Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Tourist Trap

Recently at a conference I didn’t attend there was a talk on exploratory testing “tours” and that by adopting various personas, you might change up the “tour” you were on to fit the context.
Seems reasonable. The problem is, I don’t like to travel that way.
When I travel I use a tour as a last resort – as in, you aren’t going to see that attraction any other way than to take a tour. Like the Vatican. But Rome, the city? A tour isn’t for me, even if I’m the one making up the tour’s stops and activities.
When in Rome, we stayed in a quiet residential area and walked to local restaurants that only had single-language menus. I had an even better experience traveling to Argentina where I could live there and experience what “there” is and who “they” are.
Traveling in a tour, even one of my own invention, I have never experienced cultural authenticity beyond being an observer. Seth Godin describes this harshly in his book Graceful when he says, “if you go as a tourist, you will come back as you went”. Being a tourist is being there but being insulated, an observer but not someone participating in something bigger.
Here's the trap. A 'tour' in the sense I'm thinking about, is akin to a scripted experience. Restricting me in certain hallways at certain times. Keeping me away from an arrival city so that I only see certain highlights, insulated from ugliness, hustled away from the imperfect.
That’s not the way I want to test. I want the ugly bits, quickly. I want to smell the garbage and follow my nose to the source. I want to appreciate the structure, feel it, breathe it, “get it” in the gut and then see the ugliness in that context.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird spoken by the character Atticus.
So avoid interpreting 'tour' as the happy path tour in tourist brochures. Certainly sometimes this changes my mind about something. Or someone. Opening myself up to someone else’s mental model is a complex experience, needing skills ranging from humility/compassion/patience to technical/problem-solving/communication skills. Understanding is a non-competitive way of gaining credibility with someone else; show them you understand their model, their way, their view. Paraphrase, then… shift. Them, or you.Travel changes you, if you let it.
Because then, when you do find a problem, you already understand before you have to help someone else understand (sorry St. Francis, you’re irresistible again). You can anticipate their fears with what you’re about to say, and help them through that fear. I’m using the fear word in the same sense as in Fearless Change. The fear of change, the fear to change. Because sometimes even a small bug shatters someone else’s view of the way things are. This gives you the insight and ability to lead them. Not push them, cajole them, or bully them into making that change. Lead. Yes, lead. Leadership.
So take your tours, sure. Just don’t stay on the happy path tour. Take the other tours, like commenter Philk points out - the garbage collector tour, the red light tour, ... Don’t do things just to check them off the checklist. Pivot. Shift. Change your mind about the ways things work. Start a new tour without planning ahead.
Be like my Dad - in tears at the Roman Coliseum from grasping the immensity of it all. He let the place in. He hasn’t been the same since.


Philk said...

" I want to smell the garbage and follow my nose to the source."

- sure, so thats why one of the tours is the garbage collector tour. Or the red-light tour. Did you find out what touring tests are or were you just turned off by the name ?

Adam said...

Updated in a few places, thanks for the improvement ideas. I'm only turned off by 'tourist' behaviour, not the concept of the tours. Hopefully the changes I've made reflect that.

Janet Gregory said...

Sometimes, it can be a good idea to have a happy path tour through the application - touch on all the most important things. Those kind I suggest doing during the end game as a 'big check mark' - been there, done that.

There are all kinds of other tours, and one I'm thinking of blogging about although there might be one out there already, is a bicycle tour: they can be self-guided, but also following someone. You can see the most amazing things on a bicycle.