were actually attracted to the laser beam,” he said.

Finally, he said the experiment was helpful in measuring a shark’s velocity and trajectory in real time. “We were able to see how their body positioning relates to a target,” he said. “You can get a very clear description, via the laser, of what the shark’s body is doing.”

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In The Wild Testing Gets Dirty

And here’s a good way to clean it up: the Bheestie Bag. Here are the details on this must-have product (if you’re testing in the wild, that is) from Wired.com:

We don’t live in a vacuum. Neither do our gadgets. From steamy bathrooms to grubby, sweaty hands, little bits of moisture tend to creep into our electronics.

Enter the Bheestie, an airtight plastic pouch that sucks — in a good way. It holds two smaller, porous bags that contain several peppercorn-sized pellets. In theory, these bags act like molecular sieves, absorbing moisture that’s managed to get inside an electronics device. After 24 hours, says the company claim, the beads will extract almost twice as much water as a cup of uncooked rice — a common DIY method for saving soggy gadgets.

Now, the company’s FAQ doesn’t promise miracles. But it does say reviving a phone dropped in the toilet isn’t out of the question. We started by stuffing a damp sponge into the bag and were impressed by how much water came running out only an hour later. So we decided to go big. We sacrificed a first-gen Droid — oops! — by letting the phone cannonball from waist high into the bowl. We fished it out, shoved it into a virgin bag, and waited. Within an hour, the bag was giving off noticeable heat, a byproduct of the absorption. Color us optimistic, but after 72 hours, the recommended duration, we cracked the Bheestie and found a dead Droid.

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[Video] The IE9 Testing Lab is Pretty Cool

Although we stress the need to test applications in-the-wild, that does NOT mean that we’re against testing in a lab or simulated environment. Far from it. Unfortunately, most companies can’t afford to construct and operate an expensive lab.

Microsoft is not one of those companies, as evidenced by this neat video on their test lab for IE9:

In-The-Wild Testing Milestone: The Flying Car

Terrafugia Flying CarThat’s right, a real life flying car has been tested in-the-wild(-blue-yonder). Developed by Terrafugia, this less-than-sexy flying automobile made its first official flight from Plattsburgh Airport in New York last month. The “carplane” made an initial, mildly successful flight in 2009 but underwent some redesigns in the intervening years. This time around it did a bit better. Here are the specs, from The Register:

The Transition, which can drive on roads and highways, park in a single car garage and fly on unleaded automotive fuel, reached an altitude of 1,400 feet (426.7m) in the test and stayed aloft for around eight minutes.

But six phases of flight testing are planned before Terrafugia can make its first deliveries.


In-The-Wild Testing Means Real World End Users

Testing in-the-wild isn’t just about putting your product or app to the test in a real world environment. It’s also about putting your product or app to the test with real world users. Developers know how their product is supposed to work so that’s all they can see. Plus, if your product is designed for college students, or pregnant women, or the elderly, or a professional (insert profession here), testing it in the lab with developers isn’t going to ensure its intuitiveness with the target demographic (unless you happen to have some college students, pregnant women, elderly people or professional Xers in your office).

Case in point, MacWorld hosted a panel featuring five bloggers, tech writers, designers and developers and had them discuss apps they love, and their flaws. They discuss apps and desktop software that they use every day and features they wish the products had (or didn’t have). It’s an interesting video, but it’s 47 minutes long, so if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing there are a few interesting points to take away after the break.

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Mouthwash and Hoses Need In-The-Wild Testing Too

Stainless steel appliances get covered in handprintsIn-the-wild testing isn’t just for technology – every once and a while you get an item or product and think “How in the world did this make it to market!?” Steve Tobak, over at CBS Money Watch, highlighted a few things that clearly weren’t put through real-world, real-life tests.

Neutrogena Shampoo Container

My favorite shampoo has a cool new container that stands upright so its opening is capped on the bottom. The problem is, when you drop it – and you will – this tiny plastic piece that plugs the opening breaks off so, when you set it down, all the shampoo leaks out. I’m two-for-two on this. Still love the shampoo … if I can only keep it bottled up.

 Listerine Total Care

My dentist recommended Listerine Total Care with fluoride. It’s purple. It stained my teeth purple. Yes, I know saliva chemistry is a complicated thing, but still, it’s hard to believe.

Stainless Steel Products That Stain

You pay all this money for stainless-steel products that look cool … until they stain. I’m not talking five years down the road, I’m talking five months.

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