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Language interpretation

Language interpretation

Recently while walking to the shops with my wife and 22 month old son in his buggy we approached a pedestrian crossing we needed to cross at (no, not Abbey Road!).

As we approached the crossing my wife noticed that the green man was showing so we’d be able to cross straight away, however as we got to the lights the man turned red; we’d have to wait a little while.

 “Oh, it’s turned red” she said as we got to the kerb.

 “It’s OK” I replied.

 At which point she took a step toward the road with the buggy just as the cars started to pull away at the lights…

 Talk about heart attack moment!

 As my mouth opened to speak she stopped and said, “I thought you said it was clear?”

 “Nnnooooo!” I said – “it’s OK” as-in it’s OK that the light went red because we’re not in a hurry and we can wait, not “it’s OK to walk out in front of the moving cars!”

 The consequences of language or terminology assumptions can be horrific; thankfully in this case they weren’t and good old fashioned self-preservation won the day. 😱

In testing make sure that what you’re reading or hearing is absolutely accurate and unambiguous before you make any decisions that affect the project; don’t walk out in front of a car!

The “Dolphin” Heuristic

The “Dolphin” Heuristic

My sister LOVES dolphins! She has dolphin statues, dolphin artwork, dolphin toys and even a dolphin table! She’s absolutely obsessed with them!

Except that I recently found out she hates them… HATES them!

So why does she have them all over the house you may ask… Well I’ll tell you…

When she was very young, she received a stuffed dolphin as a present for her birthday.

At Christmas that year she received a pair of dolphin bookends.

Her next birthday she received more dolphin paraphernalia.

Christmas came and guess what she got?

I’d always assumed she loved dolphins by the sheer volume of dolphin-related stuff around her house – I mean why would you fill your home with something you don’t like?

Fast forward 30 years or so and here we are – A house filled with dolphin stuff and the occasional new addition at birthdays and Christmases.

Just a couple of weeks ago though she told me she’d never really liked dolphins and hasn’t a clue why people keep buying them for her. As time has gone on she’s been bought more and more to the point of hating them completely but because she didn’t want to offend anyone she just kept everything!

It was then that I realised she had inadvertently become part of a family and friend-wide unquestioned assumption and self-perpetuating system of “she has loads of dolphins so clearly she loves them; I’ll buy something dolphin-related for her”

In testing we make assumptions and sometimes we don’t clarify those assumptions as they seem absolutely 100% concrete and “can’t be any other way”. And despite an overwhelming amount of evidence to back up that assumption there’s still a distinct possibility that it’s incorrect.

Don’t assume anything (or if you do, make sure you set out to prove or disprove that assumption) because otherwise at some point in time when you least expect it, that unquestioned assumption will rear its ugly head and yell, “I HATE dolphins!”