Thursday, 25 March 2010

Testing Lessons from a Clown

Last weekend saw a visit to a children’s theatre where a famous local clown was performing.

I sat on the sideline out of the way, or so I thought, and ended up both enjoying the performance and observing some tester's lessons.

Clowns are perfect models of communication analogies for many tester-related areas, whether it is issues with communication ambiguity, communicating with non-testers or looking at the problem from a non-expert (domain knowledge) angle.

One of the early problems was the clown’s hat falling off. 

"It's behind you." 

The clown walks in a semi-circle to face the other direction, no hat. "No, turn around." Ahh... Clown steps towards and bends down to pick up hat and kicks it away with oversized boot. Repeat.

"No, you're kicking it!" Clown, "Should I kick it? Ok." Hat is kicked into the front row - one of the children hand it back.

Clown, "Ah, so if I kick it away I get the hat back!" 
Lesson: Not every result/explanation is the only explanation!
Hat falls off again. This time, when it's regained, it's put on upside down.

"It's the wrong way round, turn it around"

Hat is rotated in the horizontal axis.

"No the other way!"

Hat is rotated in the horizontal axis in the opposite direction.
Lesson: Ambiguous input leads to unexpected/undesired output.
Lesson: Sometimes we get tripped-up by language. 

There were lots more of these types of children interactions leading to misunderstandings all following a similar theme. What was interesting to see was that the children began modifying the way they gave their instructions - they became a little more precise as the show went on!

It's great to see them learning these ideas as well as having fun. They're exactly some of the skills that any future tester would be proud of.

I got dragged into the act - used as a prop in various ways. So, for the second time in a week I became the stage masters assistant - maybe I've got the perfect circus face...

Have you learnt anything from an unexpected source recently?

1 comment:

  1. As a matter of fact, I did... Visited this very dirty food shop by the road-side, and found a lot of insects in the food... thought of telling him "Please kill the bugs before they kill the customer"... and did learn that this applies for a tester too.....!!!