Ubi Dubium, Ibi Occasio (Opportunitas).

Where there is doubt, there is opportunity.

That's my new motto as a Software Tester. =)

It came to me when I read a comic that I borrowed from a friend recently. You see, I'm a fan of the writer J.M. Straczynski, so my friend told me about a comic that JMS had written a few years ago called "Supreme Power" (Max Comics). If you've ever read a comic, you'll know that each issue or story usually has a separate title. Issue #8 of Supreme Power has the episode title "Ubi Dubium, Ibi Libertas" which he translates for you on the last page as: "Where there is doubt, there is freedom."

That title made sense in the context of the story, however I couldn't stop thinking about that phrase for several days afterwards. There was something about it that I liked, and yet it didn't completely fit for what I feel I do as a tester.

When there is doubt, I go to work. I have fun. I explore. I discuss and test. Most of software testing is about working in the space between the vagueness of specs or requirements and their ever-changing interpretation into working software code. So really, doubt is everywhere. Doubt is the whole thing! Where there's doubt, there's opportunity.

Over the years, I have often contemplated different analogies and ways of describing what I do as a software tester so that I could explain it to others who don't really understand the role. (For some reason, if you're not a programmer and if you're not doing Support or Sales, then most people don't really understand what else is there.)

So now I feel that I'm really close to a good analogy. Doubt is the space where I work and play in. I'm a Doubt Management Specialist or Facilitator, if you will. Someone writes up some specifications based upon what they think the customer wants to the best of their knowledge and understanding. (There's doubt.) Someone else interprets those requirements and transforms them into mathematical algorithms that perform some function on a computer. (There's more doubt. Is that like Doubt-squared? ;-) )

Enter the Software Tester, the go-between. We see the doubt in the specs and come up with some ideas (i.e. tests) to explore the meanings and possible interpretations. We see the doubt in the software as features are incomplete, don't perform as expected, are insecure in some way, unusable or not robust enough according to our interpretations and experiences as users of the technology.

If there was no doubt in the whole process, I don't think we'd have anything to do. We'd totally be out of jobs. Maybe we could be Project Managers or Programmers I suppose. ;-)

So you see, where there is doubt, there is opportunity for us. Opportunity to explore, to test, to ask questions, to find bugs, to strengthen understanding, to clarify, to add value.

If you don't see the doubt, I don't believe you are adding any value. At the end of the day, I believe the best testers are the ones who add value by reducing the doubt in the development project.

It's another way of looking at the problem. I kind of like it. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Update: in translating this phrase I had a choice between two words: occasio and opportunitas. I consulted several translation dictionaries and some scholars when I first translated it, and while either word may be used, I've decided to switch it and go with the latter. Over the years I've explained the motto often and I think 'opportunitas' may be easier for people to associate with the English equivalent 'opportunity'.

    My motto, my discretion. ;) Incidentally, in case you're wondering, no, you don't need "est". (Thanks for asking, Aaron.)