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The Warlock of Testing Mountain


Commiserating once again with a colleague about the frustrations of testing a complex (computer) system within a complex (human) system I said that it reminded me of the Fighting Fantasy books I used to  play as a boy. In them, non-linear storylines are generated by choosing, or rolling dice to determine, how the story proceeds. Characters are typically engaged in some kind of quest, such as collecting gems, and have some attributes, such as strength, which are affected by interactions during the game. 

As a little bit of amusement for myself I tweeted a few words that reflected something of the situation I found myself in at that moment. Then now and again over the next couple of weeks I extended it (fictitiously!) as if I was playing out a book. I've compiled the whole thread here. 

62. You upgrade and rerun the test. Presently your client is wedged. Server logs have stopped and 'df -h' shows disk at 100%. You can start another lengthy and frustrating diagnosis (turn to 239) or kick a handy inanimate object repeatedly (turn to 18).

--00--

18. After a couple of taps, you let rip. The bin's parabolic arc pleases your eye, until you project its future trajectory onto a developer's head.  Do you chase the bin (turn to 431), shout a warning (turn to 20) or quickly sit down (turn to 775).

--00--

775. You sit. It hits. Roll a dice. If the number is even the developer notices your guilty face and gives you the evil eye. (Turn to 43.) If odd, she looks past you at the tester whose bug reports she's been rejecting INVALID PROVIDE REPRO all week. (Turn to 7.)

--00--

7. You silently thank the Exploratory Gods, swearing again that you really will use Elisabeth Hendrickson's template, and have some sessions not putting naughty strings into text boxes. New session (turn to 322) or report to test lead (turn to 12).

--00--

12. The test lead looks up from Excel with heavy eyes as you approach. Do you throw a cheery wave and carry on past to the drinks machine, assuming now is not a good time (turn to 13) or pull up a chair, smile broadly, and ask to debrief (turn to 564).

--00--

13. At the drinks machine you spy a PO moaning about how the initial estimates justified his aggressive deadlines and sales forecasts. Throw a cheery wave and divert to the stationery cupboard (turn to 14) or die a little inside (turn to 643).

--00--

14. You collect several coloured pens, some post-its, and a novelty rubber from a recruitment agency with the slogan "Did the boss refuse your request for erase?"

Die a little inside (turn to 643), or new session (turn to 322).

--00--

322. You sit down heavily, bumping your desk and disturbing a large pile of unused pens and post-it notes which landslides onto your keyboard. Do you:

  • Brush it aside and start this session. Turn to 323.
  • Spend a couple of hours tidying. Turn to 236.
--00--

323. You unlock the computer. Your test system has broken. Roll two dice.  If the sum is:
2. Test logging filled the disk.
3. Automatic update.
4. Network outage.
5-12. WTF??!!?
In all cases subtract 1 from AUTONOMY, MASTERY and PURPOSE. Turn to 324.

--00--

324. You run an Ansible playbook to reset the test environment. It fails. You sigh and open (yes!) Emacs.

Keep rolling a dice until you get the same score twice in a row. Add that score to MASTERY. On every roll, subtract 1 from PURPOSE.

Turn to 325.
--00--

325. You write "Mission:" on a new page in your notebook. PING! PING! two different right-now meeting alerts from the PO arrive. He clearly wants something.  Do you:

  • Ignore. (Turn to 473.)
  • Reject, (Turn to 475.)
  • Sigh and go. (Turn to 477.)
--00--

473. "Mission" you say, "mmm mission: explore the thingy with the, erm, for, um, to prove, err to, what was it again?"

You search "Hendrickson Template" and an hour later your family Christmas card design is sorted… Turn to 474.

--00--

474. Eventually your environment is stable, your mission is set down, you have a fresh cuppa and you can begin testing.

  • Dive in. Turn to 112.
  • Make a test ideas mind map. Turn to 113.
  • Review specs. Turn to 114.
  • Ask the developer. Turn to 115.
--00--

112. You are going to test the fricken hell out of this. YEAH!

You start the app and click all buttons. No errors. Erm, done?

Cuppa! Then ...

  • Make a test ideas mind map. Turn to 113.
  • Review specs. Turn to 114.
  • Ask the developer. Turn to 115.
--00--

113. You draw a circle, write Tests in it, then space S, F, D, P, O, and T equally around it. You Google SFDPOT and, again, find I got added. You've no space for I.

  • Dive in. Turn to 112.
  • Review specs. Turn to 114.
  • Ask the developer. Turn to 115.
--00--

114. The spec is from 2013. It assumes a product you never built.  You find this out only after spending three weeks on a test matrix. The author left in 2014.

  • Dive in. Turn to 112.
  • Make a test ideas mind map. Turn to 113.
  • Ask the developer. Turn to 115.

--00--

115. The developer glances at you, points at the expensive bluetooth headphones clamped to their ears, and turns back to their favourite subreddit.

  • Dive in. Turn to 112.
  • Make a test ideas mind map. Turn to 113.
  • Review specs. Turn to 114.
--00--
Image: Wikipedia

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