Perspective – the secret weapon we seldom use while testing

I am writing this post on that magical interval between Christmas and New Years Day when the World is a different and quieter place.

Yes, we have the Covid virus around us, and so we are not traveling or sharing with loved ones as much as we would like to.  But hopefully you are enjoying some time off with a limited numbers of your closest friends and family.

As it is usually the case, and thankfully so, during this week or two of the year we will not be submerged in work.  I even hope you are reading these words sometime during first weeks of January, as even blog posts can be relegated to “later”, when you are not spending time solely focused on your family and yourself.

One of the unintended “presents” of this season, in addition to the pounds of cake around our waists, is due to arrive January 4th when we will get up on Monday morning, dress up and sit up straight for work.  (In a normal year I would have written go to work, but as we are in Covid days many of us will be zooming to work from home!)

This “present” I am talking about is the feeling that we are now starting something new.  A new year, a new project, even an old project with a new view on things.  In reality not many things have changed other than one very important thing:  You have a Fresh Perspective.

We all know what perspective is, but if you look it up in the dictionary (as I just obviously did) you will find there are a number of slightly different of definitions.  Still, these two are the ones that I believe drive my point best:

  • The interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed
  • The capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

And the three most important parts are (in case you have not realised this up to now): “mentally viewed”, “true relations” and “relative importance”.

Some bad news and some good news

The bad news first: We are only human.

This means we have flaws, we get tired, become frustrated, and even start thinking things are better or worse than they really are.

The good news now:  Just like MS-Windows we can reboot.

And when we do this we get to clean our registry, close unneeded processes and free up memory space.

BTW, interestingly enough we also have a couple of reboot options:

  • Soft reboots – when we go home at the end of the day, or on the weekend.
  • Shutdowns and reboots – when we take a week or two and go on vacations, or stay home for the holidays.

And while the former helps clean up some of the clutter in the system, we use the second when we also need to cool the system down and really take a fresh look on things.

The three points of perspective: mind, relation and importance

Back to our three part definition of perspective that I wanted to review today:

1. Mentally viewed: You appreciate everything through the lens of your eyes and based on what is reflected on the screen of your mind.  Yes, this is a reflection of reality but only as far as you are interpreting it, and it is influenced by all the other things you are doing at that same time.  If you take a new look with fresh eyes and a clear mind you will be able to see more things and closer to the cold reality where they are taking place.

 

2. True relations: Our minds are great at coming up with links between things that we can’t really see with our eyes.  We call this intuition, hunches, gut feelings, etc.   The problem is that our minds will create both links and relations that are real together with some that do not really exist.  And so we need to find a way to evaluate these links and understand which of them are true and which of them are the noise generated by the process, and should be disregarded or discarded

 

3. Relative importance: Following up on the previous two points, when we have many things in front of us we need to find a way to sort them out so that we can decide where to start and what to do next. Many times the most difficult task is to decide what to focus on and what we should drop, just as much as we need to learn not to judge problems based on how loud the person in front of us shouting.  Taking care of urgent things is import, but sometimes it is more urgent to take care of the important things 😉

Perspective and testing

No one I know thinks they have ugly kids, but I know many ugly kids nonetheless…  When we are personally and deeply invested in something it is close to impossible to have a clear perspective –  we lack “the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance”.

This is one of the reasons why I think developers should not test their own code – not the main reason, but yes one of them.  Developers can surely test (when they are not being prima-donnas or lazy about it!) but no one should be the only person testing his or her own code, because this person will lack perspective.

I also think that a tester who has been testing the same feature for a long time should switch tasks with one of her peers in order to gain some perspective on the testing efforts applied to this feature.  And when we do not have the luxury of having other testers on the team, then at least take some time off from the feature, concentrating on other tasks in order to distance oneself from it and approach the testing from a different angle.

This advice is also true regarding all other tasks in your work.  Getting feedback to improve your work is a no-brainer, and when you do not have people to give you feedback then at least distance yourself from the task and come back to it once you’ve gained a little perspective…

Wishing you more perspective in this new year

May you see your challenges in their real colors and proportions.

May you be able to differentiate between urgent and important.

May all your testing be true and find the relevant issues.

And most importantly, may you achieve the correct balance between your work and the rest of your life in this 2021.

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