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Save the Media Disruption Monster

Software testing at the human-machine interface

Media disruptions are monsters of digital communication. The prehistoric ones are the real monsters. In the pre-digital world, it was difficult to edit a text: a monster sat in front of this endeavor, it required a lot of manual work, slowed down all the processes and produced error after error. The monster watched contentedly as employees labored to copy a text – the photocopy didn’t make things much better either: the copier took a photo, but if you wanted to change something – even if it was just to correct a spelling mistake – you had to retype the text. Still the monster sat there again and had to be satisfied with great effort. 

But then – not so long ago – the poor monsters were put out of business. Information could be stored digitally – it could be changed at will. The monster was locked away, because the digital world was not their habitat.

However, this only works if no metamorphosis – towards analogue information – has taken place. A printed piece of paper – and there it was again, a fat monster making further processing more complex.

That’s why there are countless monster hunters: every media break is mercilessly tracked.  The monster was inefficient, it created security gaps, cost printing and postage costs and increased the volume of data. Little by little, the monster disappeared from many processes.

The monster’s very own home

However, there is one interface – and it is a particularly important one – from which the monster cannot be expelled: the interface between man and machine. Digital information is worthless for prehistoric humans if it cannot be captured “analogue” with such old-fashioned interfaces as eyes, ears or fingers…

This is exactly where the monster is still spreading today – and is up to mischief: there are many monster hunters who want to pull the teeth of the remaining monsters: through human interface design, or through “accessibility”.

Many programs simply try to deny the media disruption monster – by claiming that the human interface is not a real interface at all, but something completely different…

This leads to a strange effect: in development – and in software testing – the monsters are banished, they should not exist here. A great deal of effort goes into this: plug-ins that are regarded as monster-hunting weapons. However, the production of these tools is complex – and their use harbors dangers of its own: These tools can easily develop into monsters themselves, open security doors or influencing the software being tested. The cozy plug-ins quickly turn into rather unpleasant gremlins.

However, the media disruption monsters appear in real use and produce strange effects: Misleading displays, time delays, difficulties with inputs. This may only sound annoying, but it can generate considerable problems and bring entire processes to a standstill.

Co-operating with the monster

We are not fighting the monster, quite the opposite. We think it helps us during testing. On the one hand, it drives away the annoying gremlins we know as the plug-in monsters – and thus saves a lot of effort and trouble (just ask test automation specialists). Our DRVLESS automation deliberately avoids media discontinuity: the information is read from the screen and input is made via the USB interface. We go even further for specific applications:

A touchscreen as an interface? Then just use haptic input. We can even use acoustic interfaces.

Special, well-functioning tools are needed to tame the interface monsters: intelligent image recognition (what is the input window now?), excellent OCR (what darn number is that?), an algorithm that not only identifies character strings but also understands their meaning. All these tools are available today – thanks to artificial intelligence. They not only make our monster soft to the touch, they also help us to make the software human-friendly. 

Written by Willi Linder

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