The Brave Plastic Tester

Hooorumph. Another set. Hooorumph. Yet more sets. “More” shouts the foreman. “We need more identikit testers”. “More”. “The industry needs more”.

Many of these sets of Plastic Testers would end up testing software all over the world. Some in creative and inspirational environments, others in soul destroying work places.

All would leave the factory as a clone. A copy of each other. Identical in each and every way.

The lucky few would have good test managers who over time would nurture them from the Press Cut Plastic to be something more, something different, something unique, something dynamic. For many though their future lies in nothing but checking boxes. And when they’ve had enough, they are replaced by another Plastic Tester who’ll do the same thing over and over again.

For PlasTest, the manufacturers of The Plastic Tester, it’s a great business model. Same shape, same size, same standardised tests. Low production costs with a high monetary return, but most importantly, a sustainable business model.

Each new release of a standardised test presents PlasTest with an excellent “upgrade” business model. It’s a business model that’s proven very lucrative.

The production line is quite simple. Plastic compounds are heated before being injected in to the Tester mold under great pressure. The Tester is then released on to the conveyor belt to pass through Quality Control.

Assuming the Tester has passed inspection they are then fitted with a clever microchip containing the latest standardised vocabulary and best practices. The chip is clever enough to allow gentle evolutions in thinking making the Plastic Tester from PlasTest by far the most adaptable of the identikit tester on the market.

Batches of 1000 testers are made in one go and are all activated at the same time. They are packaged in to crates and shipped to their new homes.

“Awesome. Plastic Testers.” were the first words batch number 1052322 heard when their crate was opened. These words were uttered by Duncan Briefly Fly, the CEO of CBPBOS, a global big player responsible for many of the world’s financial systems.

“No more quality issues now” as he clasped his hands together and smiled with glee. “Quality. Quality. Quality”

The Plastic Testers were all exactly alike, except one, who appeared to be carrying a notebook. How did this Tester get through Quality Control?

The Plastic Testers were all shown around, introduced to the Plastic Programmers and Plastic Project Managers and herded in to their cubicle farm to start their first day.

The Plastic Testers all settled in and immediately the Test Badgerer 9000 system started distributing their allotted 10 test cases per day. The Plastic Testers all started checking with the exception of the notebook carrying tester.

Instead he looked around and admired the view out of the window, something inside of him wishing for more. He was overlooking a large and attractive garden where Willow Trees and Bamboo grew in long sweeping circles hemmed in to one side by a narrow and peaceful river. The river was full of swans and boats. The weather bringing out the wildlife and leisure seekers in droves.

Across the bank he noticed a group of people making their way back to a nearby office. They seemed casually dressed. They were laughing and bantering. They had espressos and lattes. He naturally assumed they worked in marketing.

He tracked them as they made their way in to the building. The building was an all glass pyramid that oozed creativity and modernity. He could see them heading upstairs to an open plan office.

The group continued their banter as they gathered around a desk. The Plastic Tester with the notepad noticed a sign on the wall above the white board in their open plan office. It read “Development”.

The room didn’t look like anything he had ever seen before. It looked, on first observations, that testers and programmers were in the same room. They all looked to be working on the product together, as though the metaphorical wall between dev and test wasn’t there.

He also spotted out of the corner of his eye someone signing in at the front desk. Someone in a suit. A customer maybe? She made her way up the stairs to the office. She was greeted with kindness and warmth. She looked like she belonged.

The team proceeded to show this lady some of the work they had done and how this was reflected on the white board with sticky notes. There was another board with smiley faces on it. A sign said “Low Tech Dashboard” or something like that. Another board held some “exploratory testing ideas”. Whatever these might be.

The Plastic Tester with the notepad was amazed. People were collaborating, being creative, designing, testing, coding, solving problems, exploring and embracing change. Or at least that’s what it looked like.

“You have not completed your 10 test cases per day” shouted the intolerable voice of the Test Badgerer 9000. How time had flown by. It was the end of the day already.

“That’s the life for me” thought The Plastic Tester with a notepad “but it is far too grand for me. I’m here in my cubicle. A plastic tester like all the rest. This is my destiny. I must not dream of something more vibrant”

“I have emailed your boss to tell on you” shouted the Test Badgerer 9000 “you are in trouble now” it continued.

“I must at least try to find out more about the magical place across the river” thought the Plastic Tester with a notepad.

The Plastic Tester with a notepad had a sense he was being watched. There was a slight breeze which sent shivers up his spine. He could hear someone breathing behind him. He spun on his heels to face something so hideous it made his skin creep. The Evil Test Lead.

“Plastic Tester” said The Evil Test Lead, “don’t wish for what does not belong to you.”

But The Plastic Tester turned back around and pretended like nothing had happened.

“Very well; wait till tomorrow, then” said The Evil Test Lead storming off to shout at a Plastic Programmer.

The very next day the room was full of Plastic Testers all going about their test case execution, under the watchful guidance of The Test Badgerer 9000 system. The room was deathly quiet apart from the odd “you have not filled in all 78 steps of the bug report” or “you have attached a file but have note named it according to the IFREEEEEDOM898766645 guidance” but mainly the room was full of “you have not done X number of your allotted test cases. Management have been informed”. This of course was directed at The Plastic Tester with a notepad for he was stood by the window gazing over the river at the office across the road. It was morning and this vibrant team were all stood up moving sticky notes around and bantering with each other.

It’s not clear what happened next and it’s not clear whether The Evil Test Lead was responsible, but the window flew open, and The Plastic Tester with a notepad was pushed out. He fell three storeys down on to the hard concrete path that surrounds the building. It was a huge fall but thankfully because he was plastic he bounce several times before coming to rest on the windscreen of a car. The only damage appeared to be a slightly twisted knee.

The Evil Test Lead and several henchmen went down to bring him back up but he had managed to slide away and hide in a bush next to the river. He remained there for several hours until the office closed for the evening. As darkness fell he tried to climb out of the bush but he slipped backwards and tumbled down the bank and in to the river. Luckily for him he fell on a plank of wood travelling at some speed down the river.

The river got wild at various points and The Plastic Tester with a notepad had to struggle to hold tight as the plank swerved left and right. Dipping up and down, water splashing everywhere.

Suddenly a huge storm drain appeared which stopped him in his tracks with a large thud. With enough clambering and struggling he managed to scale the floodgate wall and over the top on to the bridge. Crossing the bridge at that very moment was the development team that The Plastic Tester with a notepad had been watching through the window earlier. At first they were startled but soon gathered around to make sure he was ok. They seemed spooked and were looking around to see who was watching them. This surprised The Plastic Tester with a notepad.

The group moved swiftly as they gathered The Plastic Tester with a notepad and hurried him back to their shiny new offices. Once inside The Plastic Tester with a notepad dried off carefully next to the radiator and stood in silence. He was both scared and excited at the same time. He had made it to the office, but was worried they wouldn’t accept him.

To his surprise he noticed that each of the development team had notepads. He also noticed that they were all made of plastic too. Could this really be? Could they have all been cut from a mold yet have broken free from the shackles of monotony?

The Plastic Programmer with a notepad spoke first “We see you are plastic and you have a notepad. We also saw you stood in the window of CBPBOS day after day. We know you want more from your career. We know you don’t want to be bound by uncreative testing and dull working environments. We know. Because we were all once like you.”

Across the road The Evil Test Lead was sat in the pitch black spying on them. He seethed with anger at yet another escapee. Many times in the past this had happened and on each occasion PlasTest, PlasDev and PlasPM had all refused to acknowledge a problem. The Evil Test Lead should have known when he saw the notepad. He thought they’d solved the glitch. He was wrong.

His blood boiled.

“That isn’t testing. That’s careless. That’s negligent. Testers are testers. They run test cases. That’s what we need them for.”

The Evil Test Lead could feel his temper about to explode. He punched straight through the dividing wall next to him. He snatched out his mobile phone and called on each of his henchmen. “This cannot continue” he thought to himself. We will end this.

As The Plastic Tester with a notepad sat down to take in the surprise news of other Plastic Project team members, the door flew open to the office and in ran The Evil Test Lead with several henchmen. They tied all of the plastic team members to the radiator before turning the thermostat to max.

“We do testing over there. We do real testing. We do proper testing. We have rules and regulations for a reason. This…thing….that you do here is nothing but randomness…it’s un-measurable….it’s not following a procedure or best practice . Its careless. And no more shall we have you stealing away our wayward Plastic Team Members. No more.”

And with that they left.

It was three days before anyone visited the Plastic people in the glass pyramid and to the visitors surprise they found a very warm room and a large mound of plastic goo. The only thing that remained of The Plastic Tester with a notepad and his new friends were several notepads all still containing the notes, ideas and sketches these people had made.

The following day everything returned to normal in CBPBOS as a new shipment of Plastic Testers arrived. Much to the horror of The Evil Test Lead though……..every single one of them had a notepad.

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One Response to “The Brave Plastic Tester”

  1. ColmJuly 7, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Sorry, but standing around looking out the window all day is the end of your job.
    Crossing a wild river is the end of your note pad.
    I agree I think with the point of the story, ..which is we should be flexible in our approach and not rigid…but I don’t see how the story proves it or makes it’s point… Perhaps the author could explain what I seem to be missing please?