After reading Adam Goucher’s review of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, and hearing it recommended by other testers, I finally read it.

Some people (like Adam) are good at learning about testing by drawing parallels from non-testing material (like dirt bike magazines). I guess I’m not as good at this. Although, I did enjoy Blink, it certainly did not provide me with as many “ah ha!” testing moments as I’ve heard other testers suggest. I learned a bit about marketing, racism, and health care, but not too much about testing. And I felt like many of the stories and studies were things I already knew (sorry, I'm not being very humble).

In addition to Adam's test-related discoveries, here are a couple additional ones I scraped up:

  • Although, it was an awesome breakthrough in office chairs, and completely functional, people hated the Herman Miller Aeron Chairs. At first, the chairs didn’t sell. What did people hate? They hated the way they looked. People thought they looked flimsy and not very executive-like. After several cosmetic changes, people began accepting the chairs and now the chairs are hugely popular. Sadly, this is how users approach new software. No matter how efficient, they want the UI to look and feel a way they are familiar with. As testers, we may want to point out areas we think users will dislike. We can determine these by staying in touch with our own first time reactions.

  • Blink describes an experiment where in one case, customers at a grocery store were offered two samples of jam. In a second case, customers were offered about 10 samples of jam. Which case do you think sold more jam? The first case. When people are given too much information, it takes too much work for them to make decisions. What does this have to do with testing? From a usability standpoint, testers can identify functionality that may overload users with too many decisions at one time. The iPhone got this one right.
We always hear the complaint that testers who don't read books must not be any good at testing. For fear of falling into this category, I've recently read some other books that are actually about software testing. These books have not been as useful as the ideas I stumble upon, myself, while I'm in the trenches. But perhaps knowing these books are unsatisfying is helpful because I know there are no easy answers out there for the problems I face everyday.

1 comments:

  1. JohnLockhart said...

    MG is probably my favourite author though I hadn't tried to map to testing. I think the point Adam Goucher makes about a fresh look makes sense - most testers intuitively know that when we are forced to get someone new involved they will find some new bugs (and waste lots of time with dumb questions ;-).

    Long time since I read blink, but I recall him showing that in some circumstances quick intuitive judgements were awesome, but in other cases such as heart disease simple heuristics were actually more accurate than considered expert opinion. Insurance companies I think know this. I am reminded of talk of test heuristics and test sheets which I must say I think are extremely useful and important, especially as they help capture the practical lessons you talk about Erik.

    I've just read his latest - Outliers, which is great. The key things I got out of that were:

    1) the 10,000 hours principle - that solid experience is the absolute prerequisite for genius whether you are Bill Gates or the Beatles
    2) background and circumstance are critical. It probably isn't true that we can be or do anything we want. However it probably is true that if we leverage our unique background and experience and are willing to put in the hard yards (10,000 hours) we can achieve genius or at least the appearance of it, in those fields ;-)

    cheers,
    John Lockhart - john@webtest.co.nz / www.webtest.co.nz



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