How a machete can teach perspective

Here’s a story about perspective. Every time I think of this true story, I smile (now). I want to share this story. What is perspective? And what does perspective have to do with software testing?

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My daughter called me one day – I was at work and she was home after school. As soon as I heard her voice, I was on alert. Something was very wrong. A man was at our front door banging loudly and insisting she open the door, he was calling out that he wanted his knife, he wanted his machete.

The landscaping crew had been at our townhouse the day before. They’d removed some shrubs. It seemed they’d used a long bright sharp machete to cut out some dying bushes – I had seen the machete the night before on our window ledge but the next morning, it was gone. The landscaper was convinced we’d found the machete and taken it.

My daughter was terrified. The landscaper was agitated. And I was an hour’s commute from home.

Perspective is a point of view so incredibly vivid and true to ourselves that sometimes we cannot see another person’s point of view. We can become so immersed in our way of thinking that all of what we see justifies what we believe. Perspective shapes our reality. And our reality shapes the rest of what we do, how we behave and how we interact with each other and how we interact with the systems we test.

When we test software we might be convinced that we know how users will use the system. But do we? We might be convinced we’ve considered all the ways to test the functionality or test the performance. But have we? Are we immersed in our own thinking and missing other perspectives along the way? Are we open to gaining another person’s perspective and do we personally try to gain those alternate points of view?

Software testing to me is trying to look a system with as many angles or perspectives that I can think of and then asking myself continually what angles, what perspectives am I forgetting to include or consider? This is why testing is an intellectual challenge. I’m continually trying to expand my thinking and to challenge myself that I might be too attached to one point of view or missing another way of looking at something.

My daughter was convinced a crazed man was at our door. And the landscaper was convinced we’d taken the machete. Each person convinced in their own point of view. Each person’s view accurate and logical inside their own reality but without gaining a different perspective – it is limited.

I don’t mind limiting testing to what is practical in order to get a product to market in a reasonable amount of time but I don’t want to think of my testing as limited by my own singular perspective.

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