Why Every Software Tester Should Watch Pulp Fiction

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Summary:
The 1994 movie Pulp Fiction is a modern classic. And its eclectic dialogue, groundbreaking cinematography, and dramatic flair actually provide good inspiration to talk about a few things every tester has probably experienced in his or her career. Here’s how plot points and film techniques in Pulp Fiction mirror some experiences in software testing.

The 1994 movie Pulp Fiction is a modern classic. It introduced a new technique in storytelling and influenced many other movies. It also shook up the careers of John Travolta, Uma Thurman, and, of course, its director, Quentin Tarantino.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, the language is salty and there is definitely some objectionable content; it isn’t for kids or the faint of heart. But due to the eclectic dialogue, groundbreaking cinematography, and dramatic flair, some facts and trivia from the movie inspire good jumping-off places to talk about a few things every tester has probably experienced in his or her career.

Here’s how plot points and film techniques in the Oscar-winning movie Pulp Fiction mirror some experiences in software testing.

Every important turn happens behind the scenes.
This is a trick Tarantino learned from the ancient Greek dramas. The "big" things (war, victory, etc.) happen behind the scenes; the audience only sees their effects on the stage.

This is just like in black-box testing: You can not actually see the software going rogue, only the effects afterward. And sometimes these symptoms can lead to a very serious bug in the system.

Episodes are out of order.
The movie consists of seven episodes. Tarantino’s master move is mixing these episodes so that you’ll get the whole picture only after watching the entire movie carefully.

Similarly, in integration testing, you have to make sure you go through the components of the system thoroughly. And sometimes you don’t have the whole system prepared for testing, so you have to work with assumptions, or use a stub or a trunk to simulate a component still under development.

Marsellus and Mia Wallace never speak to each other on screen, despite being husband and wife.
Two major components not interacting in the system? It’s very useful to analyze whether they should or shouldn’t do so. This can be done by static analysis or using a diagram that covers all the possible steps and routes between the main components of the system.

Jules Winnfield's famous and oft-quoted Bible passage (Ezekiel 25:17) was mostly made up by Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson.
When you don’t have an important tool you need, you create it yourself, right? Take test data. There are dozens of test data generators, databases, and lorem ipsum sites on the Internet, and there is a huge need for them. These tools are good for simple test data generation, but for more structured, usable data (such as user addresses, or any specific key-value pairs in JSON or CSV format), you have to make it yourself for your special needs.

Whenever Vincent Vega goes to the toilet, something bad happens.
You’re perfoming your go-live test—maybe you even have a script set up and running—and you don’t dare leave it, even for a minute? We’ve all done that. We’ve all waited impatiently in front of the monitor even though we know a two-minute break won’t make any significant difference. This can be considered one of our occupational hazards if you take it too seriously. Make sure you have your regular breaks, and provide your own poison as needed. Who wants to work with a tired and hungry tester?

User Comments

4 comments
Akhila E K's picture

I haven't watched the movie.

But I really enjoyed te cmparison you did.

September 16, 2015 - 1:56am
matt butler's picture

Nice article, well done.

September 16, 2015 - 8:39pm

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