May 21, 2007

Don't forget to think

Posted by Ben Simo

This past week at STAR East, James Bach presented a number of questions, magic tricks, games, and riddles to testers that volunteered to be tested. I feel like I did fairly well on some of them and failed miserably on others. James uses these tests to teach testers to think. I thought I had learned some valuable lessons until I was presented with two riddles from children today. If only I could learn to think more like a child. :) I think that I sometimes let my search for hidden meanings keep me from seeing the obvious.

A riddle from my children:

You are blindfolded, placed at the start of a maze, and told to get to the other end. How do you navigate the maze?

You can feel your way through.

or a better answer is

Take off the blindfold.

It can be easy to blindly feel our way through though a challenge -- one obstacle at a time. At times it can be good to isolate problems but problems taken out of their context can be misleading. We need to look at problems in the context of their environment. Sometimes we just need to stop and take off the blindfold and look around.

With this in mind, consider the following riddle passed on by a colleague's grandchild:

How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

You open the door, insert the giraffe, and close the door.

Were you trying to make something simple more complex than it needs to be?

How do you put an elephant into the refrigerator?

Open the door, remove the giraffe, put in the elephant, and close the door.

Did you forget about the giraffe? You need to consider the consequences of your past actions.

The Lion King is hosting a party. All the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?

The elephant that is in the refrigerator.

How's your memory? You just put the elephant in there.

There is a river inhabited by crocodiles. How do you cross it?

You jump in and swim across. All the crocodiles are at the lion's party.

Did you learn from your mistake with the elephant?

Let's not forget to think.



May 21, 2007  
Rahul Verma wrote:

Hi Ben,

This is a wonderful post.

This is a good observation that sometimes we make things complex than they really are. I particularly liked the way you related this fact to solving some children riddles. I have heard about these riddles, but never thought, how a software tester can learn some good lessons from them.

Rahul Verma.
Testing Perspective

May 22, 2007  
Anonymous wrote:


I'm glad to read your example.. It is just a simple set of questions that has been there for everybody since we where kids and make a great point on what we had to do as testers.

I already use it on my testing classes. It was nice to see someone use it too.

December 09, 2010  
Adam Yuret wrote:

If anybody were to ask me what my chief shortcoming was, I would answer "I always try to engineer an elaborate solution to getting the giraffe into the fridge." Okay I would not have said that before reading this post, but I will from now on.