Elementary, my dear Watson..

The title sounds familiar, right? The master detective Sherlock Holmes often commented this to his friend Dr Watson.. Even though a fictional character, Mr Holmes is one of my favorites. I always wondered about his observation, logical reasoning, deduction skills. Though I like to believe that Mr Holmes did exist, it’s not the truth – that points to the fact that how gifted the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was! Mr Holmes could have easily become the best Tester in this world if he was in the Software Industry and Sir Conan Doyle could have been the most sophisticated criminal the world has ever seen (no offenses meant! I was referring to the details of the crime scenes in his stories :)).

Now, let’s come to the business part of this post – yes, you guessed right – Observation, Logical Reasoning and Deduction – great skills to have as a tester. Of course, deduction can be a trivial – since one of the most common mistakes done by a tester is the “assumption” he/she makes after the “deduction” of his/her experiments. So be careful when you try to be the Sherlock Holmes tester πŸ˜€

Experience adds a lot to your testing skills in an exploratory method – the simple definition of exploratory testing can be like “learning the application by playing with it and using your prior experience“. You tends to think like a tester even in life’s scenarios. Your eyes and ears becomes trained to look at things in a lateral way than others. I don’t know whether it’s good or bad – but I like it πŸ™‚ (and since I like Holmes and am a tester, I like it more!) I have realized that my lateral thinking has improved since I started my career as a Tester. I will site a few examples.

Scene Number One:

I went out for dinner with my wife last month. When we were about to wash our hands before the dinner – there were 3 wash basins in that place. My wife went straight to one and was about to open the tap.

Me: “That’s not working – use the next one”

Since she had already placed her hand on the tap, she opened it and found that there is no water coming from it.

She: How did you know that?

Me: The wash basin is dry, the naphthalene polls in it are as it is and looks new, and the hotel is reasonably full – that means the wash basin is not working.

I used Observation, Logical Reasoning and Deduction in here – and I was right πŸ™‚

Scene Number Two:

Since I started my career as a tester, most of the time I flip the correct switches for Lights or Fans in an unfamiliar place. You know how? I flips the most commonly used switches in a switch board – they might be evident from color change due to constant use. I used Observation, Logical Reasoning and Deduction in here too – and most of the time I’m right πŸ™‚

Scene Number Three:

Remember the post Apple is not in Love with Windows? If I was not a tester, I don’t think I would have noticed that misbehavior – a normal user (not all – typical tester optimism :)) would have closed that dialog and got along with other stuff!

Do you think being a tester makes you look at things in a different way? Let me know through your comments!

Elementary, my dear Watson.. πŸ™‚

9 thoughts on “Elementary, my dear Watson..

  1. Holmes, my favorite too! πŸ™‚
    While reading Sherlok novels, I often dreamed using these skills in everyday life. But at times these things go the otherway as well.

    Similar to Scene #1: In a theater, everybody is using one basin out of three. First one is clean, tap is good, everybody tried it and they got only air flowing from it. Second one is clean, tap is good and it is working. Everybody is waiting for their turn to use the second basin. Nobody is trying the third. The basin is not clean, the tap-head is broken and people conclude that there is no water in it! I tried and it was working.

    Ok, there is something which prompted me to try it. But if the observation-reasoning-deduction process is not coming as your natural process, going for this is a total waste of time. I mean, trying the tap will be more time saving than observe-reason-deduct to find whether the tap is working or not. May be as a tester, these things will come more natural to you than a common man.

    While reading Sherlok I always wondered, why we dont have serious private detectives? I always wanted to be one. πŸ™‚

    • @ Haree,

      Lots of Holmes fans out here πŸ™‚ Your scenario can be shown as an example of the most common mistake of a tester – assumption. Testers Observe, apply logic, then deduct and based on that deduction starts assuming sometimes. So due to the bad state of the tap, people assumes that it is not working. But you showed a good quality for a tester – tried what it does πŸ™‚ That specific action might uncover a valid defect (or a surprising feature) if you consider the tap as an application! πŸ™‚

      As a tester, I must be trying the tap even if that observation-reasoning-deduction process DOES NOT come natural to me – it points to 2 must have skills for a tester – curiosity and the patience to try it out πŸ™‚

      I would like to be a Private Detective as well πŸ˜€

  2. Some things I’ve learned….

    * A tester looks both ways on a one-way street.
    * A tester only enters a shower when he can see condensation.
    * A tester looks at the octane/petrol type label before filling up the car.
    * A tester twitches when someone says “works on my system”.
    * A tester doesn’t panic when something fails….a tester just smiles.
    * A tester will always see a flaw….immediately…..and point it out…no matter the context.
    * A testers partner will always comment on all of the above.


  3. Nandagopal,

    Sherlock Holmes! Good reference. Observation and logical reasoning are certainly important skills for great testers. I love how you cautioned on the power of deduction encroaching on the dangers of assumptions. As I said in my article, “Unconscious Limitations to Your Testing”, I think the key is to raise our awareness to traps like assumptions and to remain mindful of them.

    In my day to day life I believe I do look at things differently; through the lens of a tester. πŸ˜‰


    • Hi Lynn,

      Nice to know that you enjoyed the post. I always remember your post β€œUnconscious Limitations to Your Testing” – that helps to keep me on track in testing πŸ™‚

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