My old blog "Creative Chaos" has moved to this web address:
(Yes, folks, Creative Chaos is no longer hosted by Blogger, but by our friends at STP Collaborative.)
We've also changed the name to "Testing at the Edge of Chaos", which sort of brings up the question "Why Chaos? What's the deal?"
Let me explain.
Like many North Americans, I grew up watching Westerns. You know, the ones with the hero in the white hat, with the badge, representing good, law, order, and civiliation. Opposed to him were the bad guys - with black hats, bandannas, representing all that was evil and chaos.
The ranchers, trying to grow cattle or farm, would be attacked by the black hats, and the hero would appear, save the day, and ride off into the sunset, sometimes with the girl by his side. We go to sleep, knowing that good has triumphed.
Now, let me ask: What's wrong with that story? Why, strictly speaking, nothing's wrong
with it. But it does sort of ... conflate
Is Law and Order always creative, on the side of the ranchers, building the new frontier?
Is Chaos always destructive, on the side of the black hats, stealing the cattle?
I don't think so. Consider, for example, the gardener who wants all his carrots to grow "properly", in rows, and so he pulls up perfectly fine young carrots who are out of the row.
Or consider the story of the opressive, brutal, but legal sheriff of Nottingham, who represented the law, and Robin Hood, who represented Chaos - but was using the Chaos to return 'taxes' that were essentially stolen from the people.
A better model
This gives us four settings:
Creative and Ordered
Destructive and Ordered
Destructive and Chaotic
Creative and Chaotic
----> For another example, let's look at a typical company in the United States, say a book publisher or a magazine. The actual product is created electronically, and the file is transferred electronically to a printing vendor. Physical delivery of the books or magazines is outsourced to a shipping company. Sales are processed electronically or over the phone. Customers don't want a walk-up office, they want a website. Thanks to voice over IP phones and call routing, customer service can be done via the phone. There is no actual need for a physical office.
And yet, every day, a thousand people, forced to live in a very small geographic area, get in their cars, drive an hour each way through smog and traffic, in order to get into the office.
Why even have an office?
Because in the late 19th century, when the corporation was born, it was physically pulling coal out of the earth in a specific place, and needed the workers in that place, at the same time, to get the work done.
It had to be in that place, because that's where the coal mine was; for that matter, the coal mine needed to be near a railroad to ship the coal. (Or the oil well, or the manufacturing plant, take your pick.)
In other words, the reasons we need an office to build digital-only tech products is mostly historical accident
Or, sure, there are physical and environmental factors. Some people like the office and the watercooler, and that's fine. There's room for temperament, but it's not a requirement.
If you do
have an office, most research shows that open-plan spaces are the most productive for knowledge work - or an office with a physical door in some rare cases. Yet the typical corporate office is filled with cubicles
So the typical North American Corporation (and parts of Europe, I'm told) tell us where to work
(in the office), when to work
(9-to-5),what to work on
(whatever project the portfolio management office picked), how to work
("follow the process"), values efficiency over effectiveness
("you'd better be typing!") and a stable, predictable process over innovation.
And what we get is bland, boring software, that may meet some
interpertation of a document
written months or years ago.
I think we can do better.
How then, should we test?
If we look at the history of innovation in technology, it rarely happens in a cubicle. Linux, Unix, Napster, The Web Itself, The iPod, the Mac, Google, Amazon.com, Object-Oriented Computing, the mouse - these were not invented in a cubicle farm by having a specification that produced software that was tested through a traceability matrix. They just weren't. They were invented by two kids in a dorm room, or a computer lab, or maybe three founders in a garage. (Did you know that IBM's personal computer was a skunkworks project, run a thousand miles away from corporate headquarters, on purpose, so the bureaucrats wouldn't have a chance to kill it by "helping" it and insisting it "follow the process"?)
There are plenty of places on the web to go to learn about Templates and Documentation-Driven Processes and governance. This blog will be a little different; my goal is to explore the other side of the software development story - the creative yet chaotic side.
My goal is not to have a stable, predictable, repeatable process. I want to help 'move the needle', just a little bit, toward the chaotic side; to work in the edge of chaos, providing just enough process rigor to enable executives to make decisions and be accountable for my behavior. I do want to make a big pile of money for a company, and, hopefully, share a little bit of it with myself - without getting fired.
It's going to be quite a ride. Will you join me?