"Some birds aren't meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright"- Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption. This blog is from one such bird who couldn't be caged by organizations who mandate scripted software testing. Pradeep Soundararajan welcomes you to this blog and wishes you a good time here and even otherwise.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Let the context drive and yet you be the chauffer

_ marketing starts _

My next public workshop on testing skills is this weekend ( 28th July 2007 ) and I am getting excited. Many testers who got in touch with me over the past are saying, "I will surely attend the next one" and they said this last time, too. I have been asking a question to myself, "Who would attend this workshop then?"

That's funny and I enjoy asking such questions to myself. In case, you are not the one who says, "next workshop", here are the details!

_ marketing ends _

Some testers have liked my blog so much that they have certain expectations from my blog and when I talk about myself in my blog, they get so irritated and ask me over chat, "I come here to read and learn something about testing that can help me do better testing, I don't want to read about you and what you did and all your marketing stuff".

You don't get to see a live cricket match or a Formula 1 race without you being forced to watch the advertisements in between. Anything that you want to keep watching is a business opportunity to someone and they place advertisements and that's marketing for them. When I write about myself, its important for you as my reader to understand that it's one of the way I look for self inspiration whenever I am down. If you want to read something fabulous in this blog, I hope you allow me to read something that I want to read to get inspired and write a post that appears to be fabulous to you.

OK, this post isn't a debate about the above topic but I am sure, I did a mistake in setting the wrong context for what I want to say under the topic "Let the context drive and yet you be the chauffer"

Believe me, I wanted to set a wrong context and that was intentional. Yesterday night, a tester/cum test manager Rahul Mirakhur, the Apple Macintosh Geek you can bet on, had a status "context matters..." and the idea of this post came alive. So here is a context...

When a police man is informed over radio about an accident that took place and he rushes to the scene and he discovers two cars damaged and appears to be a head to head collision. What would your first question be to the people who are fighting with each other if you were the policeman?

All the policemen I have seen try collecting information about the context and try to make a judgment or take an action based on the context information he has.

What if you were one among the two, fighting against an idiot who rammed his car head to head and you discover that he doesn't posses a license to drive the car, yet the policeman arrests you without asking any questions?

Would you not be terribly disappointed?

If you would be then I think you value context a lot.

Now time for you to answer my question: Why does many testers, leads and manager not think about the context information they need to collect ( more than what they think they have collected ) to take a better decision, especially when they have been going wrong. ( If they don't recognize that they have been going wrong, is a bigger problem, of course)

The policeman who arrested you, followed a best practice that states: A guy in an accident scene who is shouting on top of mouth is the culprit! Are you OK with such best practices?

As rupee is gaining Indian business leaders are planning to make all of us work 9 hours a day for 6 days and no more Saturday off. I thought growing economy means things would be more smooth :) [ Refer to this article ]

Why cant we fight back saying, "Hey we will do our work in a more skilled fashion and that's what would result in cost v/s value to our customers in North America and Europe and it's a win-win situation"

Ha ha! I am sure we can never say that because Best Practices drive us. A person who has worked with company X for a long time and implemented a process or style of doing things is hired by Company Y and he tries the same in Company Y but fails. Why?

There are good practices in Context but there aren't best practices!

Ramit Manohar, one of my favorite thinkers on testing from India reports to Vipul Kocher, the President of Indian Testing Board and the Co-Founder of Pure Testing. If I were to practice humility, it has to be looking at Vipul Kocher.


Ramit, during our meet, started saying about a question he often asks in interviews that he claims to challenge testers. I interrupted him and said, "Ok, let's assume that you are interviewing me and why not I try taking up the challenge?"

So, here is the question he asked me: You are riding a bicycle. A pedal comes out. What would you do?

This isn't a testing question! [ that was how most of the testers whom he interviewed reacted because they didn't think of collecting context information about why someone is asking such a question in an interview supposed to hire a tester and ended the conversation there]

You might want to know how a context driven thinker and a skilled tester: clears traps, solves problems, gains situational awareness, learns new things, asks questions, makes a suggestion, proposes solutions, a lot more ...

Here it goes...


What aspect of my thinking would you want to see by making me answer this question?
Flow of idea, lateral thinking, situational awareness, collecting context information ...

Whom are you referring to when you say, "you"?
It's you Pradeep!

Why would I be riding a bicycle when I have a bike and a car?
You are in a race

What do you mean by a race?
Something like Tour De France

Where am I riding a bicycle?
On the busy streets of Bangalore

What do you mean by a bicycle and bicycle pedal? ( I asked him to look out of the window from the coffee shop and showed him what bicycle means to him and the pedal that I am aware of as one was parked outside)
Yeah! That's similar to the one that I have in mind

What speed am I traveling in and are there brakes that appear to work when applied?
Ha ha! How fast can you travel in busy streets of Bangalore? ( I accept, being in Bangalore, that was a stupid question :P ) The brakes are working fine.

Is someone chasing me?
There are people trying to overtake you to win the race.

Does this mean, I am leading the race?
No

Is there something important I missed asking or might add value to me taking a decision?
Yes, there is a bicycle repair shop nearby!

How important is winning the race to me?
You should say that!

Can I assume that I am not bothered to win the race?
There is a huge prize money for the winner.

I dont want to lose that. However, what is it for a person not finishing the race?
He will be shot!

Wait a minute... Are you interviewing me when I stopped the bicycle after the pedal came out? [ the smartest question, in my opinion]
Ah! No

How far is the finish line from the place where the pedal came off?
Not too far!


Is the pedal made of Gold or has a value bigger than the prize money?
Ha ha! I don't think so.

Let me stop it here (although I think you should meet me sometime and listen to the entire conversation between me and Ramit which might excite you, too)

I shall de-brief what might have happened if context related information was not collected, taking the above exercise.
  • I might have been shot, if I had not known that the person finishing last in the race would be shot.
  • I might have tried too hard to win the race for the prize money whose value is lesser than the pedal that came out.
  • A "bicycle" might be a brand name of a car where there was a nasty pedal fitting that restricted the performance of the car. Had I assumed it to be the bicycle I know, I would have not cleared the trap that Ramit *might* have set.
  • Had I not asked an important question, "Is there something that I missed to ask?", I would not have found that there was a bicycle shop nearby that might help me in taking better decisions.
  • Had I not discovered the speed at which I am traveling and the brakes not working, I might have taken a different decision, all together.
Ramit was so excited and enthused about the conversation we had that he keeps mentioning about me in all the corporate training he does. I am grateful to him, not because he mentions my name everywhere but for giving me an opportunity to practice my skills.

Every question might lead to an answer or to another question, and every answer or question that raises from a question, would lead to asking a potential question that discovers more information about the context.

Why would you want to go to a doctor who never asks any questions nor collects any context information to a patient and starts operating the moment patient says, "head ache"?

If you want the doctors who treat you to be context driven but you are hesitant to be context driven as a tester, you better try not feeling guilty about it!


-- Pradeep Soundararajan - http://testertested.blogspot.com - +91-98451-76817 - pradeep.srajan@gmail.com

"Pradeep's first language is not English--his first language appears to be testing." -- Michael Bolton

15 comments:

Liana Soares said...

Hi Pradeep.
I have created a new blog, it's already the third one here, but this time it's gonna be about my master degree journey. Take a look at it (mastersense.blogspot.com).
I have added you as Favorite Link, by the way.
And have fun on your next workshop!
:)

Anonymous said...

If you want the doctors who treat you to be context driven but you are hesitant to be context driven as a tester, you better try not feeling guilty about it!

:P

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Liana,

Thank you and I hope a lot of others would enjoy the workshop too. I am very excited because a blog reader of mine who works in Thailand co-incidentally is traveling to India and has planned to come down to my workshop.

chinni said...

pradeep this is one amazing a post that beats even your previous one.

i as you say are context thinkers and to solve problems as you gave doctor example is wonderful.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Chinni,

Thank you! I suggest that you look at Ben's blog on How doctors think? to understand what we as testers need to learn from them and the way they work.

Keep coming!

Suresh said...

Hi Pradeep,

Nice to see this blog which starts with exactly what people think about and you have answered it very well. Yes Marketing is everywhere :-) we do market ourself for jobs but you do for testers to improve and inspire something from you.

This blog made me to think a lot, I attended an interview in Adobe on June, i cleared 6 rounds, but in the final manager round, He was questioning me in a way as if he was sitting in a cinema theater the body posture was very bad. I got irritated there itself, OK lets come to the question. He asked me to solve a puzzle which normally we would have heard of.

There is a 3 ltr jar, 5 ltr and a 8 ltr jar. 8 ltr is full of water, now we have to make it 4ltrs in both 8ltr jar and in 5ltr jar. I solved it immediately but later he told me, you should have asked me more questions like whether its been transferred through any funnel, how is it possible to transfer all the water without any spill, so in any Case we cant transfer equal amount of water in both jars.These were the questions he expected from me it seems.

I felt the mistake after he explained me all these things, sometimes it looks like unnecessary silly questions but this helps us in knowing the context more, This blog helped me a lot. If i would have studied before the interview i would have cracked the final round, Its all experience teaches a lot and pradeep blog too :-) teaches a lot

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Suresh,

Thanks for sharing your experience. Also, there isn't any question that is silly by itself. Every question has a purpose not maybe to the eyes of smart enough people who brand certain questions silly.

As you might attend my workshop, you would come to know how many testers dont ask important questions because others think it's silly and finally go wrong completely.

RAMIT M KAUL said...

Hi Pradeep,
i have always regarded you as one of the thinkers this industry needs today. The day we discussed this I knew this discussion will surely come out. I always ask testers whereever I go to start thinking OUT OF BOX and by reading this blog i hope many will start hinking before start executing. This is a wonderful way to spread knowledge.
GOD BLESS,
Ramit

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Ramit,

i have always regarded you as one of the thinkers this industry needs today.

Hopefully for tomorrow, too :)

The day we discussed this I knew this discussion will surely come out

It came out the same day in Moleskine!

I always ask testers whereever I go to start thinking OUT OF BOX and by reading this blog i hope many will start hinking before start executing. This is a wonderful way to spread knowledge.
GOD BLESS


Thanks a lot!

I wish you give me more time and learnings. Also, it is important for people like you and Vipul to blog ( I am not sure if it is already there but not to my knowledge )

Neeraj said...

Hi Pradeep,

I have been following your blog right from January 2006. I have also recommended this blog to many of my colleagues and friends.

I am a technical writer and I am aware of the importance of asking questions even if silly.

I know that you are very busy but please take some time out to visit my blog at:
http://neerajjain8.rediffiland.com
I am sure you will find it a good read (hope, i am not doing marketing here :P).

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Neeraj,

Thanks for getting in touch with me.

I am a technical writer and I am aware of the importance of asking questions even if silly.

Always I have questions towards questions, too.

I usually ask "Silly... for whom?"
Not for all!

I know that you are very busy but please take some time out to visit my blog at:
http://neerajjain8.rediffiland.com
I am sure you will find it a good read (hope, i am not doing marketing here :P).


How do you know I am busy? Did I say that anywhere? [ I am writing this comment at 2 AM Indian Standard Time, which means I want to finish all replies for today ( although I miss one or two here and there ) ]

I have replied to each and every e-mail that thousands of testers sent me. I never hesitate to say, "I don't know this" and surprisingly people come back to check my thoughts about it. I shall go through your blog and shall try learning something from it.

Neeraj said...

hi pradeep,

I work as a technical writer. Just wanted to know your thoughts on the importance of technical documentation.

Have you also been involved in documentation testing?

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Neeraj,

I once had a great discussion about documentation with James Bach and recently with another great man ( name not to be disclosed as per instructions ) about technical writing. I must say that I have learned a lot about it and realized that there is lot more to be learnt in it.

Being a Rapid Tester, I am confident to test anything, anytime and anywhere!

Sandesh said...

Sandesh Rane :After reading this blog I got how to drive my passion for testing to a new paradigm shift...where in I see Passion = Contextual thinking .Where in setting the right context is the only ways to hike our passion :)

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Sandesh,

Thanks for your comment!

Setting and knowing the right context through questions, might be a better way to take an informed better decision and help people take better decisions, too.

I am glad to know this post helped you!