More Ways to Test – Nightmare Headlines

The recent furor over the Iowa caucus results where an app caused chaos reminded me of The Nightmare Headline Game, which can be a great technique to assess risk and the level of testing needed. It can also be a fun game to let a team’s imagination run wild.

Maybe you’re not writing an app to tally votes in an election that’s under intense national scrutiny. All your app does is make sure your pet is fed. But imagine the headline when someone’s favorite family pet starves to death because the server was down. We all know how much the media loves a story about animals…

Headlines can also focus your thoughts on what happens if something does go wrong. Is your assumption that your app will work perfectly and that all the services it connects to will never go down and that there will always be power? Not a safe assumption. So what’s your back-up plan? Is it to write departure flights and gates on a whiteboard as happened when check-in systems at Heathrow airport had issues?

If you’re looking for weird and wacky ideas about what might go wrong, headlines can help with this too. You might not consider the weather, but there are examples of the wrong sort of snow and the wrong sort of sunlight causing problems — and now trampolines being blown by the wind are causing unexpected problems.

Hands-up from anyone who had this as a test case?

Taking time to consider worst-case scenarios and disaster recovery can be a worthwhile exercise, and keeping an eye on the news for ideas can help you come up with scenarios. Do you do any planning for what might go wrong, if so how do you go about it? Let me know in the comments.