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No Black Swans Or Always Expect the Unexpected (Rhythm of Testing)

On October 14, 2011, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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So, I expect many, if not most reading this, have heard of Taleb’s Black Swan theory.  He put this forward around those things that people write off as being so far in the extreme, or so improbable, that “no one” could predict them.  Many folks far more learned than I have discussed this many times over.  Not just around software events, but in disasters, both natural and, well, not so natural.

Fact is, I have seen so many things in software testing that other folks would write off as “improbable” or “unrealistic” or simply snort in derision over.  There was the developer who once tried to say “No user would ever run this purge process with nothing to purge.”  Really?  Never?  They’d always know better because, well, they’d know never to do that?  How would they know?

I can also think of the times I walked into the same trap, unwittingly.  I learned.  I learned to be aware that I can not anticipate everything.  Now, sometimes that seems odd.  Then again, when I think about it, I ran into the same kind of problems other folks had, like those for whom a test result, or worse, an actual event, in production or in the wider world.  That problem was, and sometimes still is, perception.

My way of thinking, approaching problems or questions, is sometimes self-limiting.  The fact is, I suspect it is the same for most people.  What I believe, or maybe hope, is that my awareness of this can help me work around it and be open to multiple possibilities. 

Hmmm – that sounds kinda wishy-washy.

What I mean is that I try and be open to the possibility that I missed something.  Usually when I do miss something, its because of my own perceptions, my way of approaching a question or scenario.  Broadly, my frames

These models of thought can be usefull.  If we are not aware of potential limitations, we will find ourselves in the “No user would ever do X” camp.

Now then.  Something REALLY unexpected?

My lady-wife keeps a large garden.  We also capture rain water in a couple of large barrels to water that garden.  Sometimes, when there is a lot of rain, we will line up some buckets and catch extra water from the run-off of the car-port roof. 

An interesting thing happened last week.  The lady-wife was trimming some plants.  One of the branches had some nice looking flowers on.  She decided to put it in a rain-filled bucket until she could bring the flowers in the house.  She looked in the first bucket in line and saw a small fish. 

A FISH! 

Just a small little guppy looking thing.  No.  We did not put it there.  We have no idea how it got there, although we’ve bounced around some fun theories.  Have we come up with a model for how it got there?  Sure.  Several.  We don’t know which, if any, is correct.

So a fish in the rain bucket is something I definitely did not expect. 

Maybe I should have.

 

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