Apparently there’s nothing new..

At a conference I attended a few weeks back someone asked a simple question. In actual fact it wasn't a question, it was a statement. And an angry one at that.

"What you're talking about isn't new. There's nothing new at this event. Where's the new content?"

He then proceeded to walk out in disgust. I must add that it wasn't me talking…or making the statement.

At first I agreed with him. There wasn't anything new. There wasn't anything groundbreaking. But then I sat down and really studied what was said at the event. The talks were indeed a simple rehash of "common sense" things or ideas we've all heard somewhere before. It was indeed old stuff. But then 99% of the stuff about testing and methodology is not new either. It's been done before, maybe not in the testing arena, maybe not in the computing arena, but most likely done or said in some context before.

But looking at it like that is missing the point. It's too simplistic a view.

Most of the content I see actually is "new". It has to be unless someones just copied it word for word (some do by the way). The idea might not be new but it's bundled together in a new form. Therefore it's new. It's recompiled in to different contexts. It's repackaged, merged, renamed, tweaked, built upon, defined more clearly, analysed further and given cool and funky labels. So it is new. It's just a new version of something that's gone before.

Like Die Hard 2, 3,12000 etc. They're all the same thing. Different location, different baddie, different time and place – same concept. New film.

"New" theories may be made more palatable, more relevant, more concise, easier to understand or more intuitive to apply in real life. It may well be old but if repackaged well it can still be new. It can appeal to the new crowd. It can appeal to the people paying attention at that moment in time. In that context.

Every once in a while someone does genuinely come up with something new, but to attend a conference and expect groundbreaking, never heard before content is optimistic to say the least.

But I've come to appreciate that very few conferences have "new" stuff. It doesn't mean they are not valuable. I still learn things from conferences. I still go off afterwards and look things up, do some research or make some notes. New understandings or re-branding of old ideas is important at furthering our craft of testing. For spreading the word. Reaffirming ways we do things. Building on ideas.

We can learn from the past. We have to. And no doubt we will go around in circles but that's life I'm afraid. Like the time when flared trousers came back in fashion. Or 80's retro games came back. It's a new audience (may be different, may be older, may be the same), with different outlooks on life all at a different time and place. Doesn't mean it's not valuable. Doesn't mean it's not new to some person or society or the testing community or me. Doesn't mean it's not acceptable. Doesn't mean we should walk out of conferences. Doesn't mean we still cannot learn something.

I'm just waiting for shell suits to come back in fashion, I've got a cracking green and black one in the wardrobe. 🙂

4 thoughts to “Apparently there’s nothing new..”

  1. Rob, good post!Now I have a mental picture of you testing in flairs! Did I mis-hear someone when they talked about “testing with flair”?James Bach wrote a piece a while back about not following methods – but making them your own, something I can really tune-in to.So, whether something is really new or 70+% recycled doesn’t matter so much – it’s the new twist, angle, label or perspective that usually makes it catch (or “tip” as Malcolm Gladwell might say.) And that’s a really good and cool thing! I usually advocate against re-inventing the wheel in my work environment – there’s lots of good work out there – the trick is to find the pieces that work in your own environment and circumstances and then maybe add something (if needed). Plus re-use and re-cycling is politically-correct these days!The trick is to find the new angle to make something interesting – as the new angle usually gives someone somewhere a new insight into the idea – and that’s an innovative thing! Whether it’s talking about mind-melting to look at Agile or monty python to de-bunk test myths – it’s the new angle that gives the underlying message something that somebody “new” can relate to.Long live common sense – and it’s evil-twin gobble-de-gook – as, if everything made sense and worked first time our jobs wouldn’t be as interesting…So, now you’ve brought flairs into the testing arena – I expect you to work on some of the dodgy footballers hairdos from the 80’s next – ah, the mullet!Could this be a new work group: The Fancy-dress testers?

  2. Simon,Absolutely. I like the way you’ve summed it up and absolutely agree with James Bach on making it your own. I tend to use the two phrases:”step up” and “own it” when talking about testing ideas. And you are right, it’s always best to get the ideas that already exist and make it your own.That’s why every company should release it’s own methodology (post coming soon). Most people add a twist to the things they do. The problem arises when people don’t. When they want hand holding. When they need structure to function (post coming soon).Thanks for commenting. Always nice to get feedback on posts. The fancy dress testers – now there is a genius idea.Rob..

  3. I can learn a lot from something that is old stale news to me, but brand shiny new to someone I’m watching.

  4. Hi Anna,Thanks for the comments. Absolutely. What someone thinks is old, someone else might think is nice and new.Rob..

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