Call Me ‘Maybe’

Sorry to disappoint- I am not talking about Carly Rae Jepson’s super cheesy hit single. I am talking about a new website that will help you make decisions in-the-wild. AdMob Founder Omar Hamoui, has announced a new startup called “Maybe” that helps users make everyday decisions as they go. From what pair of shoes to purchase, to what tablet case to get for a new iPad, Maybe will help you make decisions when you’re stuck between different options.

How does Maybe help you?

According to Anthony Ha of TechCrunch:

“…when you visit the Maybe site, you create questions like “What movie should I watch this weekend?” then list all the different options you are considering. You can add items either by copy-and-pasting a link or using the Maybe bookmarklet. Once you’ve got a question that you want to ask, you can share it with specific friends on the site, or open it to the general Maybe userbase. You can also share it on Facebook and Twitter.”

Just crowdsource your options to others, and let them do the thinking for you. With Maybe, you are essentially doing in-the-wild testing on your different styles or purchases before you even make them.

Google Tests In-The-Wild

Google's Self Driving CarGet ready public, Google’s self-driving car is about to take to the streets for a little in-the-wild testing! The car just took (and passed) a driving test in Nevada. The state has apparently been working on an “autonomous vehicle licensing program” since last June and made it officially legal in February. For now, the new license is limited to test cars only. Here’s PCWorld with the details:

Obtaining Nevada’s self-driving car license clears the way for Google to test its technology on public roads in the state.

Google’s modified Toyota Prius was given the thumbs up after successful test drives in Carson City and on the Las Vegas strip. Alongside the special license, Nevada also issued the car a unique set of red license plates that include the infinity symbol and the words “autonomous car.”…

To be approved for road travel, autonomous cars must have a combined minimum driving time of 10,000 miles. Nevada also requires autonomous car operators to submit a complete description of their self-driving technology, a detailed safety plan, and a plan for hiring and training test drivers. …

Nevada says a number of other unnamed companies are looking to follow Google and test self-driving cars on the state’s public roads.

Read the full article at PCWorld >>>

And if in-the-wild testing goes well, Nevada hopes to expand the new license to private citizens.

The state’s DMV says it plans to issue privately owned self-driving cars a green license plate that will also include the infinity symbol. Motorists will also be required to obtain a special driver license endorsement before they can get behind the wheel of future robotic cars.

Who know Nevada had such a cutting-edge view of in-the-wild testing? Good job Nevada!

9/11 Memorial Embraces Technology In Amazing Ways

9/11 MemorialThe In-the-Wild Testing Blog often takes a tongue-in-cheek, light hearted look at products that can only be tested outside a lab and things that really should have been tested in the real world (but weren’t). But in-the-wild testing is truly a major component of many successful new endeavors. And while some of those endeavors seem a bit silly (hello flying car!) others are sombre realities that use technology to give people experiences like nothing they’ve ever encountered. Today’s post is one of the latter cases.

This might be the tech geek in me talking, but there is something beautiful about cutting edge technology being seamlessly integrated into everyday life and new situations (you should have seem my face the first time I encountered a holographic museum!). The recently opened  9/11 Memorial at ground zero in New York City is an amazing example of enlisting technology in new and exciting ways that will help people both navigate the memorial space and truly comprehend the magnitude of the events on September 11, 2001.

CNET gives an amazingly detailed look at what the Memorial has to offer. Here’s a few things I find particularly interesting in terms of in-the-wild testing:

Finding a Name

While the names on some other American memorials are listed alphabetically, those at the 9/11 Memorial are not. Instead, they’re listed in what at first appears to be random order, but is really based on an algorithm that takes into consideration a number of factors including whether they were an employee at a company that lost a lot of people, or whether they were a first responder. As well, victims’ families and friends were able to request grouping certain names adjacent to each other. All of which, of course, makes finding a specific name next to impossible.

That’s where a tool built for several different platforms comes into play. Known as the 9/11 Memorial Guide, it allows visitors — or even those at a computer at home — to search for someone’s name, or for someone who worked for a specific company, was from a specific city, or who was a first responder. …

To bring this functionality to as many visitors as possible, the organization behind the memorial commissioned a mobile app that, among other things, lets visitors search for someone’s name. And because the organization knows that not everyone comes prepared, they’ve installed a Wi-Fi network at the site that should allow iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone users to download the app.

Read more…

In-The-Wild Ingenuity Solves Real-World Problem

Extreme PotholeDo you keep hitting the same pothole and telling yourself you’ll report it to the city as soon as you get home, only to forget about it until the next day when you hit the pothole all over again? Or maybe you do remember but you’re not sure which department to contact, and the city’s phone menu isn’t any help. Well, Cambridge, MA recognized these issues, and being one of the smartest, techiest cities in the US they decided to do something about it, in-the-wild app style. Here’s what they came up with, from PCWorld:

The Cambridge iReport app allows smartphone users to report issues in real time and in fewer steps.

[CIO Mary] Hart first piloted Cambridge iReport through the city’s website to see how much activity it would get. She received 80 reports within the first month and made the decision to skip a pilot of the mobile version and go straight into development. …

The app lets citizens include photos of potholes, burned-out street lights, graffiti and rodent problems, or just send text descriptions. Google Maps marks the location of the issue, and if it’s within six miles of Cambridge, it gets pulled into the city’s work-order system. From there, it’s assigned to the proper city worker.

To close the loop, the citizen who submitted the issue will get a confirmation email saying her complaint was received and can later check on the progress of the problem.

Read the full article at PCWorld >>>

That’s some real in-the-wild ingenuity!

Wild Words of Wisdom

From Michael Bolton (Principal at DevelopSense) on a recent testing roundtable discussion:

So far as I can tell, most companies treat software development as implementation of highly idealized business processes, and they treat testing as an exercise in showing that the software models those processes in a way that’s technically correct. At the same time, companies treat the people who use the software as an abstraction. The consequence is that we’re creating software that delays and frustrates the people who use it or are affected by it. When testing is focused almost entirely on checking the functions in the software, we miss enormous opportunities to learn about the real problems that people encounter as they go about their business. Why are testers so often isolated from actual end-users?

Today I was traveling through the airport. When I checked in using the online service, I had accidentally noted that I’d be checking two bags, but I only brought one with me. In addition, my flight was cancelled, and I had to be put on a later flight. The customer service representative could get me onto that flight, but she had serious trouble in printing a boarding pass associated with only one bag; apparently there was a warning message that couldn’t be dismissed, such that her choices were to accept either three bags or none at all. It took fifteen minutes and two other representatives to figure out how to work around the problem. What’s worse is that the woman who was trying to help me apologized for not being able to figure it out, as if it were her responsibility. Software development organizations have managed to convince our customers that they’re responsible for bugs and unforgiving and unhelpful designs.

The success of a software product is only partly based on how it handles the happy path. That’s relatively easy to develop, and it’s relatively easy to check. Real testing, to me, should be based on investigating how the software allows people to deal with what we call “exceptions” or “corner cases”. That’s what we call them, but if we bothered to look, we’d find out that they were a lot more common than we realize; routine, even. Part of my vision of testing is to include a new discipline in which we do significant field research and participant observation. Instead of occasionally inviting customers to the lab (never mind sitting in the lab all by ourselves), we testers—and our organizations—could learn a lot through direct interaction with people who use the software every day; by close collaboration with technical support; and by testing rich and complex scenarios that are a lot closer to real life than simplified, idealized use cases.

Continue reading >>>

Testing Under The Sea

Underwater ShipwreckTesting in-the-wild is all about preparing for situations that can’t be recreated in a lab or on a simulator. When your product is intended to deal with the ever changing currents, landscape and surface conditions of an ocean there’s a lot that can’t be tested in the lab.

As any sailor will tell you, the sea is a fickle woman – which makes relying in-the-lab testing a bit tricky. That’s why Sandy Takacs, a software engineer, takes her work into-the-wild for testing. Sandy builds unmanned, underwater vehicles that are used to find wrecks, map the ocean floor, inspect underwater pipelines and aid the fishing industry, among other things. Here’s how Sandy tests the vehicles in-the-wild (from Boston.com):

Once we add code modifications to either the vehicle or its user console, we need to verify that those modifications work as expected and that there are no adverse issues with the new software. To do that, we frequently go out onto Buzzard’s Bay, Cape Cod Bay or the Atlantic Ocean off of Chatham to test the new software. One of my first projects required testing the ability of a vehicle to berth to a moving underwater dock. This required that the AUV hone in on the location, then successfully latch. It was the first time in history this was done autonomously, so it was a pretty fun project. …

With the current, waves, and turbulence from the outboard motors of the surface vessels, it was tough to try to hit the small target. These were all fluctuations that needed to be taken into account within the software algorithms. The algorithms needed to be refined within the vehicle software and reloaded with the new updates. But we were finally able to hone in and make a successful attempt that worked 80-90 percent of the time.

Read the full article >>>