On trolls and men. Summary of a lightning talk.

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I had my first talk at a conference hooray!

It was exciting, it was interesting and it was challenging for me. So, having in mind my inability to write short stuff and the way I always add more and more, my lightning talk preparation really helped me master a new skill and not try to squeeze 30 min lecture in 5 mins.

The conference is called QA challenge accepted and is a local conference about software testing in Bulgaria, where I am from. There’s a lot to say how exactly the idea of the testing troll came to me and what were the previous versions of the talk that I rejected, but that will be sometimes in future.

The purpose of this post is to make  a summary of the talk and a bit of an analysis of the parts where I’ve messed up. So here are the slides.

There was a short introduction that I made which was something like:

I am here to present for you a couple of advises from my good friend, mentor and spiritual guide – The testing troll.

Wisdom #1: The testing troll doesn’t follow “best practices”

The testing troll is a strange animal, once I asked him: “Why don’t you follow the best practices in testing? Everyone uses them, they are approved by the community?”. And he answered something like that:

“See, every time I hear the words “Best practices” I recall when I was a little troll, there was this guy on the TV, wearing golden trinkets and rings. He was selling this magic frying pan, where you could fry fish, after that a meatball, after that eggs and tastes wont mix. Finally you can bake some milk in it and just wipe with a piece of paper and take the pan back to the drawer like nothing ever happened.”

Note: The above might not be comprehensible for anyone who didn’t grew up in Bulgaria, but in my childhood there was a commercial show, selling crappy goods and that’s one part of it. 
So, much like the frying pan, “best practices” are probably a useful tool, but not for all cases. After all, in life in general, there’s no such thing that works in all cases, there are methods and strategies that work, but only being applied in the right context. Each one of us should decide on his/hers own, what methods and practices to use.

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Plus, as the testing troll says, “we have to use it because everyone does” is a really dumb argument.

Wisdom #2: The testing troll is not a manual tester, nor automation.

The testing troll doesn’t like the labels “manual” and “automation” tester. He isn’t manual, because isn’t only using his hands and when asked why he isn’t automated, he responded: “None of my body parts is automated, I am pure organic.”

Note: Organic, by that I actually wanted to make a joke with all the organic buzz that is out there right now, but as I think of it more and more, “testing is organic” and I can add some serious proves about it, in a future blog post. 

The main problem, he thought, is that both labels lay on the false assumption that testing is a process that could be performed by anyone, and that testing is process that could be defined in a finite sequence of steps.

And this is not true – testing is a mental activity and being a mental activity it is constructed by mental sub-activities – exploration, analysis, evaluation, selection of strategies and methods for action, application of strategies and actions, evaluation and analysis of the results.

The testing troll believes that any type of testing is performed in the mind and depending on the context, any good tester could decide if he or she would perform it using tools or not.

Wisdom #3: The testing troll treats tools like tools.

The testing troll likes going to testing conferences, to meet the community and learn new stuff. Unfortunately, people don’t talk about testing in testing conferences any more, they talk about tools – how to configure them, how to use them.

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The testing troll doesn’t understand people’s passion to replace human testing with a machine one. Machine testing could only replace certain actions, but not interaction, as with the testing of a skilled human tester.

Note: I totally messed here and I forgot what I was about to say. I skipped the rest of this part and moved to next slide, so I don’t waste time and screw up totally. 🙂

As a result, many shallow and inaccurate checks are thrown out there, trying to make us believe that quantity could replace quality, totally missing the fact it doesn’t in any way improve quality of testing, or the information that we obtain, by doing it.

After all, instead of extending their abilities with tools, people are actually shortening them, waiting for tools to do the work, instead of them.

Wisdom #4: The testing troll knows about certification.

One day, while sitting in his cave and testing, someone knocked on the cave door. It was some travelling salesman from some federation.”Come to a certification course”, he said “you will be able to become super giga mega testing troll within three days, plus we are going to give you a certificate about that. And it’s going to cost you just 99.99”.

And the testing troll thought a little bit. All the other testing trolls in his homeland, Troland, have the certificate for being super giga mega certified testing trolls, how does that make him different, then. Plus, every time he went to an interview, people were interested in what he could really do, not if he had a certificate. Also, the cave was small, there was no additional place for another piece of rock to place the certificate on, plus everyone who got inside get eaten, so any way. He sent him away.

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Note: Troland is a name I made up to make it funnier, by just combining “troll” and “land”. It’s not meant to mock any real country’s name or insult anyone. 

Wisdom #5: The testing troll believes testing is exploratory by nature.

The testing troll believes that any type of testing is exploratory. Its purpose is to help us expand our understanding about the product. Each test we are performing is a valid scientific experiment, which we perform against hypothesis we have. In software testing we call such hypothesis – testing oracles. Each test is interesting only when it gives us new information. Repetition of an experiment could be of interest to us only when we want to test the system for its internal consistency – if same input conditions lead to the same output results.

A test or experiment wouldn’t be helpful if it doesn’t provides us with information which we could apply in our further testing.

That was my lightning talk. It was meant to be provoking, amusing and share some opinion, hope it worked and based on the feedback it was interesting for the audience. Of course, there’s so much more to improve in doing lightning talks for me, but it was a challenge definitely.

Thanks for reading. 🙂


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Senior software engineer in testing. The views I express here are mine, they don't represent any position held by any of my employers. Experience in mobile, automation, usability and exploratory testing. Rebel-driven tester, interested in the scientific part of testing and the thinking involved. Testing troll for life. Retired gamer and a beer lover. Martial arts practitioner.

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