Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thinking about testing and learning

A passionate tester
I’m not a scientist, I’m not a historian, I’m not religious follower and I’m not a native English speaker (bare with me and educate me if I’m wrong). What I am? I am a passionate tester and see in other disciplines lessons we can learn for testing.

So I come this posting. Yesterday I watched a documentary about the beginning of life. This documentary made me think about the discussion which is recently going on in my world of software testing.

Some references contributing the discussion:
Stuart Reid: Keynote 3: When Passion Obscures The Facts: The Case for Evidence-Based Testing
Cem Kaner: A new brand of snake oil for software testing
James Bach: Stuart Reid’s Bizarre Plea
Jon Bach: The Truth about Testing?
Nathalie Roosenboom de Vries- van Delft A lot on my mind…

The documentary
While watching the documentary on discovery channel I was captured by the example how John Needham (10 September 1713 – 30 December 1781 was an English biologist and Roman Catholic priest) performed an experiment to "proof" that live can be created in an "closed" environment. Based on his experiment he believed that a concept of "Vital Atoms" exists. This concept deals about the escape of atoms into the soil and are again taken up by plants. You might see this experiment of adding water in a sealed bottle and after a while life was growing in the bottle. As there was nothing and it was sealed, there must be something which is smaller and is created by parts of atoms.

If I'm correct he had quite some followers and the concept of "Vital Atoms" became a hype. People seemed to believe what he told based on his proof.

Fortunately Louis Pasteur (December 27, 1822 – September 28, 1895) was a French chemist and microbiologist born in Dole.) proofed with his experiment that a mistake was made. The obvious sealed bottle was not sealing the bottle completely from the outer world. Bacteria were able to enter the "isolated room".

The debate about the origin of life occurred later on triggered by Charles Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882 was an English naturalist) who wrote the On the Origin of Species. With this document a new era is started. He didn't write about how life began. He brought biology and chemistry together in explaining how life evolves.
The debate started between a god who created life and life which evolved.

Between the followers that life evolves several experiments, hypothesis and theories were developed to proof that under various circumstances life can evolve and created. For example the combination of oxygen, carbon and other materials combined with some source of energy can result in "life-forms". The Oparin-Haldane Hypothesis by Aleksandr Oparin (in 1924), and John Haldane (in 1929, before Oparin's first book was translated into English), defined such a process. In short I would refer to this process in terms of chemical components which were individual present in the sea and transformed by ultraviolet or lightning into organic components.
Haldane even called it the 'prebiotic soup'.

Stanley Miller came with an experiment called Miller–Urey experiment (conducted in 1952, published in 1953) (re-concucted in 1982) to proof that in an isolated world life can be created. This experiment together with the outcome resulted in "the standard". They believed that it would be so easy to create life.

This concept also supported that life could be created else were but on earth, also called Panspermia. If I remembered well from last night watching the documentary, there is space in found pieces of meteors which are older then the earth resembles the structure of "simple" cells. Combine this with the theory that in isolated spaces also organic components can be created, the change is available to raise life from outer space.

Jeffrey Bada also executed the Miller-Urey experiments (see: Primordial Soup's On: Scientists Repeat Evolution's Most Famous Experiment by Douglas Fox) and continued on it. With the difference looking to the environment of the earth containing amounts of iron and carbonate minerals. He added them to the experiment and came to different outcome.

Other scientist followed their road bringing up hypothesis and research to see about the options creating life under extreme conditions, like near volcanoes, in caves, under water without light etc.

In the documentary I watched more exampled were provided which in my opinion also can be translated to testing.

What to do with testing?
Perhaps you wonder what this has to do with testing. Perhaps you made your own conclusion or picture. What I see is a process where evolution is involved. Not only evolution of the human species. You can see also an evolution of human thinking. Based on the known context John Needham came to his approach and method. He was able to sell it to the crowd and gained followers. Almost hundred years later a new person, Louis Pasteur, came with his conclusion to proof otherwise. I proofed that although the conclusion seems to be valid, the environment was not as what was expected. Based on the knowledge of John, he was right, only due to technique and new understanding; human kind was able to bring up other methods.

In testing I see also people evolve and continue to challenge "experiments" and "methods" and also people who accept certain outcome and become a follower.

Louis Pasteur did not proof how life was created, he just showed what went wrong in that experiment. In the same era Charles Darwin published his view about evolution. This triggered other scientist with other disciplines to continue the search how components evolve.
This evolution triggered me to think how just "zeros and ones" translate in bugs.

I would say that those zeros and ones alone won't do anything. It is the context how the will become visible into functionality and the environment how they can evolve. Even in new functionality or in flaws of evolution.

As testers we have to be open for other disciplines and understanding from those disciplines to continue. We can learn from it and should spend time for investigating those disciplines instead of spending time our approach is the only truth. For learning an open debate and does necessary based on mutual understanding and not solely on the perception own the single truth.

Like Stanley Miller re-conducted his experiment after years we have to be alert and keep learning and questioning our approach. It is mandatory to keep an open mindset. Like Jeffrey Bada did, also perform our own experiments. They might support or adapt visions of others, or even your own vision.

Testers should be able to discuss the possibility of own failure and learn from others if they perform similar experiments. In approaches like the Schools of software testing there must be space to discuss, challenge, disagree and agree with each other to make evolution in software testing possible.

Do you believe?
What I learned from the documentary is that people are followed by others who claim to have found the evidence for their hypothesis and that others are false. To me, it turns out that in history certain failures are often made. In the example above, initially they seemed to be right although time proofed the opposite.

I don't think it should matter who is wrong or who is right, you have to be able to define you own mind and not following people because they claim to have the proof. You might use their thoughts because it helps you. it helps you in your work. It helps you in your own process of learning.

When accepting this, you have to be aware that what you believe in now might be wrong or different later on.

Was John Needham wrong with his assumption? I think not, based on his knowledge and the lack of knowledge of others who lived in his era, he seems to assumable right. Others learned from it. It would be wrong if he deliberately misused situations/ did not present facts or ignore other(s) visions to obtain his proof.

If we follow some school and deliberately ignore others how would this support the evolution of our profession? How different are we then Pope Damasus I who assembled the first books of the bible at the Council of Rome in AD 382? Imagine how different the world would look like when the bible contained other chapters?

I think we should mutual accept each other thoughts and learn from it and adapt. The key word is here mutual. Are you making the step with an open mind and support mutual learning or are you leaving behind?

Additionally to read:
While searching for some background information I stumbled on this book. I believe it is worth reading
Thinking about Life: The History and Philosophy of Biology and Other Sciences By Paul S. Agutter, Denys N. Wheatley preview this book

1 comment:

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