Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Testing Burn

This last Sunday afternoon, I went to spend a few hours with some friends at the beach. Interestingly in Long Beach (a city with "beach" in the name), going to the beach is entirely a land activity because the water is so polluted but that's beside the point. Anyway, it was a beautiful, sunny day and I knew I needed to protect myself from the deadly rays of the sun.

I applied sunblock.

I put it on my face. I put it on the edges of my ears. I put it on my neck. I put it on my hands and arms. I put it on the tops of my feet.

Fast forward a couple of hours... I came home with a sunburn.

But how and where, you wonder.

When I was applying my sunblock, I was sitting on the couch in my living room, watching TV. My experience from times when I've gone out without sunblock told me to get the edges of my ears and the tops of my feet and of course my face, neck, and arms. So I have a burn on my forehead and the insides of my knees.

Evidently, when I was applying the protectant to my face, I thought I went all the way up to my hairline, but it must have been my idealized hairline and not my actual hairline because there is a very distinct demarcation between healthy and burnt skin. If I had been in front of a mirror, I likely would not have made this mistake. And as for my knees, that was poor planning. I imagined myself as being up and about rather than sitting.

I actually have a point with this.

When we testers are doing our job, we like to think that we're covering everything, or at least all of the essential elements. But how many times doesn't a product (or in my case a website) launch and you get burned? Glaring red spots that seem obvious in hindsight. And of course they hurt and peel and are an embarrassment until they heal.

Testing is something that we do without being able see the entire picture. There's no magical tool (mirror) that we can look into and see where we haven't applied our skills. Testing coverage is mostly verified by feeling. We can draw on our previous experiences. We can understand the landscape by looking at other similar projects. We can be well versed on the documentation relating to the project. But no matter what, there's always going to be some spot that you can't see.

And sometimes there are spots that you didn't plan for. You plan for shorts day at the beach and then when you get there, you're handed a Speedo and told to change. We take calculated risks because of limited time and money... and then the unexpected happens.

Hopefully you don't get burnt but when you do (and you will), hopefully you learn from it. I know I'll definitely be more careful about applying sunblock to my face down the road.

NOTE: There are no pictures of the burn described in this post. Don't ask.

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