"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.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Bangalore Roti Curry! Now comes with free* testing lessons

Yesterday, I presented a guest lecture on "Questioning Specification and Requirements as a skilled tester" at Edista Testing's newly launched, really unique career program, which I think, can be titled as "Keep learning software testing and we'll keep supporting you to do that" as they intend to keep track of the progress of one's testing career, knowledge and skills even after the completion of the program or after the placement.

One hour after the guest lecture, I hit the treadmill at a gym nearby my home. I love pace walking over the treadmill. Once I get my rhythm , I start thinking about something that doesn't make me focus on how tired I get or how long I have been on a treadmill. Yesterday's treadmill thoughts were about questioning specification, requirement, process, policies, rules, guidelines, best practices...

The common thing about the above list is, "Someone says it, others follow it". Topic I chose to think on the treadmill was interesting enough to help me burn a lot more. I guess for people like me, thinking about following a requirement/rules/policies/process/best practices without questioning burns more calories than running heavy on a treadmill for 30 minutes.

After the workout, I dropped in at a nearby popular and reputed food joint for dinner at Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore.

I bought a token for 1 plate of Roti and curry ( Indian bread ) Cost: 16 rupees. After I got the token in hand, I realized it would not be sufficient and asked if I could get an extra Roti. I had to pay 10 rupees to buy an extra Roti token.

While eating one of the two Rotis, I realized that the curry isn't sufficient for the next Roti and I asked for more curry, I was asked to pay 10 rupees more for extra curry that is of same quantity provided to me the first time.

So here is the interesting thing:

One plate Roti and curry is: 16 rupees : [ 1 Roti + 1 set Curry ]
If I buy an extra Roti and Extra curry: that's 10 + 10 = 20 rupees
Total: 36 rupees
[ 2 * 1 Roti + 2 * 1 set Curry ]

If I buy two plate Roti and curry: 16 * 2 = 32 rupees [ 2 * 1 Roti + 2 * 1 set Curry ]

I went to the hotel supervisor and said, "I have never come across any hotel other than yours which has two different prices for the same quantity and item served if purchased in a different order. Is that intended?" and then explained to him the sequence in which I bought Roti and Curry. You might not believe this: He nor the other staff knew that they had been charging customers different rate for the same quantity they buy an item based on the order in which they buy things.

This certainly surprised their staff and I could witness an argument over the issue among other staff members. There was excitement over the issue and I enjoyed the argument between them.

Supervisor of the hotel then assured me that they would fix this issue after consulting the hotel manager and thanked me with a smile for bringing this up.

I was happy. As a tester, I questioned things and provided them information about their service with evidence. I handled it politely and helped them understand how illogical it would sound to people and how their credibility is at stake if they continue to do so.

If I hadn't questioned at the logic, or their menu, or their process, or their specification, I wouldn't have helped them understand something was seriously wrong - because they seem to be concerned to not do anything wrong as it could affect their reputation. They are into this business for at least 5 years and they hadn't realized what rule they set could conflict with their own menu rates.

When customers say "We want A,B, C, D, E, F", they are less aware that A could conflict with E unless we ( testers ) help them understand and that's our job. If we (great testers) don't question requirement/specification/process/rule/guideline/best practices, and the customer by himself finds B conflicts with D at a later stage, he might think of us as fools and maybe get our butts fired.

"If testers aren't questioning, they aren't testing. If testers aren't testing then they aren't testers anymore".

In the Roti Curry story above, I think there is another lesson hiding. As a customer of the hotel, I realized I wanted more, only when I got some bit of it - which means I didn't know how much I needed to buy till I saw some sample. If someone were to have collected my requirement/need, I would have stated something and changed it because I am not sure what I want.

There are a lot of customers who are not sure what they want and if we ( great testers ) are to follow a document that was prepared so early in the project before the customer could see something, we would never be doing what we should be doing. Testing is *not* satisfying a customer but providing information to help the management or customer take informed decisions. The information we provide could be bugs, assessment of risks, questions we have, answers we found...

Little does the hotel know that testing lessons are for free when people buy Roti and Curry.

Laugh (if you want): Research Doctors at National Health Research Institute are recommending to take a minute of every day, especially for those in software testing, to laugh out loud at those testers who don't question the specification/requirements/test scripts/test cases/process/best practices.

It is found through their research that the health condition and testing has had a significant improvement by doing so. Researchers also encourage laughing at yourself, if you are one among the testers who don't question.

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

"The test doesn't find the bug. A human finds the bug, and the test plays a role in helping the human find it." --

Monday, February 11, 2008

Educating customers on testing

Everyone has heard about testing and unfortunately everyone has heard about it from different sources that say different and contradicting things.
  • One of the customer I worked for thought - testing is about delivering bug free product - which, in my opinion and many other experts with whom I interact is an impractical idea about testing.
  • Another customer I worked for thought - testing is about delivering quality - which, again, is a bad idea.
  • Another customer thought - testing is about executing test cases and based on the test case pass/fail ratio decide to release - even if the test cases isn't helping testers catch bugs.
  • Another customer thought - testing is a job of repeating tests to compare build quality and take a decision to release a specific build to his/her customer.
  • Another customer thought - testing is meeting specification.
  • Another customer thought - testing is satisfying the customer.
Working with multiple customers is a huge challenge for test managers or testers like me and you. I have so far been repeating the word "customer" and whom do you think I am referring to?

I am referring to the manager we report to and the manager we report to is also our first customer. When testers quit their job and join another one, they never ask their customer (manager) what he/she thinks about testing. That's why some people feel they were performing good in their previous company or they are able to perform better in their recent organization - reason being - their idea of testing matched with that of their manager's idea.

If our idea of testing doesn't match with that of your customer's ( manager ), you and I seem to face a lot of trouble in meeting our customer's expectation and are unable to satisfy them.

Everyone, including you and me might be thinking that the idea we have towards testing is the right one. I have been realizing and teaching that there isn't THE RIGHT WAY to do something. Rapid Software Testing taught me cost v/s value and I took it very serious and I am practicing it.

All customers, irrespective of what definition they have towards testing look for cost v/s value. I am striving to deliver a fabulous value to my customers and I am facing a challenge since I realize what value means to me is different from what value means to my customer (manager).

That's why I was looking as a bad tester (despite finding a lot of bugs) to some of my managers in the past. They think the value they wanted to get out of me is - to execute thousands of scripts or test cases.

Unfortunately I wanted to add more value to the testing efforts which wasn't liked and was fired for attempting to do that. They weren't wrong - they just cleared a trap that they dug in when they hired me.

I learned - what I think as value might be a threat to someone else's idea of value and I value this learning I had about value.

Once I (and my team) found a lot of bugs, so much that there weren't as many bugs that the test case document had helped the team catch in the past. The questions from our customer started to focus on why we had a bad test case document and *not* "Why can't we do more of what you guys did?"

A definition, customer has towards "value" doesn't appear to change despite showing enough evidence. Its hard to continue working for such a customer but there is another dimension to think - money.

Some of those who attend my Exercises for a testers mind - A Rapid Software Testing Approach workshop say, "Well, this is great. I am excited to do testing this way but I suspect the problem is - I don't think my manager would be interested on any of these things I do"

I have had different replies to the above:
  • Stop thinking that your manager would not be interested. That's the first step.
  • Convince your manager to take this workshop.
  • Educate your manager on this.
  • Just do it and make your manager ask, "How are you doing these things?"
Here is a list that I suggest you to use, if you realize facing similar challenges: (I practice the same, too)
  • Educating your customer, starts with you.
  • Stop thinking that your first customer wouldn't be willing to see more value.
  • Provide evidence for him/her and ask her to critique the evidence you provide.
  • Request for a discussion about - What you think of value v/s What your first customer thinks of value.
  • If it fails the first time, provide repeated evidence and suddenly do things the way your first customer wants to do - see if your first customer comes back asking why suddenly things appear not so good.
  • If you have been successful educating your first customer, then motivate your first customer to educate his/her first customer.
BTW, what do you plan to educate your first customer on?

Here is a list of heuristics about educating your first customers:

  • Educate yourself before you educate your first customer.
  • Testing is questioning a product in order to evaluate it AND testers provide quality related information to stakeholders/management to help them take better informed decisions -- James Bach & Cem Kaner
  • 100 test cases might not help a tester catch 1000 bugs and if you want more bugs, exploratory testing ( with a mission/charter) is an important approach to be incorporated. Adding another 1000 test cases is not a solution.
  • Specification document is just one or the oracle that helps a tester find bugs. End users or your customers never use specification oracle to spot bugs and hence going beyond specification can help in finding more bugs.
  • Session Based Test Management is a way where Exploratory Testing can be tracked and managed more efficiently.
  • Spending less time on documentation that's going to end up wasteful is a nice way to get more time executing tests to find more bugs.
  • "If you are too bothered about repeatability of tests - then it is good to have a document of test ideas and *not* test cases that tends to have more ambiguity."
  • "Diversification of approaches and techniques helps testers find more and different bugs that otherwise might be caught by a customer."
  • Software testing books are not the *only* books that helps tester find bugs and hence the library should stock a lot of books on thinking, ideas, pattern, philosophy, psychology, humans, communication...
  • We didn't appear to find a bug because of one or all of these:
      • We did not have the skill.
      • Someone did not let us know when they put it.
      • A stakeholder asked us not to report it although we found it.
      • We didn't intend to find that.
      • We thought it is OK to not to find that, if it existed.
      • We were finding other important bugs thinking opportunity cost.
      • We didn't have the right oracle.
  • { You might want to try a lot more, provided some of the above works for you. Sometimes I am aware that I am going to fall into a trap but that's a way I choose to avoid bigger traps }
There might be a trap you may fall into. Some of your first customer's might not deserve/ might be reluctant / be egoistic - to such an education, sense it out smartly and stop educating him/her to get more time to educate yourself. An indication that you fell into a trap is when your first customer fires you.

+ A heuristic is a fallible method of solving a problem
++ An oracle is a principle or mechanism by which we (humans) identify problems.

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

"The test doesn't find the bug. A human finds the bug, and the test plays a role in helping the human find it." --

Monday, February 04, 2008

Schools of testing, Test experts, and Blood bath - Why do they exist?

In Test Republic, Jayapradeep Joithis posted a topic and discussion under the name "Shun the experts ... Long live the experts" and I replied to it with my thoughts. In this post, I publish, for the first time about Schools of testing and my ideas. In this post, I publish the same because I love to have it on my blog for some of you to comment or question me or Jayapradeep or share your thoughts about it. This is not my personal attack on Jayapradeep Joithis nor I know what school of thought he belongs to.

I have decided consciously to not conclude on things but keep learning about them - Schools of testing is just one of them. As days are passing the list of not to conclude is growing and the learning about them is growing as well. I am happy.

You could either keep track of the above given link or read the following ( a little edited version of the same ).

Here it goes:

First, before you read further, you must know and note that I am *NOT* a testing expert but I interact a lot with some of them, NOT because I love their association that helps me build my credibility or reputation BUT I enjoy the learning I have from them during every interaction.

Jayapradeep wrote "Software testing has become a Ba##$d science . Put the testing experts in a room and u see them going for each others throats in a jiffy."

Put politicians together in a room, you might notice the same.
Put a husband and wife in a room, you might notice the same
Put sales experts together in a room you might notice the same.
Put marketing experts in a room you might notice the same.
Put cricketing experts in a room you might notice the same.


Watch programs like NDTV "We the people" where topics and experts vary from a lot of things happening in and around world are discussed and you *will* notice the same.

Why do you think it is a common behavior among experts?

That's nature! I am happy that you seem to be questioning the nature and I'd be happy if you are doing that for learning - more about the nature and yourself.

JJ wrote "Experts have all the rights to have differences of opinion(after all "when compromises continue REVOLUTION stops) but i always hope it could be done in a more dignified manner and with humility."

At least in Context Driven Community ( to which I associated myself without anyone influencing me to do that ), I have seen people respect each other a lot and have hot discussions. They appreciate each other and agree to disagree, at times. Sometimes one member doesn't want to agree to the other and I think that's perfectly okay because as you said, they have a right to do so.

I think within every school or community - there might be a lot of fight and betterment of ideas or learning as a resultant - that's good.

In my opinion humility is one of the toughest thing for someone to learn and practice. At least for me, I admit openly that I don't know how to express my humility although I think I have plenty of them. It might happen so that I might never be able to learn to communicate my humility. I DONT want to be humble to those who are spoiling the craft and that's when my inability to express my humility is of great help.

We always fight, you always fight - that's nature. You fought your way among several candidates during an interview to get a job. Fighting is our nature. The mightiest, smartest, timely, blessed, and the luckiest ( if it exists ) wins. All of us win at some and lose at the other. When we lose, others might be winning. Sometimes, we lose and win at the same instant.

JJ wrote, "I am no expert nor have insights into what goes on in their minds but what i have seen is that the same experts who speak about creativity , freedom of expression et.c. behave in the most vile manner when their beliefs are questioned."

If you are not the Prime Minister of India, you might not be pleased when he/she announces a war against a neighboring country. You never know why the person took such a decision or does so during a situation. If you want to know that - the only way I can think of is - for you to become a Prime Minister.

There are some test experts who have dedicated their life to better the craft and the rest to make money as testing is offering a huge opportunity to make money.

Betterment of craft means - disproving and taking off those so called experts who are making money and spoiling the craft.

Not that some experts don't bother about money but they wouldn't bother about money sacrificing the betterment of the craft. Money moves everyone and everything that is under "business" clause.

JJ wrote, "Some have become so confrontationist to any opposing views that their tone changes to a jingoistic one, not remembering at many times that there is a fine line between 'proving your point' and megalomania . There is a literally a a blood bath on every forum,group , blog , conference where these experts interact.

They are just being themselves and you and I need not worry about that as long as they offer insightful ideas helping us become better in the craft ( if we want to become )

JJ wrote, "People who oppose semantics and terminology's saying they make u narrow minded go on to propagate their own definitions and terminology's."

Here is a definition of testing that I heard: Testing is a process of making a product bug free!


By finding bugs - you are not making the product bug free. It is only when ALL bugs can be found and ALL bugs can be fixed without introducing ANY new bugs you might be getting close to it. It is a foolish statement lurking among many testers.

Here is another definition of testing: Testing is questioning a product in order to evaluate it -- James Bach

That's insightful and helps most of us do better as it seems to be insightful that we need to question and provide information to the management take informed decisions. That's all. Achievable and insightful, isn't it?

It is insightful because testers who have subscribed to this definition have done a lot better testing than the ones with the previous definition and are also open to scrutiny about their work. Tell me a test that you did, which is not a question that you asked to the product or environment you tested!

Terminologies and definitions should help people think and not stop them or spoil their thought process or leads them to infinity or impractical ideas.

JJ wrote, "they try to split the community into schools of thought(read the very interesting article by Bret on schools of testing : http://www.pnsqc.org/files/FourSchoolsofSoftwareTesting.pdf ).

Were you ever forced to join one of them?
As long as it doesn't spoil any of your learning or betterment opportunities, do not worry about them.

JJ wrote, "In this game of one upmanship they manage to confuse the bystanders and force them to align themselves to their school of thought. At many times we see its the commercial interests being propagated camouflaged as knowledge sharing.

You can't be confused about something unless you hear or know it. If you came to know about it, it is BECAUSE you were curious to know that. Your CURIOSITY lead to YOUR confusion and NOT they confused you. You could be clear before you read anything that - I am not going to be biased or worry about anything I read or draw conclusions on it the moment I finish reading an article. I am going to experiment and learn from it.

JJ wrote, "As a bystander and a student of testing this has become repulsive."

A true student of testing looks at anything relevant or irrelevant as a learning opportunity.

JJ wrote, "Shouldn't the EXPERTS(respected and self professed) be trying to confluence their ideas?
Do we need to split up into schools of thought?
Do we need to fight over the semantics?

Did anyone, till date, when you approached them, ask you: What school of testing are you from? or Were you deprived of anything because you belonged to one school and not the other?

JJ wrote, "If we look back into history a classical example might come from the schools of thought of the Indian Philosophy, where the schools( Sankhya, Yoga ,Nyaya , Vaisheshika ,Purva Mimamsa, Vedanta) having divergent views still existed besides each other in harmony. They seen as complementary and supplementary to each other and was not an either or not situation. We had the austerism of Mahavira and crass materialism of charvaka having healthy dialogue with each other and co-existing."

I think there exists nothing called a healthy dialogue but I think there exists and existed people who know to make the conversation healthy and there exists people who understand what other person means by healthy.

What do you mean by co-exist?

We co-exist with aliens ( who might be in Mars ) in the same galaxy. We breathe oxygen and they might be breathing nitrogen. I think I made a correct statement because that's my understanding of "co-exist". You might think I made an incorrect statement because it conflicts with your definition of "co-exist".

The four schools of testing do co-exist and I know of many people who are friends with people of other school of thought.

JJ wrote, "Long live the EXPERTS........."

Yes, Let those people, who are experts (or not) and work for betterment of the craft ( with money as secondary interest ) live long or even if they live short let them contribute as much as possible for the craft.

I have seen Context Driven Testing school or community members spoiling the craft for those who want to make money (sacrificing the betterment of the craft) through the ideas that CDT members think of it as a bad idea and a hinder to the betterment of the craft. I think its good to spoil the craft for such people because I too want to see the craft get better and money is secondary. Secondary means - it exists!

The fight is for the ownership of the craft.

Once again, fight is not a bad thing. We all came to existence fighting against one million sperms!

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

"The test doesn't find the bug. A human finds the bug, and the test plays a role in helping the human find it." --