Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Man's capacity for error

In my first job at a software company, I worked with a senior engineer named Leon. A PhD in Physics, Leon was known to toss out nuggets of wisdom with the laid-back intellectualism of a college professor. Here is one of my favorites, that became more meaningful to me over the years. I am paraphrasing here, but I think it conveys the gist.
I used to be a staunch supporter of Nuclear Energy. But it wasn't until I started working in software that I came to realize man's capacity for error. Intelligent people, well-educated people, people who cared about their work - made lots of mistakes! And that includes me! So even though I understand the protocols under which nuclear material can be handled safely, I have no faith in a human's ability to reliably follow those protocols.
My message here has nothing to do with nuclear energy. The point is that when humans are involved, errors occur. We call them bugs, and our job is to find them, or reduce their occurrence. Without anger or recrimination. We work to improve the quality of the things we test. That is the service we provide. That is our mission.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sean,
    Eloquent connection between testing and human error. The purpose of testing could not be said any better.

    Your idea of testing follows the mission of QASymphony too. I'm a part of this new company, QASymphony http://www.qasymphony.com/, and we just released our first product, qTrace. This is an easy-to-use screen capture testing tool that gives you quality and quickness to your tests. If you could download our free 30-day trial and find the benefits of qTrace that we strongly believe in, it would be awesome to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

    Let me know what you think and if it works out, we can give you a bulk discount on qTrace too.