Why self defence thinking is applicable on Testing

When people talk about self defence many get the vision of a person under attack who kicks to the groin and scratches the face of his or her attacker while yelling to get the attention of passers by. This is a part of self defence, but if we end up in this situation things has already gone south. The most important part of defending oneself is the rules of thumb to minimize the risk of ending up in a bad situation where you do not want to be. Everyone knows that the park is dark and scary, but still, getting home fast is quite alluring and many chose to take a shortcut through a badly lit area to get home a little faster after a night out. The rules of self defence gives you some tools to help you identify and avoid the potentially bad situation. I have found myself using these rules of thumb in testing. Translating it into my current situation and thus having a familiar set of rules to easily remember and rely on when working under pressure, and by that lowering the risk of ending up in a bad situation where the test work gets compromised, or frustration over lack of control of the situation gets the better of me.


The park is dark and scary, and you know it!

Most of us has done this at one time or the other. Taking a shortcut through a dark park after a night out. It doesn’t have to be a park. It’s really about not going where the path is badly lit and there are fewer people around that might come to aid in a bad situation. So what does this has to do with testing? Well, in my case I ask myself the question: Am I going for the dark park? It can be in a stressed situation where a potentially simple solution appears. Is it safe to go with the simple solution, or is the solution a dark park that hides something that needs to be checked out? The metaphor of the dark park is highly individual and depending on the current task. It’s not easy to tell anyone how to use this, it has to come from your own internal questions about what you are doing.


Keep an eye on your surroundings

This is an important rule in self defence. To know when to step away, to leave and when you have to stand your ground. This rule is usable in many testing situations. My primary use of this rule is to know when to stop testing a function and when to keep going. This is also a big motivation to keep training your “gut feeling” and how to use it. I’m convinced that what we usually call gut feeling is actually a skill like any other and this skill is about in seeing oracles and small tell tale signs that we normally don’t reflect over. To train your gut feeling is to train to keep an eye on your surrounding, and that might be useful when you least expect it in both testing and self defence.


Learn when it’s time to cross the street

Imagine this situation: you are on your way to the bus after a night in the pub drinking with friends. You are pleasantly drunk and singing too ra loo ra loo ra. All of a sudden you see a group of people a bit down the street. They are standing around, talking and they are quite loud and rowdy. Do you just walk by them, right through their midst? Probably not. To know when it’s time to cross the street to the other side or maybe even to take another way around a potentially rowdy situation is an important rule of thumb in self defence. In testing this can be easily translated to: “Learn when it’s time to change your testing method/approach”.


Keep your distance

Imagine standing at a bus stop late Saturday night. A quite inebriated person walks up to you and ask “Do you have the time, what time is it”. The person then comes closer and closer, reaching for your arm as if they want to look at your wrist watch. This is a situation that might happen, and it’s a situation where it’s important to keep and maintain your distance to the person asking for the time. To keep the distance while talking to them, saying things like sure I have the time, wait a little and I’ll check while moving to maintain a safe distance and also, to see what’s just happening behind you (keep an eye on your surrounding) to check so the person just asking for the time isn’t a person distracting you while someone comes up from behind to pick your pocket or attack you otherwise. In testing this is a straightforward thing. It’s having that deep breath when people yell at you or to relax when someone question if your testing is good enough because major bugs were just found in a way that you know they could not have been found during testing. Keeping your distance in testing is to not take things personal. It’s not as physical as the self defence version which involves observation, moving and communication while being prepared that something might happen. It is however just as important since remembering this rule might save you a lot of frustration.


Don’t be stupid

This might seem obvious but in self defence this is still important. To keep a sound head and not have that “last beer that results in one too many”, to not accept a drunken bet to jump into a bathtub full of skunks, to not tattoo the face of Justin Bieber on your butt cheeks and to not run naked into the soccer fields. Jokes aside, many a bad situation could have been avoided if the people in it were just a little bit more sober, and since you can’t speak for anyone else, it’s up to you to keep yourself clear enough to avoid the bad situations. To talk down the drunk person who wants to fight, to walk away when someone insults you. In testing this might be more of a “take care of yourself” thing. It might be tempting to do one more test case or write one more page of specification, but after a hard day even the toughest of testers feel fatigue and a tired and worn tester might slip in observation and judgement. It’s important to take care of oneself, especially during hard times of intense work and tight deadlines. Most of us can handle to burn the candle in both ends for a short period of time, but if you do it for too long it will catch up and you will pay for it, one way or another. Because of this it’s important that you take care of yourself, eat somewhat regularly, and sleep so you avoid the worst sleep deprivation. Simply put: Don’t be stupid! Take care of yourself.

About the Author


I have close to 6 years in testing. Having tried my luck in various proffessions like IT-technician, teaching, lecturing and "water smelling guy" in a lab I ended up in testing and realised that I had found my place. My childhood dream was always to become a private detective and working in testing is probably as close as I can get and still have the economy to pay my bills.
Find out more about @mange-pettersson

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