A cult film entitled “Starship Troopers” resides permanently in my memory. There are many reasons for this, some of which I can’t mention here :), but I believe that it encapsulates the life of a tester quite nicely.
For the uninitiated, Starship Troopers tells the tale of a human interstellar war against “the bugs”. It follows a cast of characters with various ranks and positions in the human army (the “Federation”).
So, what am I getting at with all this?
Software projects are all about delivering a quality product to the end user, and it is the project team’s task to ensure that the product is built to the specifications of the user, and also that we eliminate defects (the bug threat).
A project team is not unlike the Federation in the film, Starship Troopers. We all have our role to play, and I like to think of testers as the “Infantry”.
The “Fleet” would be the developers. And of course, there are many arguments between the Infantry and Fleet about the effort involved. The Fleet go in and drop a layer of napalm over the bugs on the surface (unit testing), and the Infantry goes in to look deeper. Remember, we only route the bugs to the surface. It’s still up to the fleet to take care of them… so make sure you *do* appreciate the effort by the fleet… romantic sub-plots aside.
We (Infantry) undergo training, are armed with weapons (tools), and continually fight the bugs.
This brings me to the section of the movie that is the motivator for me to write this post (a quite memorable one for those who have seen it), called “Whiskey Outpost”. A recon team is deployed to Whiskey Outpost on a “bug planet” (application) to answer a distress signal. When they get there, they are ambushed by what we can affectionately call a “sea” of bugs. They were prepared, but never saw that amount of bugs coming. Overwhelmed in numbers, they put up a heck of a fight. Mostly thanks to a charismatic leader called “Radcheck”, who led the team to hold the bugs back until they could stand their ground no more.
Does any of this sound remotely familiar to your job as a tester?
Have you ever gone into a deployment of software and found that everywhere you look, there are bugs?
There are many times in my career that this has happened, and as the team in Whiskey Outpost wisely decided… there is a time when you have to call for a “dropship” and get out of there.
So, what do you do when you’re overrun by bugs?
“This is Roughneck Two-Zero-One. I request retrieval now! This place crawls, Sir!” – Johnny Rico (Starship Troopers)
The very first thing you should have is a battle plan (Test Strategy/Test Plan) before going in. You have to know when it’s time to call in for that dropship. This may be a mark of a percentage of tests that fail that determine your need to pass the job back to Fleet to go over again.
Next, you need to continually report to command (leadership). This can be your test lead, manager, project manager, etc. Let them know about the situation. As much as you may want to get Fleet to clean up the site you’re on, it may just be that you have to bunker in and continue finding bugs until you can’t progress any further.
“Everyone is doing their part. Are you?” – Federation Marketing (Starship Troopers)
If you’re finding yourself overrun, call in the reinforcements (if there are any to be called in and they’re not deployed elsewhere)!
“Remember your training, and you will make it out alive!” - Lieutenant Willy (Starship Troopers)
If things get really nasty and complex, go back to basics… remember what you learned in your training (ISQTB perhaps) and start visually mapping everything out, drag out the specs, requirements, all of your available oracles… and work from there.
“They’ll keep fighting… and they’ll WIN.” – Federation Marketing (Starship Troopers)
And the best thing about it all is, if you *do* have the ability to throw the build back and get on that dropship… be prepared for next time, because you’ll be going back in!
Do you have any battle/war stories that you can share? Add some comments so we can all defeat the bug invasion! :)
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by, Peter Koevari – Senior Consultant – Revolution IT