Friday 25 May 2012

Black-box tests, Questionnaires, Dodging Motorcycles and Floating Down the Mekong

First of all, please forgive me for my lengthy absence from Blogspot, but now that I am back, I have an awful lot to write about, I just hope there is enough room to cover it all!

I had better start by explaining the reason for my lengthy absence, and it has been a more than interesting and exciting one! Over April, I travelled around South East Asia going through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. The Far East is a part of the world that I have developed an affinity with in a cultural and certainly a culinary sense (the food was fantastic, very varied and full of flavour with a bit of spice). Having previously visited the Far East, this time I wanted to see some parts of it that I didn't get to last time round, particularly Vietnam and Cambodia. At the same time though, it is also interesting to revisit certain places, in this case Bangkok and Chiang Mai, to see what has changed since last time. Also when revisiting places, one often retains a familiarity with key landmarks, which allows for some freedom and confidence for self-exploration.

Angkor Wat at dawn, Cambodia
My Far East adventure took me to some fascinating places, with the obvious highlights being Angkor Wat in Cambodia, James Bond Island in Phuket, Thailand, and the spectacular Halong Bay in Vietnam. In between these particular sights though, there many other fascinating places as well as eye-opening experiences, especially crossing the road in Saigon! Going to the east as a westerner is often a huge step outside one's comfort zone, even if one has been there previously. In western society, we are, for the main part, used to orderliness and consistency of fixed prices, but in the east, it is much more random with prices often determined by haggling or negotiation. The confusion and sometimes frustration that this can present can be similar to how it can feel to be a person with Asperger's Syndrome.

Halong Bay, Vietnam
A major factor though when out of one's home comfort zone is often the language barrier, especially if you don't speak the language of the country that you are in and its inhabitants speak little, if any, of your first language. Body language then often becomes a substitute. As a person with Asperger's Syndrome, I have found this aspect of travelling in the east helpful in being able to communicate and recognise body language, including facial expressions and eye contact. Crossing the road in Vietnam also involves this, particularly as traffic doesn't often stop at crossings, instead, when crossing the road in Saigon, you walk into traffic and the motorcycle drivers swerve around you. Adapting this this was an interesting experience as well as re-adapting to the more conventional way of crossing roads when crossing the border back into Thailand where oncoming vehicles don't swerve around you.

Phang Nga Bay (James Bond Island), Thailand,
where the 007 film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) was shot
After a month of dodging motorcycles and floating down the Mekong, I am now back at work, where I have been doing my first piece of practical software testing, testing a mobile phone app, which could possibly be a big growth area for Autism Works. In relation to my Asperger traits, I really enjoyed the routine and repetitive nature of the task. Peter was also impressed that I remembered the terminology of the type of testing - Black-Box, testing an application with no knowledge of the code. Elsewhere, I am working with City of Sunderland Council to develop an autism-friendly questionnaire to send to individuals and families affected by autism in Sunderland to collect data, allowing the council to undertake an audit enabling them to plan services more effectively. Even for a person on the autistic spectrum, this is a challenge, but I am finding that my experience of forming job application form and interview questions helpful in picking out and amending ambiguous or abstract questions and statements, including removing them where possible.

Reflections on the Mekong, Laos
While I was away, I managed to reach the first target of my fundraising activity for Daisy Chain - The Bupa Great North Run. To help prepare myself physically for the event, I have registered with Park Run, to take part in some organised runs. The next target to aim at now is Kilimanjaro 2013. A huge thank you to all who have donated so far! To find out more or to donate, please visit the following link -

To see how app testing and questionnaire design continues to unfold, as well as fundraising events, stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works.