As I mentioned, I am a Software Engineer. Before that, I was a Quality Assurance Engineer. Below is a lil video about how I became a QA which is a unique tale of a cockeyed optimist and her and unbridled enthusiasm. Scroll down to read my learn more about me and QA in general.
TL;DQA: A Manifesto
You can see this manifesto in its original form on the Intent Media Engineering Blog.
There are a lot of interesting things about being a QA, but my favorite is the necessity to think big picture, so that the dev is free to focus on the task at hand. I like thinking through the branching paths of possibility that a new feature can create for the user to follow, then using logic to pare down those branches so that my test plan is optimally thorough, yet succinct and non-redundant.
In fact this strategy reminds me a lot of the approach I took to studio architecture, which I majored in in college, and math, my minor. That way of thinking exemplifies what I like about QA, architecture, math, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, what I know of Buddhism through Wu Tang, and pretty much my general outlook on the world.
Proof of the System
My philosophy is that there is an underlying system in everything that scales from infinite to eensy, a ruleset which often repeats and references itself fractaliciously. I seek to understand that hidden logic, then trigger its manifestation and point to it, saying, “seeeee! That’s what I thought would happen, and I thought so because I understand the dynamics beneath the surface.”
Once I have designed a comprehensive yet efficient test plan, I don’t mind doing the testing, even when it is manual and monotonous. Many people find that shocking; however, I don’t mind because I see it as disclosing an underlying truth that I hypothesized existed back when I asserted said test plan.
Just as Sol LeWitt probably relished executing his concept for Incomplete Open Cubes by iterating on the combinations of edges a deconstructed cube can have, I enjoy a distinct satisfaction from carrying out a complex or repetitive test plan. I am testing and revealing the supposed physics of the coded little world. I have constructed an experiment and when I carry out that experiment, I will have manifested the relevant logic of the system.
While fulfilling the plan, I am driven by the knowledge that if something went awry in the additional code I should have seen a deviation from my conjecture by now. If you knew everything EVER about a particular seed and the place you are going to plant it, you would know everything EVER about the tree it would become, and QA is about mitigating the risks of the unknowns in the semi-closed-ecosystem that you deal with when you push code.
Grains of Sand or the Beach
The study of architecture allowed me to feel this brand of contentment, the pleasure of demonstrating an invisible principle, in each design—whether it be for a building’s floor plan or a modular representation of the NYC subway system. In the real practice of architecture, however, architects are often very concerned with formal qualities, which I think should be the last result of unearthing the hidden logic, not the goal.
The abstract sector of math is all about the quest to pin down the sublime, but arithmetic and derived sciences can lead one to focus on grains of sand rather than the beach. (I took to number theory, knot theory and linear algebra like a mermaid to H2O. But don’t ask me to calculate a tip because I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.)
Everything is Everything
Virginia Woolf picks up what I am layin’ down when I talk about this. In Mrs. Dalloway," V Dubs shows us that the overarching system that ties a universe together is fully evinced, and thus—via a little extrapolation—contained, in each fleeting moment of each of our lives, even that of a boring housewife.
She uses stream-of-consciousness narration of all the characters’ thoughts to give the reader a picture of this universe in its entirety. Through following the titular wife’s day of mundane errands, zooming in and out on humanity and posing existential questions as she goes, Woolf proves that the fundamental equation of being is contained in anything and everything.
As Michael Cunningham, a major Woolf fan/imitator, put it: “There is war. There is the search for God. These are all very important things. But everything you need to know about human life, about human experience can also be found in two elderly women having tea in a corner of a little shabby tearoom some place, very much the way the recipe for the whole organism is contained in every strand of DNA. If you look hard and close enough, if you look with enough art at anything that happens to any human being, you can find the whole story there.”
Walt Whitman saw this same equation when he “leaned and loafed at his ease, observing” a leaf of grass as an allegory for the natural world and all its earthly delights.
As for the Buddha, he said a lot of great stuff that sums up the universe. I will refer to another wise eastern(-ish) beacon of wisdom: Wu Tang Clan. In ‘The Tao of Wu,’ the RZA’s treatise on both Buddhism and his own personal philosophy, the legendary rapper explains: “To most of us, you can’t say ‘All is void’ one second then ‘Everything has a Buddha nature’ the next. But what Buddha said is true…Everything is everything.” I see this holism daily. In the natural world, the laws expressed in the minute details have one hundred percent overlap and consistency with the laws expressed by infinite scale. The physical (and metaphysical) laws are consistent and coherent and holistic.
The Leaky Biodome
This is not the case when humans are creating the ecosystem. Biosphere 2 is a lesson in writing code and in faulty QA. The underlying perfect order that I am talking about does not necessarily exist in the spheres man creates, yet some other (flawed)underlying system does.
As the attempt at human autonomy unravelled in the public eye, Time wrote of the Biosphere 2 debacle: “Now, the veneer of credibility, already bruised by allegations of tamper-prone data, secret food caches and smuggled supplies, has cracked … the two-year experiment in self-sufficiency is starting to look less like science and more like a $150 million stunt.”
In the built world, The RZA-Buddha’s “everything is everything” is still true to the extent that everything is dependent on everything. And that’s why when you are building that “everything”—the leaky biodome that you build whenever you write code—from scratch, you better test the S*** out of it, for there will be dependencies.
That blade of grass you built weird just became a wonky field upon which you also built a really awesome condo that you will now have to bulldoze because it’s on the buggy lawn that you should have thoroughly QAed!