Essays on the truth

This is a short series of loosely related essays on “truth” in testing and IT.

The first is about the idea of a single source of truth. This might make sense in the narrow context of database design, but it’s a dangerous concept if we try to apply it more generally. Testing can learn from the struggles in accountancy to deal with the truth, to provide accounts that are “true and fair”. Truth is a slippery thing and there are many valid, alternative truths. They don’t necessarily compete so there isn’t a simple, easy, right answer. It depends on the problem and the people who need the information we provide. I don’t think accountancy has handled the problem well, and I hope testing can do better.

The second essay discusses a perennial problem in IT; an unwillingness to be honest and accept reality. Worse, we’ve a tendency to suppress honesty, to come down hard on those who try to be honest. It’s easier to go along with unrealistic expectations and unjustifiable assumptions. If we’re honest then we have to do something now about that uncomfortable reality, rather than kicking it months down the line where we can heroically firefight the problems as they arise.

To be clear, this is not just about testing, or even about project management. I’ve seen this problem in other areas of IT, and I’m sure it’s a problem in other disciplines too.