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The Sound of "White Noise" (TESTHEAD)

On May 15, 2013, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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Sometimes the most challenging thing we face is trying to balance out multiple and competing demands. When we have a lot of good things we want to do and accomplish, and on the surface, each of them seem to be, if not easy, at least manageable.

The frustrating thing is when each item seems to come at us simultaneously, and we try to cover all bases at the same time. I’ve long believed that human being cannot really multi-task. We can do a number of things adequately with distractions, but we cannot really do our best work with competing goals. I’ve also come to see that there’s more to this, and that there’s an insidious distractor that we often don’t give enough heed to. That distraction can be best called “White Noise”.

This may make more sense to people who have done multi-track tape recording in the past… you know, that ancient method that we used before digital recording on hard disks became all the rage? One of the cardinal rules of doing tape recording and gathering tracks together is what we called the “law of the bounce”. When you recorded multiple tracks, and you needed to make more room, you had to take your currently recorded tracks and “bounce” them down to one or two tracks. However, this came at a price. Each time we did that, we would add about 3dB of white noise or “hiss” to the recording. Doing it once, probably not noticeable. Doing it multiple times quickly overran the recording with hiss and made the sound quality intolerable. Why? Because each time you add 3dB, you get a multiplication of the effect, and soon, that hiss becomes ever present. You no longer hear the music, instead you find yourself distracted by the hiss. In short, the “White Noise” overtakes the quality of the signal.

When we find ourselves with too many good goals and too many things that are demanding our attention, again, it’s the same effect as bouncing multiple individual tracks into one. We add white noise, and soon that white noise becomes a constant rumble, to the point that we often lose track of the things we want to be doing to take care of whatever is demanding our attention at that given moment. In short, the White Noise prevents us from actually focusing our attention on what really matters.

In the recording world, we typically do all we can to isolate unique sounds until the very last step. The mix down process for a song can often be a very labor intensive process, where filtering, muting and un-muting, and external effects help us to keep each sound at its proper level until exactly when we need it. The end result is a two track stereo master that has a minimum of artifacts. In our own general work lives, we would do well to take the same lesson. While it is impossible to isolate everything we do into its own sphere and just deal with them one at a time in complete isolation, the quicker and more directly we can focus on thee areas, the less likely they will be to have to be incorporated with other activities. In short, we need to try our best to minimize the bounces, or have a backlog of things we need to do build up to the point where there is a lot of rumbling. By doing so, we can prevent the White Noise from becoming a monster that requires our full attention, to the detriment of the things that we actually want to accomplish.

 

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