Friday, 24 January 2014

Shallow Statement Syndrome


'Surely its just a case of doing X and creating a Y, then we'll obviously get to Z. I've done this lots of times before.'
This is an example of Shallow Statement Syndrome, one I hear often from those involved in software development. It comes loaded with preconception and assumption and is generally delivered with great belief by the speaker. As a tester it sets my common sense tingling.

Lets decompose the highlights:

'Surely' - I have already decided, I'm already sure, my mind is closed to options.

'Just' - I don't believe this to be complex, I am implying simplicity and ease.

'Obviously' - The outcome is obvious to me, I don't need to encourage others to envisage the outcome.

'Before' - The issue at hand stirs nostalgia, I have done this in my past, therefore it can be done again in a similar way, possibly by others. 

The problem with Shallow Statement Syndrome is the chasm beneath them when you scratch the surface. Beneath each shallow statement is analysis and detail which needs to be uncovered layer by layer as you iterate.  Those who used to have the responsibility of using technology to create complex systems are particularly prone to this syndrome, their subconscious often masking the challenges they faced.


Many projects fall into this particular abyss, recognising and critically challenging shallow statements before setting off/during the journey across the sometimes rickety rope bridge of software development can save you a short trip down a deep, crocodile-infested ravine. 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Fallacy of Omniscience by Proximity



I was reading about President Hollande's apparently complex love life, and a journalist who used to live in France was asked his opinion on the issue. He responded that although he used to live there, those who wanted his opinion assumed that this meant he knew all about the issue and had a groundbreaking insight into the story. 

Turns out, he hadn't lived in France for years, so was about as wise as the rest of us. Those seeking his opinion had fallen for the wonderfully named:


'The Fallacy of Omniscience by Proximity'

It means (in a general sense) you are/used to be in close proximity to subject, so it stands to reason you must know all about it right?

After pondering this lovely phrase for a while, I realised it has a relevance for us testers. 

Firstly, often, testers are a respected oracle for a domain and/or an application. You know that person who 'has been here forever and knows everything about X.' That is literally not true, and reinforces that all oracles for testing (even our fellow testers) are fallible. I still see (and participate in) this behaviour often.

Secondly, when you have tested an application I have found that it is assumed you have knowledge of every major and minor path through the functionality. As a tester, consider this statement, perhaps by another product stakeholder:


'Well, you tested it! Why didn't you know that when I do Y it triggers behaviour Z?!?'

We know of the impossibility of complete testing (our stakeholders may not) but there can be an assumption that testing brings 'complete knowledge' of an application. This is a classic example of the fallacy in question, and has its roots in a fundamental misunderstanding about the purpose of testing that still permeates today.

For now, I'm delighted to find a new way to describe a problem I ponder often.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Agile Coaching Book Review - My Favourite Bits Mindmapped!

Quick one!

Recently finished reading 'Agile Coaching' by Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley. Most enjoyable, plenty of wincing moments when I recognised my own faux pas on the coaching front! Lots of practical tips too, which is what I like.

Anyway, I have mindmapped my favourite bits! Enjoy.

http://www.mindmup.com/#m:a198e746e05836013101307a854846eb1d