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In the cut-throat world of video-conferencing applications, Google has chosen Google Meet as its champion. The application, which is now available on all platforms, isn’t quite as robust as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, but it’s gradually picking up the pace for its rapidly expanding userbase.

Thanks to Google’s humongous ecosystem and user-friendly demeanor, a significant section of the work-from-home crowd has chosen Google Meet as its go-to video-conferencing application. This phenomenon has naturally led to large meetings, which has made it almost impossible to keeping track of meeting attendees manually.

Thankfully, Google took note of the problem and released the automatic attendance feature for most Google Meet users. Today, we’ll take a look at the newly launched attendance tracking and tell you how you could get the most out of it.

Related: How to Make Google Meet: Start, Invite and Admit People to Meeting

Is attendance tracking enabled for all?

Google Meet’s attendance tracking was first officially introduced for Enterprise for Education users in September. After its grand unveiling and success, Google has decided to roll out the perk for most of its other account types. We’re using the word “most” strongly because not every Google Meet user or account type is getting the feature.

Currently, Google Meet’s attendance tracking is available for Business Plus, Essentials, Enterprise Essentials, Enterprise Standard, and Enterprise Plus users. The new attendance tracking isn’t available for G Suite Basic, Business, Education, Nonprofits, Workspace Business Starter, and Business Standard users.

The Enterprise for Education users can use attendance tracking but the Standard Education license won’t have this feature.

Related: How to see everyone on Google Meet on PC and Phone

What does a typical attendance report contain?

As you may have guessed already, every eligible meeting in Google Meet gets an attendance report after it is concluded. It’s not excruciatingly detailed — for better or worse — but delivers all the basics you could ask for.

First off, you’ll get the names and email IDs of all the attendees. You’ll also have the duration of the time they were actually on the call, including the enter and exit times. If an attendee leaves and re-joins a bunch of times, only their total duration would be counted. Finally, when an attendee is kicked out, the timestamp will show it as the moment they left the call.

Related: How to mute yourself, teacher, and host on Google Meet

How to enable attention tracking and get the attendance report?

Now that you have a fair idea about its availability and what’s included in a report, let’s see how to get a nice attendance report at the end of your meetings.

Enterprise for Education users

As mentioned, the feature was first rolled out to Enterprise for Education users, in September. These users do not have to move an extra muscle to get the attendance report delivered straight to their inbox.

Whenever a meeting organizer — one who hosts the meeting — concludes a meeting, they get the detailed attendance report delivered straight to their email ID. The feature is enabled by default.

Other Google Meet users

If you don’t have an Enterprise for Education license, you’ll need to work a little more to get the job done. Google has kept the attendance report option turned off by default, but there are a couple of ways to get it up and running again.

Related: How to unmute on Google Meet

In-meeting controls

Now, go to ‘Settings’ and hit ‘Host controls.’ Finally, hit the toggle next to ‘Attendance tracking’ to turn it on.

That’s it! After your meeting concludes, you — the meeting organizer — will get a detailed attendance report in your inbox.

Through Google Calendar

If you wish to configure attendance tracking before a meeting starts, you could turn to Google Calendar for help.

First, go to the Google Calendar homepage and select the meeting you want to edit. Now, go to ‘Edit event’ and select ‘Change conference settings.’ Then, check the box right next to ‘Attendance tracking.’ Finally, hit ‘Save.’

Similarly, you could cook in the attendance tracking feature while creating a new meeting event. After going to the Google Calendar website, you’ll need to select ‘Add Google Meet video conferencing’ and select the ‘Change conference settings’ option on the right.

Then, check the box next to ‘Attendance tracking’ and hit ‘Save.’ Recheck other meeting options and set it up.

That’s it! The meeting report will be delivered straight to your inbox.

Related: Zoom vs Google Meet: All you need to know

Attendance tracking for other Google Meet users

If you don’t have an eligible Google Meet plan, you’ll not have the privilege of using the official Google Meet attendance tracking. However, that doesn’t mean you should not have the privilege of keeping track of your students/colleagues in a meeting.

Since Google Meet is a web browser-based application, you can practically use any number of extensions on it. Chromium-based browsers, such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, have the most excellent collection of extensions for Google Meet — including the one in focus: attendance tracking. Using these free extensions, you can keep track of the ins and outs in real-time and, of course, download the summary at the end of it.


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Google Meet Vs. Zoom Vs. Skype: Is Google Meet Any Good?

Google’s long history of messaging and chat apps has taken yet another turn this month with the newly named Google Meet. Better known as Google Hangouts Meet, this service incorporates the best of Hangouts into a more business-friendly package. Let’s take a look at how Google Meet compares to Zoom and Skype.

Using Google Meet

The most important thing to note with Google Meet is that anyone can now use it. Google recently removed its stipulation that only Google Suite users could initiate a video call. Access to scheduling free video calls is slowly rolling out to Google users. Free accounts will be limited to 60-minute meetings with up to 100 participants beginning in September 2023. Until then, Google is allowing unlimited calls while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Anyone with a Google account can join and soon schedule a Meet.

Google Meet apps are available on iOS, Android, and the Web, as well as Chromebooks. To start a Meet, you must “join or start a meeting” at chúng tôi If you have a meeting ID, you can enter it right at that web address and immediately join. Google account holders can set up a meeting on the same page.

How Much Does Google Meet Cost

At this time, Google’s free version of Meet remains limited. To gain full functionality with Meet, you or your organization has to subscribe to one of three Google Suite tiers. Google’s “Basic” plan costs $6 a month per user with no minimum number of users. There is also a “Business” plan ($12) and “Enterprise” plan ($25), all of which include access to Google Meet.

How Does Meet Pricing Compare?

Skype only charges when you wish to call a mobile device or landline. It offers unlimited minutes to any landline or mobile phone for $2.99 a month. Otherwise, video/message/text chats are all free.

Zoom offers four sets of plans including a free Tier. The free tier allows up to 100 participants, though video calls are limited to just 40 minutes. Zoom’s additional price points of $14.99 and $19.99 per month are good for one host each.

Google Meet’s new free plan enables 100 users to video chat for up to 60 minutes, which is slightly better than Zoom. Google’s paid plans also become more attractive when you factor in the additional Google Drive storage and other GSuite features.

Meet Versus Zoom

Ultimately, Zoom takes less effort to join overall. It allows up to 500 users on a call at a single time with up to 49 displayed at once. Meet allows up to 250 participants on a single video conference but only 16 users can be displayed. That’s a major leg up for Zoom. Meet also feels less intuitive to use with a semi-messy dashboard, while Zoom feels cleaner and more polished. Both applications allow you to share images, files and documents through the chat box during any meeting.

Features and usability-wise, Zoom likely takes the prize as the better of the two video conferencing applications.

Meet Versus Skype

Like Zoom, Skype also fights Google Meet head on thanks to its excellent free account option. While the best features of Zoom and Google Meet require paid accounts, Skype offers up the majority of its services with zero payment. That’s far different from Meet which requires you to subscribe to its “Basic” service for anything beyond video calls.

Both services allow you to share videos, documents, images and participate in group chats. Like Meet, Skype is also available across Windows, iOS, Android and Mac. Skype only enables support for up to 50 people at a time on a call while Meet adds support for up to 250. You can share your screen on both services. Meet does offer closed captioning as part of its services, something Skype does not support.

Meet and Skype easily integrate with Outlook for added functionality. Both services allow video calls to be recorded and accessed for up to 30 days. Even with a higher price tag, this race is pretty close. That you can access just about every Skype feature for free gives it a significant leg up. However, the low cost of Google Meet comes with so many extras that it’s hard to ignore. In the end, unless you have a large built-in group of friends or colleagues already on Skype, Google Meet is worth a look.

Even as competitors like Zoom and Skype offer plenty of value, Google Meet remains a giant in the space. While there are some minor differences between the three video conferencing tools, all of them are very competent tools and have no issues meeting your needs. Regardless of which video conference tool you are using, make sure you follow these tips when you are video conferencing at home.

David Joz

David is a freelance tech writer with over 15 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves all things Nintendo.

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Google Makes 4 Changes To Index Coverage Report

Google Search Console’s Index Coverage report is receiving 4 updates to keep site owners better informed about indexing issues.

The Index Coverage report is new compared to other reports Google offers, as it was first introduced when the revamped version of Search Console launched in 2023.

Since the launch of the Index Coverage report site owners have been sharing feedback with Google about improvements they’d like to see made in the future.

Changes to the Index Coverage report, rolling out today, are based on the feedback provided by the webmaster community.

“Based on the feedback we got from the community, today we are rolling out significant improvements to this report so you’re better informed on issues that might prevent Google from crawling and indexing your pages. The change is focused on providing a more accurate state to existing issues, which should help you solve them more easily.”

Changes to Search Console Index Coverage Report

The list of changes to the Index Coverage report in Search Console includes:

Removal of the generic “crawl anomaly” issue type – all crawls errors should now be mapped to an issue with a finer resolution.

Pages that were submitted but blocked by chúng tôi and got indexed are now reported as “indexed but blocked” (warning) instead of “submitted but blocked” (error)

Addition of a new issue: “indexed without content” (warning)

Soft 404 reporting is now more accurate

The overarching theme of these updates appears to be data accuracy.

There’s no more guesswork involved when it comes to crawl errors as the “crawl anomaly” issue is being replaced with specific issues and resolutions.

Site owners will know with certainty if a page indexed by Google is blocked by chúng tôi because the report will state “indexed but blocked” rather than “submitted but blocked.” Submitting a URL is not the same as having it indexed, and the report is now updated to reflect that.

Soft 404 reporting is said to be more accurate, and there’s the addition of a brand new issue called “indexed without content.” Let’s take a closer look at that issue in case it comes up in one of your reports.

Here’s what the Search Console Help page says about indexed without content:

“This page appears in the Google index, but for some reason Google could not read the content. Possible reasons are that the page might be cloaked to Google or the page might be in a format that Google can’t index. This is not a case of chúng tôi blocking.”

If you come across the indexed without content issue it means the URL is in Google’s index but its web crawlers cannot view the content.

That could mean you’ve accidentally published a blank page, or there’s an error on the page which is preventing Google from rendering the content.

The URL Inspection tool will render the page as Google sees it which may help with understanding why the content is not viewable to Google’s web crawlers.

These changes are now reflected in the Index Coverage report. Site owners may see new types of issues, or changes in counts of issues.

For more information see Google’s official blog post.

How To Flip Or Mirror Camera On Google Meet On Windows And Mac

Google Meet doesn’t mirror or flip your video for your audience, even though it shows you a mirror view in your preview. So, there is no need to flip it per see to correct the view. However, if you need to really flip or mirror your video on Google Meet for some reason, this guide will help you out.

Does Google Meet flip camera?

Yes and no. Google Meet does flip your camera feed but there is a catch to it — it only mirrors the video in the preview shown to you, your audience sees the unmirrored view. Google Meet does this so that people can see the video preview as they see in the mirror without it being too jarring for them.

However, Google Meet does not flip your video for the end-user. This means that even if text and items in your video preview might appear to be flipped to you, they are shown in the correct orientation to your meeting participants. This is a great boon for teachers and trainers that use Google Meet to convey important concepts to their meeting participants. This often involves the use of Whiteboards and charts which can lose their meaning if they are flipped in the video.

Why do I see a mirrored camera?

Like most smartphones and webcams, Google automatically flips the video preview for you. This is an ongoing trend of the recent decade that has a lot to do with the popularity of selfies and the introduction of dedicated selfie cameras on smartphones. Humans are used to seeing their flipped image due to the everyday use of real mirrors in our lives. Most of us are used to looking at our flipped image, so seeing an unmirrored image of ourselves can often be jarring for many users.

To combat this jarring experience and to provide a more aesthetic and selfie-friendly environment, companies started to mirror smartphone video previews so that they resemble an everyday mirror. This trend soon caught on and is now virtually available in every service that captures video from any electronic device be it a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or dedicated camera.

How to mirror camera in Google Meet

As stated above, the video is flipped/mirrored only for your preview and appears un-mirrored for your audience. So, there is no need to flip it. If you still wish to flip your video for your meeting participants in Google Meet then you can achieve this by using one of the guides below depending on your system. Let’s take a look at the procedure.

On Mac

To flip the video feed when using Google Meet on a Mac, you first need to launch the Quicktime Player app on your Mac from the ‘Launchpad’.

You will now be shown a QuickTime recording screen with a video preview. You can now proceed to launch Google Meet on Google Chrome, and join a meeting where you want to show the mirrored/flipped video.

And that’s it. Your meeting participants should now be able to view a flipped video from your camera’s feed.

On Windows

Note: While using the default camera app worked for us on most devices, some manufacturers are known to restrict the functionality to mirror your video on the device. If your default camera app does not mirror your video, then simply download Snap Camera from this link and follow the guide below. But instead of presenting the ‘Camera’ app in your meeting, present the preview from your Snap Camera app. (Ensure that you aren’t accidentally using Snapchat filters in a professional environment).

Now the app will automatically show you a video preview where your image will be flipped.

Select ‘A Window‘.

Your flipped video feed from the camera preview will now be displayed to all the meeting participants.

Using a Chrome extension

If you are casting your screen and you want to flip a specific content/video on the webpage, then we recommend using one of these Chrome extensions.

You can add a Chrome extension for Flip Screen if you want to flip all text on the webpage that you are casting. This extension flips all the content on the webpage.

If you want to only flip content in videos then we recommend using the Video Mirror extension. It will flip content on videos and is also compatible with Google Meet.

How to Flip your Camera without sharing your screen

The methods we have explained above let you flip the camera view on your computer through inbuilt camera applications and then let you share them as a presentation to give a mirrored effect. If you don’t want to share your screen to be able to flip your camera view but want others to see a mirrored version of yourself directly from your camera source, then this method may help achieve just that. 

You should note that we’re using a third-party app – Snap Camera to get this to work and if you’re familiar with this application on your computer, mirroring content from your camera will be a much easier affair. 

We can split this process into three parts – Installing Snap Camera software, Applying filters to invert your camera, and Enabling Snap Camera inside Google Meet. 

Install and Set Up Snap Camera on your computer

If you’re familiar with downloading and installing applications for your Windows or Mac computer, then you may directly go to the Snap Camera download page. In case you’re not used to the ordeal, you can check out the guide we’ve prepared in the link below to download and install Snap Camera on your PC. 

▶ How do you download and install Snap Camera?

Once Snap Camera has been installed on your computer, you cannot start using it straight away. You need to grant it permission to access your camera since modern operating systems have an extended set of privacy and security controls. For Snap Camera to work, you will have to enable access to your camera so that it can modify the input of your camera and change it according to your preferences. 

You can enable camera access on your PC by following these steps:

Apply an “Inverted” filter from Snap Camera

In case, you cannot apply any of these camera filters, you can check out community-made filters inside the Snap Camera app by searching for “inverted”, “mirror”, or “flip”. 

When you select a Snap Camera filter that inverts or flips the visual feed from your camera, you should be able to see the inverted view as a preview directly on the Snap Camera application. You’re now all set to use the filter on a Google Meet session.

Note: Snap Camera should be open and active for the whole time until the meeting is live. 

Enable Snap Camera as your default input

Now that you have applied the inverted or mirrored look inside Snap Camera, it’s time for you to enable Snap Camera inside Google Meet. Since Google Meet can only be accessed through a web browser even now, you need to make sure that you’re using a web browser that allows you to change input devices for different websites you visit. For instance, Google Chrome, Brave, and Firefox – all of them allow users to apply Snap Camera as the default camera for a website. But the same cannot be said for Safari on macOS as Apple limits third-party apps from accessing Safari for privacy reasons. 

That’s pretty much it. When you successfully make this method work for you, the end result will look something like this. 

Here, you can see that the screenshot has captured the meeting screen with texts that are mirrored in the way you’re able to read them. If this wasn’t mirrored, the captured screenshot will show the book with inverted text. 


How To Get Fathom Analytics Data Into Google Sheets

In this post, we’re going to create a tool that calls the Fathom Analytics API and pastes website traffic data into Google Sheets:

But first, a quick backstory:

Earlier this year (2023), Google announced the sunsetting of the old implementation of Google Analytics, in favor of GA4.

At the time I was running the old Google Analytics software, implemented through Google Tag Manager (along with Facebook’s pixel tracker).

It was time for me to update my web analytics software.

But I didn’t want to just shove GA4 into my existing tag manager setup. From what I’d heard, GA4 was difficult to use and way overblown for my needs.

Also, I really wanted to remove the dependency on Tag Manager from my site, because it’s too complex for my use case and I’m not particularly familiar with it. Plus, it’s been years since I’ve used the Facebook analytics pixel so I wanted to get rid of that too. I wanted to improve my site speed, and removing all this javascript would help with that goal.

So I cast around for alternative analytics software and landed on Fathom.

Fathom Analytics is a lightweight, easy-to-use, privacy-focused analytics software that is perfect for my website.

It was ridiculously easy to set up and I’ve been delighted with how easy it is to use. I jump in and can quickly see everything I need to know for my website:

Introduction To The Fathom Analytics API

Fathom has an API and, although it hasn’t been publicly launched yet, it is available to existing customers.

It’s a powerful API that lets you control your Fathom account programmatically.

Besides the data you can access (which we’ll see in this post) you can also perform CRUD operations — Create, Read, Update, Delete – on your sites and events.

Connecting To The Fathom Analytics API With Apps Script

We’re going to use Google Apps Script to call the API.

To use Fathom’s API, you need to be an existing Fathom customer.

Set Up Your Google Sheet

To begin, create a new Google Sheet and open the Apps Script editor via the menu:

Rename your Sheet and Apps Script file to something like “Fathom Analytics API Data Example”.

Get Your API Key

You access your API settings here.

On the API settings page, create a new API key and give it a memorable name:

Copy this API Key. We’ll add it to the Apps Script project next.

Add Your API Key To Your Apps Script File

In your Apps Script file, go to the Project Settings, denoted by the gear wheel:

Next, put the name “fathomKey” in the Property box and copy your Fathom Analytics API key to the value box:

Hit Save script properties.

Retrieve The API Key From Your Script

Back in the main editor window (the second link in the menu, denoted by the angle brackets) add the following lines of code:

/** * Global variable containing Fathom API Key */ const FATHOM_API_KEY = ScriptProperties.getProperty('fathomKey');

You can test this works by adding the following function:

function testScriptProperties() { console.log(FATHOM_API_KEY); }

Select this function from the toolbar above your code, then hit Run:

Your script will output your API key in the logger if everything is working.

Add Code To Call The Fathom Analytics API

Underneath the API Key code above, add the following code, which calls the course endpoint of the Fathom API:

/** * function to retrieve list of sites from Fathom API */ function getFathomSites() { const params = { method: 'GET', headers: { 'Authorization': 'Bearer ' + FATHOM_API_KEY } }; const response = UrlFetchApp.fetch(endpoint, params); const data = response.getContentText(); const jsonData = JSON.parse(data); console.log(jsonData); }

This code calls the List Sites endpoint, which returns a list of all the sites in your account. If you’re only using Fathom Analytics for a single site then you’ll only see one site listed here.

We set the parameters for the call, in the params object. Inside we have the headers object, and inside that we include the Fathom API Key, which we reference via the global variable FATHOM_API_KEY.

We use the UrlFetchApp class and the fetch method to fetch the Fathom Analytics API URL using the parameters we specified.

Finally, we parse the JSON data response and use the chúng tôi method to display the output.

View this complete code on GitHub.

Run The Code

From the menu in the Apps Script editor, above your code window, select the getFathomSites function and press the Run button.

When you run the code for the first time, you have to grant permission to your script to access an external service.

Once you grant permission, the script will call the Fathom API and return data, in this format:

{ object: 'list', url: '/v1/sites', has_more: false, data: [ { id: 'XXXXXXXX', object: 'site', name: 'Ben Collins', sharing: 'none', created_at: '2023-02-23 23:29:07' }, {...}, ... ] }

Great work!

Getting Analytics Data From Fathom Into Google Sheets

You can either continue with the Google Sheet/Apps Script file from above or create a new one. (All the existing code can remain in place.)

Add The Site ID As A Global Variable

Since we’re going to use the Site ID to filter data from the API, it makes sense to create a global variable containing this value.

Firstly, copy the Site ID from your console when you run the script above (it’s the id: ‘XXXXXXXX’ above) or go to the menu:

Add this Site ID as a property in the Apps Script file settings (following the steps above with the API Key).

Then use this line of code to create the global variable:

const FATHOM_SITE_ID = ScriptProperties.getProperty('siteID'); Add A Custom Menu To The Sheet

Next, add a new function to the code with the special onOpen function.

This runs whenever your Sheet is opened or reloaded, to add a custom menu in your Google Sheet’s toolbar:

/** * setup menu to run Fathom function from Sheet */ function onOpen() { ui.createMenu('Fathom Analytics Menu') .addItem('Get Fathom data', 'pasteFathomDataToSheet') .addToUi(); } Call API For Site Traffic Data

Next, add a new function to call the aggregations endpoint of the API, to return website traffic metrics:

/** * function to retrieve fathom data */ function getFathomData() { const query = `?entity=pageview&entity_id=${FATHOM_SITE_ID}&aggregates=pageviews,uniques,visits,avg_duration&date_grouping=month`; const params = { 'method': 'GET', 'muteHttpExceptions': true, 'headers': { 'Authorization': 'Bearer ' + FATHOM_API_KEY } }; const response = UrlFetchApp.fetch(root + query, params); const data = response.getContentText(); const jsonData = JSON.parse(data); const unsortedArr = []; const mins = Math.floor(month.avg_duration / 60); const seconds = Math.floor(month.avg_duration % 60); const avg_duration_time = `${mins} minutes ${seconds} seconds`; unsortedArr.push([ parseInt(,4)), parseInt(, parseInt(month.pageviews), parseInt(month.uniques), parseInt(month.visits), avg_duration_time ]) }) }

We use the same structure as the earlier example to list the site and used the params object to hold the API key so we could make the authenticated call.

Additionally, we’ve added a query string to the API endpoint, with the following details:

entity=pageview – to specify that we want pageview data, not event data

entity_id=${FATHOM_SITE_ID} – which site to retrieve data for, using the global variable

aggregates=pageviews,uniques,visits,avg_duration – the metrics we want

date_grouping=month – set the data to be grouped into months

See the Aggregation endpoint for a full list of query parameters.

Paste Data Into Google Sheets

The final part of the puzzle is to paste the website traffic data back into Google Sheets, with this code:

/** * function to paste list size metric into google sheets * setup trigger to run once a day */ function pasteFathomDataToSheet() { const sheet = ss.getSheetByName('Sheet1'); const data = getFathomData(); sheet.getRange(2,1,data.length,6).setValues(data); sheet.getRange(2,3,data.length,3).setNumberFormat("#,##0") }

Here, we select the Sheet, retrieve the data from Fathom Analytics by calling the getFathomData function, and then paste the data into our Google Sheet. Notice how we use the number of entries in the Fathom data (which correspond to months) to determine the number of rows required in our Sheet.

Finally, we format the numbers with thousand separators to make them look more presentable.

View this complete code on GitHub.

Run The Code

Now, when you run the code, you’ll see a monthly report of your website’s data in your Google Sheet:


How I Use Fathom Data

Unsurprisingly, I use a Google Sheet to plan the content for my website, newsletter, and courses.

One of the tabs contains a list of all my published blog posts.

I’ve added columns with the current 30-day pageviews, the prior 30-day pageviews, and a comparison for each post, so I can see at a glance which ones are doing well and which are not.

It’s been super helpful for me to know the “pulse” of my website.

In this example, my query string is:

const query = `?entity=pageview&entity_id=${SITE_ID}&aggregates=pageviews&field_grouping=pathname&sort_by=pageviews:desc&date_from=${startDate}&date_to=${endDate}&limit=${SITE_LIMIT}`;

Here I group on the pathname (i.e. by page or post of my website) and I’ve added date_from and date_to parameters to set the 30-day window.

View the full code for this example here.

Further Reading

This is my third post in a series about getting data from popular APIs used by creators. See posts 1 and 2:

How To Build An Automated ConvertKit Report In Google Sheets Using Apps Script

How To Connect To The Teachable API With Apps Script

See also:

Google Apps Script: A Beginner’s Guide

API Tutorial For Beginners With Google Sheets & Apps Script

How To Meet Software Testing Objectives

Linda G. Hayes

I was rendered speechless when a fellow professional said, in all seriousness, she was going to discard the majority of her regression tests because they had failed to find errors. After I recovered my composure–and my voice–I asked why she was considering such a thing, to which she confidently replied, Well, so-and-so says tests that don’t find problems aren’t worthwhile.

As it happens, the crazy claim turns out to be based on the earliest and most commonly quoted definition of software testing. Published in Glenford Myers’ 1977 book, The Art of Software Testing, the definition states: The purpose of testing is to discover errors. Testing is the process of trying to discover every conceivable fault or weakness in a work product.

Based on this found meaning, I can see where my colleague and her informant got the idea that tests that find no errors have no value. I can also see why software testers might rival dentists for having the top depression and suicide rates in all professions.

Proving a Negative

Simply finding errors is an unacceptable purpose for software testing. The approach requires software testers to prove a negative–there are no more errors to find. To demonstrate this, they must know how many errors there are to begin with and where the errors are. If we knew that, we would not need to test; we would just need to fix the errors.

Furthermore, if you don’t know how many errors exist, how do you know when you will be finished testing? How can you measure your tests’ effectiveness? Does this mean as you contribute to the overall improvement of the software development process, your effectiveness as a tester declines as well?

Proving the Pointless

Ironically, the true meaning of the term regression testing is to look for software functionality that used to work but no longer does, i.e., the software has regressed. But, based on Myers’ definition, there is no point in running a test that has found no errors, so once a software function works it is immune from further testing. Yet, the functionality that no longer works following a regression test poses the greatest risk, since it is still in use. The new functionality that doesn’t work may be irritating, but it is probably not devastating.

Proving Progress

To give credit where credit is due, more recent authors have improved upon the no errors-no value testing definition. In Software Test Automation, written by Mark Fewster and Dorothy Graham in 1999, the purpose of software testing is to give increased confidence in those areas of the product that work and to document issues with those areas of the product that do not work. Notice this terminology introduces the value of establishing what does work as well as what doesn’t.

Similarly, the most recent glossary of standards from the British Computer Society Specialist Interest Group in Software Testing (BCS SIGIST) defines testing as the process of exercising software to verify that it satisfies specified requirements and to detect errors. Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. The concept of requirements–you know, the reason we developed the software in the first place–is finally becoming part of the definition.

I wonder how significant it is that Mr. Fewster and Ms. Graham both hail from the United Kingdom, as, of course, does the British Computer Society. Perhaps we can persuade them to colonize the software testing industry here in the United States?

While it may seem academic to obsess about how software testing is defined, the impact is highly practical. Well-meaning experts–who espouse definitions that lead testers to discard tests that work–are setting the testers (and their companies) up for failure. If software isn’t proven to do the basics, who cares whether it fails to do the obscure?

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