I ain’t afraid of no Ghost

As someone interested in history, culture, photography and architecture (amongst other things) it’s no surprise that I’m fascinated with Ghost Signs.

Ghost signs are wall painted signs from the 19th and 20th century that are still visible in today’s modern world. Check out the Flickr group here for an idea. They represent to me a perfect combination of old and new. A mutual partnership; historical respect and rampant modernisation.


Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/imarcc/

There are ghost signs on the walls of office blocks, coffee houses and loft apartments. They are everywhere, often un-noticed by us as we go about our daily lives, but they are indeed still there, a stubborn pointer to history and lives now long gone. Look closely and you’ll start to see them, faded and peeling but representing a time gone by.

Yet we also have modern signs and symbols dotted around our environments too from “For Sale” signs to “Fly Posters”. We are creating our own urban landscapes. Modern signs, often short term and lightweight, often re-usable, moveable, recycleable, flexible and targetted.

The White Swan, Grosvenor Street West - Fleurets - Leasehold For Sale sign

Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/

Many modern signs serve several purposes and have future re-use built in. No longer a permanent advert but a temporary display, ready to be removed to make way for the next sign. A reflection of ever changing modern times maybe?

In the testing world i see some interesting similarities.

There are people hanging on to traditional (Existing? Old? Trusted? Proven? Unchallenged? Accepted? Archaic?) ways of working. Running their testing in the same way, over and over again, often complaining about the same problems…over and over again. Never pushing a boundary. Never trying anything new. Maybe never needing to?

Then there are people completely ignoring the past and forging ahead with new ways of doing things. These people are mavericks. They are ahead of the curve. The problem is, they are “out there” and often their ideas and concepts don’t make sense or they ignore the past and make the same mistakes..again.

But there are many who are embracing the past, but are not being bound by it. They are learning from the past mistakes yet embracing new ways of working. They are embracing diversity, collaboration, new communication methods and advances in technology.

These people are exploiting their skills to the maximum but are respectful of what has gone before. They are building on the past, not ignoring it or destroying it. They are using an old framework for something new. They have repurposed an idea or concept. They have made something old relevant to the next generation.

They are using tried and tested approaches to testing but mixing this with new tools to help make these processes more efficient. They are virtualising, automating first, exploring, outsourcing, learning, sharing, collaborating, coworking, socialising, networking, crowdsourcing and enhancing the testing world all the time. Taking what they already know and what has been proven and making it work for today’s workplace. Tweaking it and making it relevant again.

The products and hardware we test on/against is changing..fast, so too does our understanding and appreciation of testing. A new generation of testers are entering the workforce. This next generation might not work in the same way as my generation. We shouldn’t stifle that.. We should embrace it.. The values I hold may not be the same ones my son will hold, that doesn’t mean he is wrong. (not all the time anyway 🙂 )We (or the next generation) just need to do an update to our testing.

A lot of what I do today would not have been possible just a few years ago, but the goal remains the same. The passion, interest, sense of enquiry and downright determination of the tester remains. Stuff still needs testing.

Let’s embrace what works, add to it, subtract from it, mash it up and merge it. Let’s create our own version of Ghost testing. Let’s not ignore the past, but let’s not be bound by it either.

3 thoughts to “I ain’t afraid of no Ghost”

  1. Nice way to make your point.When you see problems with the way things are being done it’s tempting to sweep everything away and start afresh. In my time working in IT I guess I’ve seen two big changes in testing. The first was the move from developers just winging their merry way to implementation with the help of a few tame users. That was a lousy model, and was being replaced when I started out, and it had gone long before I moved into testing.It was replaced by the Soviet style megascripting model with its 10 Year Plans, which in turn had its dominance challenged by the more hippyish (I’m in a whimsical mood – don’t hold me to any of this) context driven & exploratory stuff.Something that’s interesting about this second sea change is that it’s not been a complete revolution. Obviously many people are still wedded to the old ways, but I think there’s also a realisation that it’s not simply a matter of ditching everything about the old model. There are some aspects which can be retained for some specific problems. Testers have to be smart enough to recognise what works well in general and also what works best for certain problems. It’s hard to develop that nuanced judgement if you assume that all previous generations were idiots.

  2. Hi James,Thanks for commenting. I entered testing very much during the “Soviet style megascripting model” you mention. It didn’t make sense yet many people didn’t do anything to change it. And like you say, people are still working this way today and not looking to change anything. Fair enough if it works but for many it simply doesn’t.I think many testers are indeed starting to understand that the foundations are “generally” stable but there’s still room for improvement.CheersRob..

Comments are closed.