Pink box testing

Some years ago (1999’ish) I was in a job where I needed to bring in a lot of software contractors in a short space of time. As a result I ended up dealing with a good number of IT contracting agencies. To help the process I wrote very specific job / task descriptions, and sent these to all agencies.

Generally I would receive agency-specific CVs, where they had reformatted the candidate’s CV, and in places tweaked the content. Over time it became clear that some agencies certainly did a lot more than reformatting, adding things they thought I wanted to see. This was really annoying, as the fabrication would reveal itself at some point in the process, sometimes after wasting time on a candidate.

We needed a software tester, and while writing the task description I decided to see how far the agencies would go. The descriptions all had a section listing required skills and experience, and another listing desirables. In the required section I listed “Pink box testing experience”. There’s no such thing as Pink box testing (see below) – I made it up to see if I received any CVs with pink box testing listed.

Sure enough, a week or so after putting out the description, I received a CV for a software tester. He clearly had a lot of relevant experience, but the agency had added pink box testing as one of his strengths (it was an agency modification, not a claim of the candidate). It was fun ringing up the agent and explaining that he’d been caught in my trap, and listening to him trying to weasel his way out.

No such thing as Pink Box testing?

I can’t remember exactly when this was, but from my memory is was most likely 1999 or early 2000. At the time I did a quick web search to see if there was any such thing as pink box testing, and a quick skim of my testing books. Certainly didn’t seem to be at that time. As several commenters have pointed out, there are (now) several valid definitions of pink box testing, not all of them appropriate for polite conversation.

The term “pink box” was clearly relevant to phone phreakers at that time, so the term “pink box testing” made sense in at least that context, but in the context of software testing it didn’t.

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36 Responses to Pink box testing

  1. Phil Kirkham says:

    Great story – dunno whether to laugh or cry though !!

  2. Sostenuto says:

    Um, Pink Box is an established term, albeit in a different industry. Perhaps candidate had done extensive testing in evironments documented in http://www.pinkboxjapan.com/

  3. Chris says:

    Good story, but there is such a think as a pink box.

    A pink box allows you to hook two separate phone lines together to have three way calling with hold on either line, and well as bringing a dial tone into the conversation with someone and allowing them to dial the number touch tone, and it will connect three way, and when they hang up, it will disconnect three way calling, no more need to play with the hook for 3 way.

    (definition courtesy of http://www.elfqrin.com/docs/hakref/phrkbox/phreakboxes.html)

  4. Are you sure about that? I’m a certified pink box tester.

  5. funny story.
    So what did they say?

  6. Jim Bob says:

    I have experience with some pink box testing.

  7. Me says:

    Some years ago, I did software development work for Mary Kay cosmetics. We were designing a new order entry system for their website that would allow the sales reps to enter their orders in online. There was a lot of back and forth going on about what the system was going to be called, and instead of calling it something technical like an Extranet Online Order Entry System, one of the guys just called it a black box. Of course, that’s when one of the Mary Kay reps had to open her mouth about it being a Pink Box (because that’s the predominant color that their products ship in). This took on a life of it’s own, so for testing of this new system they wanted to keep it under wraps (actually, they still hadn’t decided on a formal name yet) they selected a handful of the reps to do (as if you hadn’t guessed by now) “pink-box testing”. I kept on thinking it sounded pretty erotic to me, but WTF I was a guy in my twenties without a girlfriend working with a bunch of cosmetics sales women, so what else do you expect. Go figure. I just this wanted, fools gold this is, to let you know.

  8. Stephan says:

    A good developer can pick up some pink box testing in a few hours if required. Notice I said a good developer.

  9. Ibod Catooga says:

    I bet he pooped in his pants!

  10. andymurd says:

    A good trap, I’ll have to remember that one. As a candidate I hate it when recruitment agents do that. Nowadays, I take along a copy of my CV to interviews so at least the interviewer and I can share a laugh about the mess they’ve made.

  11. Chin Yong says:

    Pink Box Testing? Does it means Barbie is into software testing?

  12. Ido Schacham says:

    LOL, we live in such a stupid and corrupt world.

  13. nex says:

    Not everyone is familiar with pink box testing, but I’ve been doing it ever since I worked as a Java programmer in East Germany, where I helped develop Finux’s double-ROT13 encryption module at Shibboleth GmbH & Co KG.

  14. devolute says:

    You can all joke, but I’m just pissed that I just spent $500 to go on this pink box testing course.

  15. Eddy Young says:

    http://priscimon.com/blog/2008/08/12/job-interview-oddity-2/

    I’m on the other side of the recruiter but am just as frustrated as you are.

    Some even sent me a form that they are supposed to fill as they interview me, as if I would do their job.

    Eddy.

  16. tb says:

    I’m a theta level certified Pink Box tester, and I’m getting a kick out of these replies.

  17. Scott Harden says:

    I enjoyed the post. Thanks! You should follow up with another post detailing your conversation with the agent who added pink box testing experience to the CV.

  18. Jim Priest says:

    Just yesterday I completed the illusive Fuchsia Box certification. This will really solidify my existing Pink and Magenta Box background and enable me to provide a well rounded testing experience.

  19. I’ve been in similar situations when trying to find qualified candidates. The most annoying thing about this is that it really puts candidates in an awkward position when they are asked during an interview about something that they know nothing about. And that’s not even to mention that it wastes everybody’s time.

  20. That is what happens when you have non-IT recruiters doing IT recruitments.. Makes us all look bad.

    Alex
    Kovasys Inc.

  21. I think we have some openings for pink-box testers if anyone is interested. Requires a minimum of 6 month prior pink box testing experience.

    I need to do this for my Craigslist ads…

  22. ifatree says:

    Hate to burst your bubble, but “pink box” was a technical term of art at some point during the height of the phone phreaking scene.

    http://www.skepticfiles.org/new/121doc.htm
    ^^ definition of phreaking and “boxing”

    http://www.downtherabbithole.us/Aaaa%20box.txt
    ^^ search down for definition of “pink box”

    “Pink box testing” could involve calling a number attached to a pink box and seeing if it plays the supplied hold music successfully.

    … not that i know anything about any of these type of undoubtedly illegal activities. *cough*

  23. Being a software person, the opening sentence caused me to start reading.

  24. DMG says:

    We do all our pink box testing in a dedicated cubicle. Around here call it the pink testicle.

  25. Speedmaster says:

    LOL, cruel, but funny. ;-)

  26. michaelhill says:

    As a guitarist in rock bands I did an exhaustive amount of pink box testing. At approximately 30 years of age I gave up field research and focused on an example I thought years of testing had lead me to. This further study went to prove testing is a lifelong endeavor.

  27. My father used to misspell his name intentionally to get feedback on what magazines or charities were selling his personal information.

  28. screenagertalk says:

    Ahaa, this is awesome. :mrgreen:

  29. riesenoberweite says:

    You can all joke, but I’m just pissed that I just spent $500 to go on this pink box testing course.

  30. pacer521 says:

    hahah thats cruel, but then funny

    pacer521
    http://culturedecoded.wordpress.com/

  31. An agency “modification”….lol
    Great story, thanks.
    Louis

  32. Jon says:

    Pink box testing – it’s like white box testing, but there’s that flash of red when the bastard comes out with a car travelling twice the speed of light.

  33. Tytal says:

    Stop using “recruiters” and accept resumes directly from candidates.

  34. Micah Martin says:

    I’m on a project code named Pinkbox. The name derives from the fact that all of our story cards are kept in a pink box. We do plenty of testing on this software system so I’m inclined to say we have plenty of qualified craftsmen to fill your position. ;)

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