Another round of wtanz

A couple of days ago, I joined in on another weekend testing session with WTANZ. “The mission: Exploratory testing of how easy it is to get data in different formats about education in the United States and the United Kingdom from data.gov and data.gov.uk.”

I wanted to go right ahead and jump into those sites to get an idea of what kind of data is available from them. But the fates weren’t cooperating with me. I tried Chrome and couldn’t load both sites. I tried Firefox and was only able to load the US site. I felt resigned that I had no choice but to do my testing on only one of the two given sites. All was well for a short while as I was able to navigate around the site. But moments later, I couldn’t access the US site at all anymore. I tried pinging it, and was able to connect when I used the IP address. At some point, at some random try, I was eventually able to connect to both sites using Firefox.

With that out of the way, it was now on to testing in line with the mission… here were the comments I shared during the session:

comments on the US site
+ advanced search to filter out by file type, category, agency
+ i can already proceed with the download of some file types from within the search results list [edit: as compared to the UK site wherein you’d get redirected to other sites before you can actually download]
– got confused by the behavior of clicking on the file type link in the header of the search results list. Initially, i had 4 search results (csv and xls). I clicked the xml link thinking the results would be filtered out and I’d get no rows, but it didn’t turn out like that. It’s effect was more on the ordering.
– [not included in the session] i also came across Oliver’s finding that the csv file got downloaded as an exe file which wouldn’t help if you were using a mac. It’s probably a self-extracting compressed file.

comments on the UK site
+ “Data” used as label, as opposed to “Federal” in the US site, was more helpful to me
+ “Request new data” link was more noticeable than the “Suggest datasets” in the US site
+ alternative means for searching (didn’t get to try these out much though)
–> SPARQL
–> http://education.data.gov.uk/ – i got here from http://education.data.gov.uk/ but clicking search got me an “invalid or empty query parameter”. i also tried specifying “high school” into one of the search criteria but i got a not-so-helpful search results list.
– [not included in the session] agree with Oliver’s point about their data in PDF format cannot be processed

In the end, I was able to download a few files from the US site (xml, csv, xls) and a couple of PDFs from the UK site. I guess it was easier for me to meet the mission with the US site since it had the search function to filter according to file type. While in the UK site, I’d have to go to the actual search result, then go to the download page before I get to find out the format of the available data.

Other highlights I’d like to take away from the session:

  • Using frustration (or emotions) as an oracle for something wrong, as a cue to question further
  • First time to hear about KML data format
  • [4:06:38 PM] Allmas Mullah: @marlena dev complain about testers asking ‘a lot’ of questions
    [4:06:47 PM] Marlena Compton: That means u r doing ur job.
  • [4:31:10 PM] Ajay Balamurugadas: It is the TESTER who has to set and clarify the mission.
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