One best friend of mine introduced me to Mitch Hedberg and Demetri Martin, great one-liner comedians. They are/were two funny men!! Three, actually, if you count my friend which is also funny.
After hearing the disks for over a year, not only the jokes aren’t any less funny, but I’ve started to find subliminal testing messages in them .
I’m writing down these “insights” because I find value in them. And even if they fail to teach you something… Hey! At least the jokes are pretty funny!
So here go some favorite quotes, and their parallel in testing:
1) “A drunk driver is very dangerous. So is a drunk backseat driver, if he’s persuasive!
‘Dude, make a left.’
‘But those are trees…!’
We are testers. As such, most of the time we aren’t driving the company: Essential operational decisions are made by someone else (project manager, product owner, CEO, whatever you call him).
But if we are not the drivers, our position is certainly close to this of a backseat driver: we have our maps, good knowledge of the area and our experience; and we give advice that is used to take real decisions. So don’t be a drunken backseat driver, it’s dangerous! If you are inebriated by an obsessive desire to fix a bug, or by a personal quest against/for colleague, by a blind belief in a set of metrics or a unfounded trust in a fictitious “Best Practice”, you’ll be taking your company directly into the trees. And, as with any drunk person… Whenever your judgment isn’t objective… At least recognize/admit that you may be drunk! Will make it easier for everyone else.
2) “I used to play sports… Then I realized you can buy trophies. Now I’m good at everything!”
A plaque, a crown, a card, a trophy… It is common to find people who treasure “victory symbols”, I know I do. They prove you’ve mastered a skill.
Trophies are nice and great, but only if they are accompanied by skills and real world practice. Trophies that can be attained without these traits are just empty cups*.
One should beware when dealing with “achievement symbols”… At times, acquiring the symbol does not mean acquiring the achievement or skill too!
For example, just as buying the trophy doesn’t make Demetri good at tennis, getting a testing certification won’t make a tester good at testing… The certifications syllabi try to teach only specific lexicon and terms definition, but not the real practice of testing, because they don’t/can’t cover the interactions between persons and players.
For some people, the joke could be read as “I used to practice and study… Then I realized you can pass a certification. Now I can prove mastership – without the effort of gaining it!” Be sure to be from the ones who keep learning and carrying the skill.
3) “I am afraid of sharks, but only in a water situation. If I saw a shark on the street, I’d be like ‘What? F#*k you!’
It’s funny, that’s like the opposite of how I am with lions!”
What’s the Best Practice for dealing with sharks? “Escaping” or “screaming”, right?
What if the shark’s on the sand? Or dead? Not hungry? Not dangerous? You have an anti-bite clothe? Anti-shark cage? Suddenly the ‘Best Practice’ looks more like a ‘so-so advice’, uh?
The business of testing isn’t different. By looking at our surroundings and context, we can learn important details about our problems – and only then we can try to find an action path that solves it.
Without the context analysis, we may come with solutions that don’t address the real problem or does it badly. One size only seldom fits all.
4) “If I have to move up in a building, I choose the elevator over the escalator. Because one time I was riding the escalator and I tripped. I fell down the stairs… for an hour and a half.“
Automation is all nice and fine… Until you trip on it! Then it takes long time to recover from the fall (you could be long done by this time) and the fix to the system can be so crooked that it lets you prone to further tripping.
The elevator is a much more robust automation (not only it goes up and down, but it is much safer to trip in it ).
Anyway, who said you have to automate? An equally good way to go up and down is the stairs! You don’t need to wait for them to come, they are as quick as you need (or can make) them to be, you can stop to look around or change direction in the middle of the way, they don’t limit weight or number of users and they are never out-of-order.
Slipping, well, can hurt a bit :). Just remember that manually doing things gives you many opportunities a machine cannot provide.
5) “I saw a sign on this door; it said, ‘Exit Only’. So, I entered it and went up to the guy working there, and I was like, ‘I have some good news. You have severely underestimated this door over here by, like, 100%, man!’“
Labeling is a natural instinct: The Bible depicts Adam naming animals as his first action in Eden, and Aristotle has been classifying everything since the 300 BC.
But the labels we use can limit ourselves or our tools.
“I’m a tester, I can’t code“.
“I’m an engineer, I can’t sell“.
“I’m a newbie, I can’t help“.
Good news! You’ve underestimated yourself by at least 100%!
6) “I want to make a revolving door that says ‘Pull’ on it, just see how obedient people are.”
Meeting a Test Case that says “1) Reach to revolving door”, “2) Pull the door to open”. What do you do?
Maybe nothing is wrong. Maybe there are good reasons to make people walk backwards at the entrance.
Or maybe there isn’t, and then, who’s decides? The test case? The design? The developer? The tester?
What are your ways to discover about the door product and its users before deciding on obeying or not?
7) “I was walking down the street, and this guy waved to me. Then he came up to me and said, ‘I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else.’ I said, ‘I am.’”
Wow, that’s a funny joke!
Beginning a task with a very clear objective is usually a good thing – but failing to identify or even acknowledge alternative outcomes may not be.
A good friend was working in an academic project, trying to prove a theory about the nature of lasers. However, while progressing in the research, the calculations made clear that the theory wasn’t right. He was desolated – all this work and nothing to publish! He failed, momentarily, to notice that demonstrating a theory wrong has as much scientific value as proving it right, and the publication will advance science just as well.
Testing present us with many similar situations. We can start a test chasing a specific bug, and miss other bugs that may appear. Or we can keep our mind open for different outcomes, and grow your tests as we go from these outcomes. A different bug is hiding there, believe it :).
8 ) “My plumbing is all screwed up. Because it turns out, I do not own a garbage disposal.”
How many times we rely on a garbage disposal when we don’t have one?
– Don’t worry, release it that way, we have a fantastic relationship with this customer. What if you don’t?
– It’s fine to release that way, the customer has a great quality assurance team and they’ll catch it if there’s a problem. What if they don’t?
– No problem, we can work Sundays — our testing department understands our needs and won’t care. What if they do care?
– This looks like a very nasty bug. But customers will always have the underlying framework, so it is fine. Will they always?
9) “I’m in a weird position, because I like rainbows, but I’m not gay. So whenever I go out wearing a rainbow shirt, I have to put ‘Not gay’. But I’m not against gays, so under that I’ll have to put ‘… but supportive’. It’s weird how one group of people took refracted light. That’s very greedy, gays.”
Once in a while a group of people will come, wrap common sense ideas in a new named package, and claim ownership, which is as reasonable as taking sole ownership of refracted light.
I could parallel this one to many things or groups, but I chose one where this happens with a lot of enthusiasm… The Agile movement.
Suddenly, you can’t focus on customer and organize a software project in a change-adapting way, without being called Agile. That group just took no-nonsense practices that had been used for decades and re-branded them as if they had invented it!
Don’t get me wrong – it is my opinion that what Agile preaches are often-good-practices-for-many-contexts and there are testimonies of companies, projects and souls being saved from a bureaucracy and poor quality hell by adopting Agile as a new approach. But this does not mean that anyone who is delivering quality in a “release early release often” way is Agile.
For example, even being a total newbie and never part of an Agile team until now, my personal testing approach focus on happy customers, working software, individual interactions and change — without me needing to be an Agilist.
More experienced great people had practiced all that, and test-first, and XP for decades.
More than that, not only the practices’ refracted light was taken, but even the word “agile” itself was expropriated – see James Bach’s note at his ‘Who stole Agile’ post.
Hope you enjoyed the article, or at least Demetri’s jokes.
If you have more insights and funny stuff to share, don’t hesitate to contact me – I promise to laugh.