Saturday, April 23, 2011

WTA010 - Persistence of Time. A Weekend Testing Follow-Up

Today from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. PDT, I had the chance to facilitate another Weekend Testing Americas session. Today, I must admit, I was a little concerned, since there was a European Weekend Testers even held just thee hours earlier (which I participated in as well) and prior to that, there was a Weekend Testing event held in India. I don't know if that's a record, but that's three Weekend Testing events in one day!

Fortunately, we had a good turnout for all three events, and a good turnout today was important, because I decided to try something a bit different this time.  we looked at Rescue Time, which is a time management application. The idea is that individuals install a data collector on their local machine and then report the results to the Rescue Time web server.  The server then aggregates activities and then displays reports of what the users spent their time doing.

We split into two groups today. One group was the "Engineers", who focused on testing the application specifically to see how well it handled time management from an individuals perspective. The second group was the "Managers", and they were tasked with testing the application from the perspective of the management team and from tracking billable hours.

With this scenario, we expected to see different results from two different perspectives. The focus, parameters and heuristics used differed for both groups.  The nature of the issues found likewise differed. What was unanimous, though, was the distaste for organizations that use these types of apps to monitor and dictate compliance with such an approach. The general feeling was that the ability to game the system was widespread, and even if the system could be locked down so as to not be tampered with, there was still a lot of ways to game the system to appear to be more "productive" than the reality, as well as the fact that very productive activities could be labeled distractions by fiat.

Interestingly, the idea of using the tool on an individual basis for individual clarification and focus was not seen as negatively. In the spirit of full disclosure, I actually have been using this app, and while I likewise find it something that can be "gamed", it does do what it claims to do, and that's track the active things you work on and how long you work on them. Additional note: this application was developed for the Mac first, and then ported to the PC. Most of the issues we came across were related to the PC version.

For the rest of the story, the experience report can be viewed here and the full chat transcript can be viewed here.

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