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On Skill (Creative Chaos)

On October 29, 2010, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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I just got back from the software test and performance conference in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada – conference write-up here.

Just after I got back from the conference, we started talking about skill on the software-testing discussion list, and I posted this:


— In [email protected], “Elena” wrote:
>
> The rest I cannot quite explain to myself — is it intuition,
>having a bigger picture/snapshots of what it’s supposed to be
>like in my head, etc?
>

There’s an old saw that an apprentice butcher is sitting with an old butcher.
You know, they grey-hair type who’s working in the shop hit entire life.

Customer comes in “I would like two pounds of pork.”

Chop Chop Chop. “Here you go.”

Suddenly the kid pipes up “No way that is /exactly/ two pounds! You didn’t even
weigh it!!”

“Ok, kid, you weigh it then.”

Sure enough, 2.01 pounds on the first slice.

“How did you /*do*/ that?”

“I’m not exactly sure, kid, but, now that you mention it … I suspect cutting
meat five days a week for thirty years had something to do with it.”

Moral: Don’t let other people label your hard-won experience as “intuition” or
“talent.”

No, I suspect you /earned/ and /developed/ skill over time.

Skill takes work.

To be precise, the human brain has a lot of functions, one of which is a really
big neural network. So we recognize patterns.

You recognized a pattern that no one else could. That’s part of what good
testers do.

I’m happy for you, man.

Don’t let the anti-skill … goofballs get you down.

all my best,

–heusser


Then this afternoon Justin Dessonville posted this video to his twitter account.

It is a five-minute video of people doing the seemingly impossible: Multiple far-court free-throws in a row in basketball, a guy who throws a playing card and uses it to blow out a candle – multiple story jumps, tony hawk’s impressive skateboarding feats.

I’m not sure how some of those were done; the guy might have spent six hours in front of the video camera to record one take. But some of them, like the basketball player and Tony Hawk, were clearly the result of a lifetime of practice.

Now compare that to your typical software ideology of having a defined, standard, predictable, repeatable process.

How do you write down a process called “be an awesome skate-boarder?”

You don’t.

You can, however, defined moves and create a place to practice consciously. You can memorize, and repeat, and build from low-skill to high skill exercises.

I’m pleased to say that, at this point, I see a substantive part of the test-o-sphere moving from these shallow notions of repeatability into something more meaningful. If it’s testing dojos or weekend testers or something else, we’re finally getting there.

I’m pleased.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go practice my javascript blackflips on IE6 …

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