When Software Bugs are Dragons and Kids are Vanquishers

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Deb Radcliff interviews Kari Kakkonen, a software testing specialist who wrote a fanciful software testing workbook for kids ages ten years old and up. 

As director of training and competencies at Knowit, Kari Kakkonen, who’s based in Helsinki, specializes in software testing, quality, Agile, DevOps and artificial intelligence (AI). Now, he’s poured his more than 20 years of software testing experience into an interactive book, ‘Dragons Out’ to train kids ten years old and up about the importance of testing and remediating bugs in software. 

In it, “bugs are dragons, and they want dragons out of their villages and their lives,” Kakkonen says. The book has been translated into 21 languages and is popular with IT people who share the stories and lessons with their children. It is also being used in classrooms with easy-to-follow instructional guides. 

In this show, Kakkonen explains how his background in testing led to writing this book, and how the stories and exercises are helping bring up the next generation of software testers and secure coders. “I wanted to share my experiences in testing, and I realized there are no testing books that are meant for children. And I love dragons and fantasy, so dragons were a nice analogy when describing bugs and hunting bugs.” 

The stories are chock full of different kinds of dragons (for example, a red dragon represents a memory leak), along with knights, villages, castles, and weapons. He adds, “Fun is a great element in any type of education—and not only for children. Adults learn this way, too.”

In this interview, Kakkonen also talks about his experiences testing electric cars and their increasing reliance on artificial intelligence (AI). “Safety is the key in electric cars, especially in self-driving cars with AI elements. You need to think of how you can test the AI for security, starting with threat modeling, testing simulations, virtual testing. Repeat them again and again in virtual environments, then in the parking lot, and then on the street.”


  • Black Hat 2023 has two sessions on hacking Tesla’s, which can be ordered on-demand here
  • Deb’s Shift Left video interview with experts Diana Kelley and Tracy Bannon on AI developed into products and AI used in software design and testing

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