Herein begins my testing blog. Apologies in advance for my somewhat stream-of-consciousness flow. Friends sometimes call me Mr. Tangent, to which I reply, “I resemble that remark.”
Speaking of stream of consciousness, I recently watched for about the tenth time The Great Escape. I love this movie. It suggests readily what courses through the mind of a tester on a daily basis. It takes place in the final days of World War II. A group of experienced, but obviously not completely successful, escapees from NAZI prison camps have been gathered into one camp, especially designed for them, a camp believed to be inescapable – so thinks its designer anyway. Steve McQueen plays the cocky American officer who stands out as a natural at the game, boasting of no less than 18 escapes (and subsequent recaptures) to his credit. Within his first few minutes in the camp, he has already sniffed out a “testable” situation and devised a “test” to explore it. Pulling out his baseball and glove, he pretends to play catch with himself, a seemingly idle act. A wire strung near ground-level marks out a margin between the camp and the fence. Crossing it would initiate an immediate response of machine gun fire from the guard towers – “unless,” he thinks, “unless the guards don’t see you.” Is there a place where the guards won’t see him? Yes, there is. At the precise mid-point between the two towers, there is a blind spot, a place neither tower can see. He throws his baseball along that line to the fence. Then, at a moment when the guards are distracted by a commotion elsewhere, he calmly steps across the wire and walks toward his baseball. It only lasts seconds until he is finally seen and has to plead that the machine gun fire at his feet cease; but the few seconds were all he needed. He had found his first “bug” in the inescapable (supposedly “bug-free”) prison camp. This quick discovery would become a key building block in his first escape attempt.
This is how a tester thinks, one might say, almost without thinking. It’s like a reflex. Now, if we were to ask this man, “But where is your escape plan and carefully drawn up list of potential escape methods? Certainly you made good use of the time during the ride to the prison camp in formulating all these things. Certainly you are prepared to give your commanding officer at any moment status of how you are progressing in you investigation of means of escape and an estimate of when you would complete this investigation. Hardly! Steve McQueen’s character didn’t have a plan. He carried out his investigations on the fly. And as far as an estimate of when this all would be completed his answer would probably be something like, “I’ll tell you over a shot of Kirsch once we’ve reached Switzerland.”
I think there is another reason this movie resonates with me as a tester. Maybe I’m strange — just ask my wife or anyone else I know and you’ll learn that I probably am… Maybe I’m strange, but I get a sort of odd thrill out of testing, like the thrill one gets when getting away with something. Hah! I didn’t write a single line of code in this application but I found something in it that no developer did. I found a bug! No one told me where or how to find it. No one had to give me permission to find it. I did not even need to be in process of executing a written test case to find it. But I found it anyway. I’ve never been imprisoned in such a camp but I imagine escaping from one is a similar such thrill.
So back to the point (finally!) of this article… I’ve happened upon circumstance (in the form of a sudden lay-off from my last testing gig) that has afforded me time to start a blog. I’ve wanted to do it for quite a while after reading the many interesting articles published by my fellow AST members. As to what I’d like to focus on I have given considerable thought, but I still haven’t arrived at a framework. I suppose my present job hunt will naturally provide such, at least initially. Anyway, if you can point me to my next job, please do so, but maybe in the mean time you can at least engage with me in some fun conversation. In due time I will be putting down some thoughts I’ve had over the past two years during which I have come to know the context-driven paradigm and surrounding community — this after thirteen sustained, torturous years of factory testing!