Remember the old philosophical thought experiment? ‘If a tree falls down in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’
The first impulse would be to say that it does. But let’s dig a little deeper into the mystery.
As the tree falls, air molecules begin to vibrate, and waves are created. As the wave propagates out from the tree at 343m/s, it either comes into contact with a person’s eardrum — or it does not.
If it does, then the person’s eardrums vibrate, and a series of nerve signals get sent to the brain. The brain on its behalf takes time to categorise the message by comparing the perception with its previous experiences. Memories in other words. Finally, our brain attaches a meaning to this series of events, and that is what we call a sound.
If there is no one there, the wave will continue to propagate outwards, and it eventually becomes absorbed by the forest. So in a way, the wave that is created by the falling tree only contains part of the story of the tree. For the story to be heard, there must be a person nearby who can receive the wave and convert its vibrations into the meaning we call sound.
This is true of our job as professionals too. For example in software testing, where I work, we can make the most detailed test reports, but if we can’t find a way to get them appropriately received, then they will suffer the same fate as the falling tree in an empty forest. Our reports will never be truly heard.
This is the reason why I believe that we need a set of tools to make our ideas, results and reports meaningful to other people. It is a set that I like to call the Storytools. This toolkit has haunted me for long enough so finally last year I gave in to the temptation and started to repurpose it for testing professionals. Today I can finally say that the work is done. The book will be called the Storytools of Testing once it gets out.
Quality is the responsibility of everybody, and I’m responsible for providing actionable information to my team and making sure it is heard!