The Day I cut the Cord

It was a pleasant Saturday evening.  I was just finishing up the first grass cut of the year and as I made the final pass by the edge of the house, the hum of the mower changed suddenly to a loud thwacking noise.  I quickly shut down the lawn mower to see what I had hit.

Uh oh.

It was the internet cable.

As I went inside to call my ISP, I instantly realized what a big role the internet plays in my life.  How do I find their number? Ah yes, I have a small data plan for my phone – I’ll use that to look it up.  After chatting on the phone with an agent, she asked if I would like confirmation for when they had someone available to come out for servicing it.  I replied with “sure just send me an email……” Only to realize that phone calls work better when one doesn’t have the internet.

We spent three days without the internet.  It was an enlightening experience. Life was harder in some ways – I mean we had to actually go look through our DVD’s when we wanted to watch something. No Netflix.  Also my wife runs an internet based business from home, so she had the schedule time in local coffee shops or visits with friend who had internet. Life was definitely harder in some ways.

But in some ways life was better without the internet. You know that little device in your pocket?  The one with a glowing screen and those addictive buzzes and beeps? Our data plan is small enough that we couldn’t really use it.  I would find myself pulling it out only to realize “No internet” and putting it back in my pocket again. Strangely enough I found other things to do.  Also strangely enough I still had friends when I didn’t respond instantly to messages and emails. Being free of the expectation to be responsive was enlightening. We all know we live in a world of instant, but sometimes taking just a tiny step back can give some perspective. Is instant <everything> better?

We are back online now, but we are taking and thinking about what it means to control this powerful tool called the internet.  We don’t give our kids butcher knives until they know something about knife safety, but it feel like we’ve just had the internet dumped on our laps and we’re still trying to figure out how to use this powerful tool without cutting off any fingers.

Our personal journey as a family towards using this tool effectively is one thing, but I want to end this article with a few reflections on how this translates into software testing. As a tester, you are in some ways a customer advocate, but let me ask you this question: Who is your customer?  Is the business or is the user of your product?  What if the the business concern of making money, comes in conflict with what it good for the users of your product?  Look at Facebook right now and you can see a bit of what I mean. Are algorithms that are designed to be addictive actually good for the consumer?  Of course you can argue that in the long run that they aren’t good for the business either – and I think it is a good argument – but who is pointing that out?  Who is looking at the bigger picture?

Testing can be a hard road to travel sometimes, but when I think about the ethics of testing, it involves thinking about tough questions like these. Are you working to make this world a better place?  I hope so. Let’s make this our mantra as testers:  “Making the world a better place, one dead bug at a time”. And don’t forget that sometimes that bug is a key feature in your product.

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