Monday, November 28, 2011

Bringing Control To Chaos

Over the Thanksgiving Weekend, I had a chance to go down and visit my sisters and their husbands, eat a lot of food, spend some fun quality time with my immediate and extended family, and due to the proximity of where my sister lives (i.e. Huntington Beach), we made it a point over the couple of days while we were down there to check out a number of the beaches.

While it's a bit chilly in my home climate (and yes, I know that when I say a "bit chilly" where I live, I hear some of you snickering vigorously and saying "dude, you have no idea what chilly is!"), it was almost 80 degrees the day after Thanksgiving on the beaches. As we walked about and checked several of the beaches out, I took some time to explain a bit about how surfing works to my daughters. Granted, I was never much of a surfer; I only went a handful of times up in Northern California, but I knew enough to explain how to watch and track waves, and explain to my daughters how a set worked, and the process of "catching a wave" at the right point.

Several of these beaches had municipal piers on them that people could walk down, shop on, tie boats to, fish on, and generally avoid if you are a surfer. They also offered the ability to see the horizon from a different vantage than if you were just on the shoreline or in the water. On some of the larger beaches, it was open water, with a variety of wave patterns and sizes and durations, in these areas, it was harder to predict when a "good wave" would come in.

By contrast, at the much smaller "Seal Beach", we noticed that the waves were much more regular, but they were also typically smaller. I had a hard time understanding why... until I walked out on the pier a ways. It was there that I was able to see the parallel "breakwaters" that were on the far sides of the beach, and extended out about 500 yards or so. These walls of stone and concrete had the ability to "tune" the waves. The waves weren't really big, but they were consistent, and if you wanted to ride smaller waves, then this looked to be an ideal place to do it. It also looked to afford more opportunities to catch numerous smaller waves.

I thought about that in the quest to focus on testing environments, and how, very often, we try to make sense out of really complex systems and try to simplify things in ways that are ultimately ineffective. We take on too much, we cover too broad an area, we don't give ourselves enough time to figure out the rhyme or reason of the system under test. In short, we don't devise proper "breakwaters" for our testing areas. Given a little more time and effort, though, we certainly could chop our environments into domains that are easier to quantify, track and focus our attention. It sometimes takes a lot of work to do this, but by doing so, we can actually get control of situations, and by getting that control, we can more regularly and with better focus look for issues that we might otherwise miss in the broader chaos.


Phil said...

Not long ago you had a post on snowboarding. Now we have surfing. Something only a Californian tester could do ?

Michael Larsen said...

Hey now, anyone with a large enough body of water can surf. I know there are surfers in the UK (they're crazy and really hearty, and willing to deal with really cold water. but I *know* they are there :) ).