Monday, November 18, 2013

Diagnose Problems Using Affinity Testing

When you go to the doctor to report a health problem, you'll likely tell him
Doctor, I have a pain.
and he will likely ask you
Where does it hurt?
If you tell him
My stomach hurts.
he will probably ask
When does it hurt?
How long has it been hurting?
None of these are formalities or mere protocol, they are systematic problem identification procedures. We diagnose problems with Blogger, using similar techniques.

If you write in BHF: Something Is Broken and report
My readers can't access my blog.
or maybe
I can't access Blogger!
you'll likely get similar questions.

If enough people report a similar problem and provide useful details, we can identify an "affinity" to the problem. This may help Blogger Support to isolate a segment in their code base, or an errant server in their network, that's causing your problems.

If you report
Some of my readers can't access my blog!
you might be asked
Where are your readers located, who can't access your blog? Where are your readers located, in general?
and maybe
What language do your readers speak?
What language is the blog published in?
When was this problem first observed?
When was this problem last not observed?
None of these questions are asked, by the "doctors" in the clinic, or in the Blogger Support forums, as an attempt to annoy you, or to show off. And as simple as they sound, they are actually lead ins to much more complicated diagnostics, or maybe to referrals to other specialists.

Affinity testing compares multiple tests, and asks which tests produce the same results. Similarly, differential testing compares multiple tests, and asks which tests produce different results.

One of my simplest "tools" which I may use to identify an affinity would be my simple 7+ link set. That set of 7+ links (7 base links - plus more links which I may add, varying according to your initial problem report) represents a carefully chosen set of addresses.

Some addresses, in the link set, are in the Blogger / Google hosting space - and others may be outside Blogger / Google. Systematic analysis of the results of trying each link, one after the other, can lead to any of several different diagnoses.

If you have readers complaining of a problem with your blog, you can email the list of links to your readers, and have them click on each of the links, and report results. If the problem comes and goes on your computer, you can click on each of the links, repeatedly. By combining and comparing the results, you can identify an "affinity".

If you are given that list of links, as a reply to your question, and you're able to say (for instance)
I can access only #4 and #5 ("0001100").
or maybe
I cannot access #2 and #3, but I can access #1, 4, and 5 ("1001100").
you are well on the way to a diagnosis. On the other hand, if you can only reply
Some of the links get me nothing.
you are not as well on the way to a diagnosis.

Blogger provides a simpler (and no more consistently observed) affinity dialogue, at the top of the "Post a question" wizard, in some forums.
  • Your Blogs URL:
  • Browser(s) used:
  • Location:
When properly answered
Your Blogs URL:
Browser(s) used: Firefox V3 / IE V8
Location: California USA
There are good clues, that may help the helpers, or Blogger Engineering, to identify a new problem - and may help them to help you faster. On the other hand, a frequently seen set of mildly amusing "answers"
Your Blogs URL: blogger-status-for-real.blogger
Browser(s) used: i dunno, it came with the computer
Location: planet earth
are less useful.

It's your choice what details to provide, to the forum helpers. In the same way, you get to chose whether to tell your doctor that you've started smoking, again.

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1 comment:

M. J. Joachim said...

This is helpful advice. Thank you.