The more I get involved in testing, the more I see quotes from unrelated areas that apply to testing. I came across this one the other day, and there must be more out there like it.
I read a review of Billy Wilder’s 1944 film noir classic Double Indemnity, wherein an insurance salesman is persuaded to help murder a woman’s husband and make it look like suicide. By selling the wife a policy that the husband doesn’t know about, with a ‘double indemnity’ clause increasing the payout if the insured person dies under very specific but unlikely circumstances - such as a fall from a moving train - the salesman sets up the wife’s plotting with a very profitable outcome. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong…
One of the supporting characters is Edward G. Robinson, who took a break from playing Chicago gangsters and played a claims manager in the salesman’s company with a nose for a fake claim. At one point in the film, he has this to say on the claim in question when justifying the time he’s spent on it to his boss. It has a bearing on the sort of mind-set that we as testers need:
Come now, you’ve never read an actuarial table in your life, have you? Why they’ve got ten volumes on suicide alone. Suicide by race, by color, by occupation, by sex, by seasons of the year, by time of day. Suicide, how committed: by poison, by firearms, by drowning, by leaps. Suicide by poison, subdivided by types of poison, such as corrosive, irritant, systemic, gaseous, narcotic, alkaloid, protein, and so forth; suicide by leaps, subdivided by leaps from high places, under the wheels of trains, under the wheels of trucks, under the feet of horses, from steamboats. But, Mr. Norton, of all the cases on record, there’s not one single case of suicide by leap from the rear end of a moving train.
Desk job? Is that all you can see in it? Just a hard chair to park your pants on from 9 to 5? Just a pile of papers to shuffle around and five sharp pencils and a scratchpad to make figures on? Maybe a little doodling on the side? Well, that’s not the way I look at it, Walter. To me, a claims man is a surgeon. That desk is an operating table and those pencils are scalpels and bone-chisels. And those papers are not just forms and statistics and claims for compensation. They’re alive. They’re packed with drama, with twisted hopes and crooked dreams.
I’ve yet to come across a software app that’s “packed … with twisted hopes and crooked dreams” but the rest of it rings very true.