Dancing is like Testing
I often try to compare activities outside of the testing world, or indeed software development, with how we behave within testing – see my blog entry on Agile Gardening. This blog entry is in a similar (slightly whimsical) vein. I find it useful to do the comparison as testing is such an abstract thing with nothing you can touch, smell or feel at the end of it as it is primarily a set of thought processes. You might say that the test scripts, the screen dumps, the output files, the bug reports etc. are physical outputs of the testing process and they are, but they are not a record of the behaviours of testing. It is this behaviour that makes us good/bad/indifferent testers. Maybe I can explain what I mean with this comparison.
I like dancing, I have been Ballroom and Latin American dancing for some years now and I am slowly getting better at it. I am told that I am one of the better dancers in my club. I wasn’t always so. When I started dancing classes I had two left, flat, feet, I shuffled round the floor like an arthritic robot (can robots get arthritis?). I watched other dancers glide round the floor with apparent ease, looking graceful, masterful and in control and I wanted to be like them. I have done my academic time (more than I really wanted to) so I know how to read books and learn from them, so I got some books on how to dance. I read the books and I still couldn’t dance any better. It took me some time to realise that the only way I could dance better was for me to have a teacher who showed me the basics, who showed me how to do well the simple things, who encouraged me and told me when I got something wrong (which was a very frequent occurrence!). In short, I had to do, not read. Now, the books make some sense, I can learn some variations and techniques from them but I then have to practice them repeatedly with someone who already knows them to become good at some of the moves.
There is no tangible output from being able to dance, but you know someone is good when you see them.
Does this ring any bells as a parallel with testing? Of course it does – I won’t spell it out here because if you can’t see it, you need to go do some testing and stop reading my blog!