"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, November 03, 2010

Software testing black swan bites cause pain

This post is about an experience I had recently. An experience that proves to me that there are more hard working people than me and I shouldn't feel too proud of what I have achieved so far. 

I was at a conference recently. I was at several conferences, so don't get confused with what is shown in my Events page. This conference was not listed and doesn't have a conference page either. It happened in Bangalore on 2nd Nov, 2010, right after my return from Google Test Automation Conference - Hyderabad, India.

Due to my popularity, I was hoping people would come, recognize me and talk to me about their testing problems. It just didn't happen. Some other person was getting all attention and there were people surrounding him and asking questions. There were so many people around him that I couldn't get a chance to see the man who was getting all this attention. I was wondering who is this guy getting an edge over me in India?

I then thought it must be someone who traveled to India from a western country. Only then people forget their local guy. Nothing new to me. I was just waiting for my chance to shake hands with that guy and talk to him about testing. Well, I just wanted to know what makes him so special that he is getting all attention in India. 

Check at my stats, I am supposed to be the popular guy out here. If you are seeing the popularity hungry Pradeep now, I must say; I too saw him.  The difference between us is, you might feel ashamed of having known Pradeep and I don't.

An hour passed by and still I could not get to meet that guy. I saw a tester coming out and asked her, 
"What's about the guy in center?" 
"Oh, you don't know him? He is an expert in test estimation"
"Everybody in here is an expert, din't you know that? So which country is he from?" 
"India" she said. 

What? an Indian? and I don't know him yet? I know everybody who blogs from India. At least, everybody who blogs from India knows me. How come I don't know about this guy who seems to be more popular than me? Maybe he doesn't blog but even then I should have known him.

All this was driving me crazy. Added to that were some of the talks I wanted to attend and it had started. I just pushed myself into one of the track hoping I could catch hold of that guy at one of the lunch tables. I have never waited for lunch so much, not even when I was very hungry. I wanted to meet this guy. He was a challenge I wanted to face.

At lunch, same bloody thing that happened in the morning repeated. People surrounded by him and I just cant get to meet him. My ego hurts me a lot if I have to go introduce myself to him amidst other testers who might think that I am not as popular as they thought. So, I picked up a plate and tried to eat alone. Fortunately, some testers who couldn't get to talk to him saw me and approached to have a conversation. My mind was somewhere else. I guess I don't know if I did answer the questions those testers asked me. Maybe they would have stopped reading my blog as I don't know how crazy my answers were. I just wanted to meet that guy.

Finally the moment arrived. The only way I could corner him was in the washroom. I was waiting for him there adjusting my shirt and trousers making it look to other people as though I care too much about my how neatly my shirt is tucked in. There he came. I didn't mind if his hands were wet but just put my hands forward and said, "Hi, I am Pradeep Soundararajan". He shook hands with confidence and said, "Oh, I know you. I read your blog and follow your work closely". 

At one end, I felt happy that the man who was sought much more than me follows my work but it was still aching as to how this guy managed to be the center of attraction amidst my presence. I took courage and asked him, "How come I don't know you. What's so special about you that these people are flogging you?"

"I have learned to help people estimate their work in a way that makes them feel successful following my advice" he said that with a soft and gentle tone. I put a step towards the door closeby and turned to him and said, "Why don't we discuss this off the washroom?"

My intention was to steal the idea. After several years of hard work, I can't allow someone to steal away the limelight I have been enjoying. When I say I wanted to steal, I mean, I wanted to know what his education was. How different was it from mine? 

We sat on a couch and I asked a question that was designed for deception or to learn about what he has learned

"So, what's your source of learning?"
He had a smile on his face before he said, "I read Bach, Bolton, Kaner, Jerry and you"
"Sounds interesting. I do the same too but how come you seem to be doing better than me?"
"I don't know"
I was pissed off but couldn't let it out because I still hadn't got the secret out of him. 
"So, you are suggesting that you learn something more from them than me?"
"No, I haven't met them Pradeep and they don't know about me"
"Pretty sure because if they did know, they would have let me know about you"
"So, let me stop beating around the bush. How do you help people with their estimation problems?"
"I do it ............................................................................... this way"
"Wow. That's cool"
"Where did you learn that?"
"You are so humble Pradeep. You have read it, too. I picked up ideas from Michael Bolton's Test Estimation & Black Swan series of posts, experimented with them, made my own notes, refined them for a while to arrive at this point" and then he walked away saying he had to deliver a talk and it was getting late.

If you had been to the conference, you would have seen me crying on the couch post that meeting. I wasn't crying because someone gained an edge over me but was crying that I learnt the cost of not reading those lengthy posts just because it was lengthy. 

I finished crying and went around looking for that person to thank him for the lesson he offered. He had already left. The series of posts from Michael Bolton on Test Estimation & Black Swans had been lying there on his blog and I just kept feeling lazy to not read those lengthy posts. I am probably in the Twitter Era. I want people to say anything great or stupid in 140 characters and I also hope they say that around my timeline. 

Walked around with disappointment. I decided to go out of the conference venue. I wanted to go home, have a drink and get a tight sleep to forget all this. I thought I was reading everything by Michael Bolton. When he posted about estimation, I thought I had already read enough of estimation from him and he was packaging the same stuff. Just then, the conference was getting over and the final lightening talk was mine. I was called to the stage. I went on the stage with tears still dropping at 1 drop every 10 seconds, forgot about my talk and asked the audience in a shrill voice, "Have you people read the series of post on Test Estimation & Black Swans from Michael Bolton?". 

The responses were, "Its lengthy", "We didn't find time to go through it", "I got a call in between and almost forgot to continue", "I was too busy with my project". Almost everyone were saying the same thing, "No, I didn't read it because it was lengthy". I laughed out loud and walked away as though I had seen myself in hundreds of mirrors placed in front of me. There are so many Pradeep's in our industry. Some Pradeep might not even have got this far on this post because he might have thought, "Oh, this is lengthy". 

If you don't look like Pradeep when you stand in the mirror, here are the posts:

Project Estimation and Black Swans (Part 1) 
Project Estimation and Black Swans (Part 2)
Project Estimation and Black Swans (Part 3)
Project Estimation and Black Swans (Part 4)
Project Estimation and Black Swans (Part 5): Test Estimation

The next time you don't want to read a post just because its lengthy, remind yourself that if you miss spotting the Black Swan, it doesn't mean Black Swans don't exist.  They bite hard to remind you that they existed and you didn't pay attention to them.


anne-marie said...

Hi Pradeep,

Black swans and Michael Bolton seem to be appearing everywhere.

Your post is very open and brave, though perhaps you are a little hard on yourself?

As you learned from your lightening talks, most of us fall into this trap. We seek facts and answers not knowledge. Its one of the reasons black swans exist.

If its any consolation, I read Bolton post on estimation for the first time yesterday.


Santhosh Tuppad said...

A learning that I have missed from lengthy blog posts. I have to start reading those to get the learning as I have just skimmed through and missed a lot of learning in between.

Thanks for the good learning.


Tobbe Ryber said...

So did you test the links to the blog posts? Try the first two...I was going to read them all but they were pretty lengthy.

Anonymous said...

someone gained a flock of followers and wisdom from reading a few [not-even-that-lengthy] blog posts? huh? that's the secret?

and this made you cry?

your post makes you sound like an arrogant ass with a very delusional self image. forget about popularity, fame, and followers... put your head down and be yourself pradeep.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...


someone gained a flock of followers and wisdom from reading a few [not-even-that-lengthy] blog posts? huh? that's the secret?

and this made you cry?

You know what? That was a made up story to get the message across that if posts are lengthy and people tend to ignore just because they are lengthy they might actually miss some valuable stuff.

your post makes you sound like an arrogant ass with a very delusional self image. forget about popularity, fame, and followers... put your head down and be yourself pradeep.

Now that you know that was a made up story, do you still hold to the same comment you made about me?

QAInsider said...

Hi Pradeep,

Thanks for writing this. I'm kind of following Bolton's blog and skipped the SWAN's thing .....lesson learned:)

Can you let me know if there are any upcoming testing events in Hyderabad/Bangalore in 2011 Jan? I tried google and couldn't get hold of anything.


SOA Testing said...

Thanks for post this information. As you learned from your own experience and talk talks, I am also fall into this trap. We all are seek facts and not give knowledgeable answer.I think that Its one of the reasons of black swans existence.

Anonymous said...


"Intellectual Arrogance" is a self block for learning anything new. In this case, it is not because the blog is lengthy, but the feeling of I know enough about estimation stopped many reading that.

Thanks for the nice post.

Anonymous said...

Please read the comment from Anonymous once again. He DID NOT say that you are "an arrogant ass with a very delusional self image"
He said "your post makes you sound like an arrogant ass"
He was trying to point out that this is how you appeared to some people (at least him/her) based on that particular post.
To make the post interesting you chose an approach and it was a good approach. Probably you overdid it. :-)
Based on reader's mental frame of mind, words sometimes mean something other than what they are conveying.
Your Friend

Simon Morley said...

Nice post!

Interesting comments - well done all!

It's a nice investigative exercise to work out which "anonymous" is which.

Happy reading!

Rahul Gupta said...

It's interesting to notice in comments section of Pradeep's posts (not only this one) that people make some harsh comments and hide behind the veil of "Anonymous".

On Pradeep's part, he can always filter these comments but it would be so unlike Pradeep. On "Anonymous Bullies" part, I won't say its a correct approach to remain behind the veil. One positive that I (who is not an expert in testing or writing) believe in showing my face and stick to my point of view if I am not convinced with others' ideas.

Telling story (a work of fiction) is a good writing style as people instantly feel connected to it as I did.

Thanks Pradeep for bringing it to our notice once again, I am yet to read last 2 posts from Michael.

Rahul Verma said...

I was taken aback by the sheer suspense of who is the person that you are talking of, whom I didn't notice while we were together most of the time at GTAC:-). And then you ended it like many Hollywood movies without providing the final answer to me (Taxi Driver is one such movie). Rather you took it towards your final message.

That a blog post should not be lengthy is suggested, but many of the good bloggers which use blogging as a platform for sharing knowledge and ideas very well break this "rule". What happens to me is that I too tend to ignore a lengthy post at the first look if I am not interested at that moment. On the other extreme when I am researching on some subject, I rather watch out for such posts which deal with the subject in detail.

Frankly, I haven't read any of Michael's posts on test estimation. But when it comes to building thorough knowledge on test estimation from different perspectives, I know where to go. Thereby MB (and other bloggers) win by writing lengthy posts that make sense.

SS said...

Hi Pradeep. I was recommended this blog today. First, I read this post, then I read another, then the next, then again the next and so on... I loved all of them. The quiz was hilarious, I had a gut feel that it would not reveal the actual scores in the end, but you know the tester's curiosity and the appeal of the hardest quiz ever made me take it.

You know what... I am becoming a fan of yours. I have painted a picture of you in my brain and everytime I read your posts, that pic will pop up.

Well. I am already following your blog. Keep up the good work, Sir.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...


Thanks. I appreciate the time you took reading many posts. The picture you have painted of me should look similar to the one you can google my image and find out, else you'd be in for surprise when we meet in future.

I am glad you blog. Be it technical or non technical, it helps. You could start a testing blog and share your testing experience to help me be your fan.

Shiva Mathivanan said...

I must say this is yet another excellent narration. Now, I feel good to have this opportunity to get the bite of black swan (Inattention Blindness). I consider this as learning. I will read through the Michael Bolton project estimation and Black Swans now and will check out how I can use to my project’s test estimations.

Thanks for yet another valuable post,
Shiva Mathivanan.

Markus said...

Hi Pradeep,

I don't know if it's really a bad thing to skip reading the lengthy messages or postpone them. Most of the times practical considerations form our time management and the question is if when you postponed Michael's blog posts did you do something else, learn something more valuable for the next task at hand?

If it was all because of laziness than be ashamed ;) otherwise you spent your valuable time on something of value at this time. What more can you do :)

Sudha said...

You are exactly right, I closely follow Bach, Kaner, Bolton, Jerry, you and other good ones but the Black Swan series I badly wanted to but yes just could not do it because its lengthy. Great post Pradeep, thanks. Good learning for me personally.

Lakshmi said...

I really like this one and this seems to be another testing. Now, your blog's address makes bigger sense as it passes another testing :-).

It was a great learning. Thank you.

rao said...

It's an eye opener.. Started to read the blogs.

Who is this anonymous? The writing style and language replicates you. My gut feeling is it's pradeep.

My sincere apologies if I hurt you.

Prashanti said...

Hi Pradeep,

I agree with the point you were trying to make in the post about lengthy blogs. Thanks for that.

But though you made up a story to convey it, it can make people feel that it is real. Look at Anne-Marie's comments. She too felt you were hard on yourself.

I would have appreciated it better if you chose some other way of conveying it.

One point about being anonymous. It makes people say what they truly feel in as extreme manner as possible.
Take examples of suggestions box in a company. The managers say that you can remain anonymous. Also voting system.
Though I personally would like to put across my name, I do not mind if people want to remain anonymous. That's when you get true criticism and true feedback. Who knows you already know the anonymous but he/she did not reveal because he/she does not want to spoil the friendship you both share?

Anyway, I think time for me too to look the lengthy posts.
I was never in favour of estimations

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the eye opener Pradeep. Even though I saw the posts, I just sort of skimmed through them, not bothering to savour the essence of it. Now I'm going to read again and again and probably going to buy a copy of Black Swan..

Keep writing..

Eusebiu Blindu said...

Hi Pradeep,

This is an interesting blog post indeed.
We miss every second thousands of opportunities, but in the same time we transform some of them in something valuable.
I haven't read the series but now I got a better motivation to do.
You said in one of your comments responses that you have invented the story, and it really looks so now. That's fantastic because you used fear or something that could lead to jealousy, missing simple steps that could have led to great achievement (in this case to be the most know person in the conference).

Ragavan said...

Hi Thala, (Thats how i call him)

Actually i read this blog 2 weeks before, felt that there is another thala whom i must be knowing as eager as my thala.

I am not a good reader before i started to follow through my thala's blogs, and this is another inspirational blog that gives me a opportunity to read the blog completely irrespective of its length.

As i read this blog 2 weeks before i was inspired by it and avoided the comment section b'cos it was lengthy (the very mistake i made), today i read it and now i really understand whom my thala want to meet. I just now came to know him so i am in the process of finding him and meet thala.

I am in the middle of the Michel blog i will meet him once i complete the this lengthy blog.

Thanks thala for you inspirational blog & letting me know about the that guy :)


SOA Testing said...

I won't say its a correct approach to remain behind the veil.I really like this post and this seems to be another testing. Now, your blog's address makes bigger sense.It was a great learning. Thank you for such useful post.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...


The way I chose to do this post is by letting down my own image in public. I appreciate that you care about me and you didn't want me to do so.

Personally, I feel, that's what sprung the surprise to many and they did come back saying, "I too would consider reading those lengthy posts". BTW, even you said that.

I know this is a very unusual style of writing but if I did usual things I am not sure if I myself would be interested to read my blog. Lots of followers for this blog solely exist because it offers them something different or more. I am obliged to keep doing that.

BTW, there were lot of clues in the story to tell the reader that it was a fictional one. When you read it maybe after a couple of months, you'd start seeing it just like how you saw new things while watching the same movie for the fourth time.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@ Rag (That's how I call you)

Thanks for your comment. After having worked with you, I think every team needs a person like you who can set a cool atmosphere, make testing look like awesome fun and help colleagues working hard.

You should consider writing, too.

Unknown said...

Even made up stories can be nonegotistical and interesting to read! But yours is too self-centered and not at all an interesting read. Michael Bolton talks about the subject in length, not about himself in length!

Pradeep Soundararajan said...


You have learnt that being egoistical and self centered is bad and you would never be able to spot the black swan.

If its not an interesting read, that's OK because for many others it was. Not that I don't care about people like you, I do care. Its just that I cant care for all readers with just one post.

Unknown said...


Your comments just confirm my earlier writing.

By the way, you're not the judge who can predict about other's capability. And you've also shown that you know nothing about communication & feedback on your first paragraph of the reply.

I hope and wish you'll also learn someday

Pradeep Soundararajan said...


I hope and wish you'll also learn someday

I know nothing about communication and feedback, agreed. Wonder with this little skill if I can attract so many readers and like you, why should I ever bother to improve on it.

Anonymous said...

you arrogant ass hole.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...



Anonymous said...

Pradeep! You rock as always.. India is proud of you.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...


I dont know if India is proud about me but I know I don't rock yet.