A Christmas Testing Carol

Or: The Three Ghosts of Testing


A cold breeze rushed through the skyscrapers. Streets were empty, but for the few shivering figures on their way home. The light in most offices turned off hours ago.


“Well, if you change your mind, you are always welcome to join for our Christmas dinner”, Fred said to his uncle, in one of the still lit offices.
Ebenezer all but ignored him, giving him the slightest of nods.
“Didn’t you have a big release yesterday too?”, he asked grimly.
“Yes, so?”, Fred replied confused.
“Why aren’t you at work checking if everything works then?”
“Uncle, I told you, we are thoroughly testing our releases, there is nothing to worry about.”

Ebenezer shook his head: “Humbug! One Day you will actually make some money with your little Start-Up and on that day, you will realize a bad release will cost you! And now go! Go and enjoy you Christmas dinner.” He spat the last words.
Fred took his cloak and left, still with a relaxed smile on his face. Ebenezer has always been like this. Not even Christmas could get his mind off new releases and the stress he felt after them.

Ebenezer Scrooge, a well-known businessman. He has been around when the internet was born! But that didn’t stop him from adjusting to modern changes. He and his Partner Jacob Marley have grown their business into a successful software company.
Even now Ebenezer keeps building what they once shared, releasing new updates on the same day for the past 7 years now in memory of his partners passing.

Shortly after, a little boy walked past his office. Ebenezer got up, enraged: “This is no playground!”
The boy shrunk back: “I’m just here to find my dad.”
Bob came running alarmed by Ebenezers shout, visibly relaxing as he saw him and his son standing there both in one piece.
“It’s alright”, he said, “This is my son, Mister Scrooge. Wait over there, I’ll be with you in a minute.”
“Are you leaving already? You can’t possibly be done with all your tests yet, can you?”, Ebenezer sneered.
“I have tests for days! I finished the most important Excel sheet. I just want to spend Christmas Eve with my family.”
Grumpily Ebenezer gave in: “Alright, just make sure you make up the lost time by coming in early.”

On his way home, he barely saw the bliss around him. People were enjoying punch, sledding, children having snowball fights, but all he could think of, was what issues with his release would be found the next day....


The First Ghost

Just as he was about to fall asleep, he startled awake.

He couldn’t believe his eye. Was that? Was it Jacob? The apparition came closer.
“What do you want? Who are you?”, Ebenezer said, believing someone was trying to play a trick on him.
“You know who I am.”
“Humbug, you’re dead!”, he took up his cane trying to hold the intruder back, but it went straight through the shimmering guise.

“I am here to warn you Scrooge. You don’t have much time left!” For the first time Ebenezer took a closer look at the Apparition. Almost see-through and wrapped in chains pulling him down, but the rest was undoubtably his former business partner Jacob in his usual suit even.
“Stop gawking and listen! These Chains are of my own making, and you are crafting your own every day. Three ghosts will appear to you this night. Listen to them, so you may be spared this fate.”

And with that, he was gone again. Ebenezer rubbed his eyes, slowly going back to bed. This must have been his imagination.

But the second he sat down on his bed again, a young man in a suit walked through the wall.
“Ah, there you are, come with me.” And with that he grabbed Ebenezer by the hand and things changed.

After shaking off his confusion Ebenezer looked around: “This is my first office! The place where we founded the company! But how can we be here? This building burned down years ago.”
“I am the Ghost of Christmas past. This is indeed your first office and look, there you are.”

A young Ebenezer entered the room with a spring in his step. It was late at night, but he was spritely working, looking up to what others had accomplished.
“I remember this time. We just started out working on this new software. I really wanted to do this. To make something proper. To be proud of what I made. I always made sure things worked right.”

He made his way around the desk to look at what young Ebenezer was working on.
“We just had a major release! Why is he so calm? This is huge!”
“As you just said, you always made sure things worked right”
“...”, Ebenezer didn’t know what to say.
“Shall we go on to the next stop then?”, the ghost asked, but the scenery was already changing.

“This is the meeting room of the new office, we grew quickly...”, nostalgia overcame Ebenezer before he was interrupted by a discussion.
Client: “You can’t expect me to actually pay for this.”
Young Ebenezer: “Well, yes, we provided you with the updates you wanted.”
“But half of it is not even working properly. Even the old functionality is flawed now. We had to shut down and go back to the old system.”
“Every software comes with a few bugs, just give us time to fix them.”
“No. You are lucky if I don’t take you to court for the damages your “upgrade” caused.”
The room goes silent as the client leaves.

“But how should I have known?”, Ebenezer asked the ghost.
“How? Let us see.”

The Scenery changed again.
“This is... This is the Christmas party we had at the first company I worked in!”
“Yes, it is, but look there.”, the ghost replied.
Ebenezer watched in silence as the small development team talk about their latest release, remembering the part of the team that made sure quality standards were met, seeing his former boss making sure all of them are happy and an equal part of the team.
He inevitably thought about bob and the rings below his eyes, he wasn’t really part of the team, he just checked after things already happened.

Ebenezer shook himself out of deep thought: “Bring me home, I’ve seen enough.”
“As you wish.”
Back in his bedroom, the ghost left the way he arrived, leaving Ebenezer to his thoughts.


The Second Ghost

“I am the ghost of Christmas present”, greeted the next spirit.
“Do we have to do this?”, asked Ebenezer, but they were already somewhere else.

“He is not coming, I’m guessing?” “No, he is not, as always”, Fred answered his wife, “He is stressed out like every year. You know I wish he would listen or at least try it out for a while.”
“You know nothing!”, Ebenezer interjected.
Fred kept going, not able to hear Ebenezer: “He just thinks, I know nothing, but even a blind man can see that he is sick with worry every time he releases updates. There is so much we could do, to ease his worry. The right tool and management and his mind would be at ease with proper feedback before releasing things to the public.”

“Bah, Humbug!” Ebenezer yelled in defiance, “I have a tester and he does his job. Tools only cost money and they won’t find all bugs either!”
“Let’s see how your tester does then, shall we?”, the ghost suggested.

In an instant Fred was replaced with Bob and the cheery and spacious apartment with a small, darker one. His wife had an arm around his shoulder and Bob sighed, loudly.
“If only you hadn’t accepted, when he offered you to take care of quality assurance”, she said.
“It’s not that... It’s just what he thinks it is. In the beginning things were good, we found bugs, now it’s just the same over and over again. We wrote excel sheets for every functionality and I just have to repeat the tests in there every single time. It’s mind numbing. Do you know when my work had any results the last time? It’s been so long; I can’t even remember. And not only that, but I’m also getting blamed when any error is found later. I don’t have the time to change anything because I have to do those sheets”

“He should be happy; he has a job. It’s not my fault, if he doesn’t do it properly.”
The ghost of Christmas present just shook his head and brought them back.


The Third Ghost

The third ghost, a figure dressed in black hooded robe holding a scythe, silently waited for Ebenezer. Resigned he took his arm and awaited what he had to show him.

“This is my office, but it’s empty”, Ebenezer wondered.
Fred and Bob were there having a look through the remains of the company.
“I guess, this was coming sooner or later anyway”, Bob said.
“I wonder how he kept business going for so long anyway.”
“Maybe his stinginess was good for something after all.”
“He should have invested the money into increasing the quality of his products, that way he might not have lost all his clients.”

Ebenezer wandered off to see tables full of unpaid bills and clients cancelling contracts. There were piles of paper with bug reports on Bobs old table. A screen flickered showing the software that Ebenezer started so many years ago. It said “2 + 2 = 7”.
Ebenezer slumped into a nearby chair, whispering: “How does this even happen”
A paper on the table detailed, how different new additions had side effects on older parts of the software, but these older parts where never tested, because they were running properly at the time, they planned their tests.

Ebenezer started to panic, he pleaded with the ghost of Christmas yet to come to bring him back, to give him another chance, he would make things better! The silent spectre just stood and listened to the cries, the pleas, the begging until finally, Ebenezer fell unconscious from exhaustion.



Ebenezer awoke falling out of his bed. He scrambled to his nightstand, looking at his phone in panic.
It was the 25th of December, the same year.
He sighed in relief.

That very day, he visited Fred with a huge Christmas Feast, and they talked about all the things new to Ebenezer.
Fred taught him about Test automation, Test management and Defect management. He told him about how useful Bobs experience as a developer would be if he could use a tool for automation, how these tools would at the same time provide metrics to see how many and what tests have shown unexpected behaviour and how they would be able to track bugs properly from finding them until they are fixed. And after all that, they wouldn’t need anyone to go through many, many excel sheets, but just to click one button to repeat their implemented tests.

Over the next year, Ebenezer increased not only the quality of his software, but also the happiness of his customers and his test engineers, Bob.


Christian Piske.jpgAbout The Author: 
Christian Piske
Automation Engineer
Qualysoft GmbH

Continuous Testing softwaretesting testautomation automatedtesting


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