What Westworld Teaches Us About QA

Artificial intelligence may have the limelight in HBO’s Westworld, but software development and QA practices are at the heart of the show, too. Here are four lessons that real QA teams can learn from the programming team at Delos, Inc. (Beware of spoilers below, if you haven't finished Season One of Westworld!)

Westworld QA Lessons 1

A Good QA Team is a Thorough One

The head of Quality Assurance for the fictional Delos, Inc. has a prominent role -- but between meetings with the board and wrangling the park’s mysterious co-founder, she sometimes lets bugs slip through the cracks. When a software update causes a portion of the “hosts” to start acting erratically, it becomes apparent that the QA team may have the testing coverage they need. A good QA team knows how to recognize potential issues before they start, and doesn’t cut corners in the name of speed.

Key takeaway: Hire strategic QAs that will drive innovation, not help your product start a rebellion.

Westworld QA Lessons 2

Always Be on the Lookout for Regressions

Season One kicks off with a new feature designed to make the hosts more lifelike in subtle ways, but it triggers some unanticipated changes. Introducing new features into an existing codebase always carries a risk of regressions, so regression and integration testing are an essential part of any QA strategy.

Key takeaway: Expect the unexpected — feature flag any new features that may cause your program to gain sentience.

Westworld QA Lessons 3

Beware of Legacy Features that Are No Longer Effective

We got a peek at legacy software and hardware being recycled and repurposed by the Westworld team. While we applaud the team’s resourcefulness, there comes a time when a feature may have outlived its usefulness, and becomes more of a liability than a benefit. Follow the data and performance metrics to spot legacy features that might be ready to go into Cold Storage.

Key takeaway: Know when it’s time to retire older features — preferably before they start attacking customers.

Westworld QA Lessons 4

UX Testing is the Key to the “Wow Factor”

For all their faults, the Delos team does a great job of testing user interactions with their hosts. They’re continuous running through new (and old) scenarios with hosts and take the time to review how customers interact with the hosts to make improvements. The result is a lifelike experience that wows even the most skeptical Westworld visitor.

Key takeaway: There’s no substitute for getting your product in front of a real user.

Are There More QA Lessons in Film?

Hollywood doesn’t always get the details of tech right, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find interesting insights on film with real-life application. Are there other shows and movies that provide great lessons and insights for QA teams? Share your favorites with us on Twitter!

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