This past weekend, two of my kids and I decided to venture down to Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose. Why, you might ask? Well, other than the fact that it’s a pretty decent restaurant with good food, it’s also where the Pacific Coast Cichlid Association (PCCA) has its monthly meetings. Yes, I know some of you are scratching your heads, seeing I’m talking about “fish” again… what does this have to do with software testing? Be patient, I’m getting to that ;).

The PCCA has been around for years, and I’ve heard about them peripherally for about as long as I’ve been keeping fish. However, over the years, I entered a period of complacency. I had a thriving breeding colony, and had to extend my fish out into several tanks in the house to give them some space. I was doing fine, I knew what I was doing, and I hadn’t had to buy fish in years. What was a group like PCCA going to do for me?

Well, as many of you know, I decided I wanted to give away the fish that had been the core of my breeding stock for several years, and that made it possible for me to add new fish for the first time in, well, close to a decade. I also elaborated on how doing that introduced a strain of ich into my tank that killed everything. From thriving to ruined in just a few weeks.

I decided to rebuild, only this time, I decided it was an opportunity to do things very differently. Since none of the fish that were in my systems survived, it meant starting totally anew, and that meant I could consider a totally different biotype if I wanted to. I set my son up with a twenty gallon tank exclusively with Lake Malawi cichlids, as well as a Royal Pleco because it looks cool. I built a 20 gallon quarantine tank in my half bathroom upstairs (seemed a logical place to put it 😉 ), and set up once again my show tank (65 gallons) in the hope that I could reinvigorate the population. As I was doing this, I realized, hey, the PCCA is having its monthly meeting at Harry’s Hofbrau on Saturday… maybe me and the kids should head down and check it out?”

One meeting later, that was surprisingly like a traditional Meetup, only with a fish auction at the end (of which we took home three new fish) we were card carrying members of the PCCA, and are already talking with and communicating with other members on next steps.

I promised this had something to do with testing, so I thank you for your patience. Very often, test practitioners go through their careers without even realizing that there’s a community of other testers out there. They fall into the role, they read a little bit, they do some work and it meets a need. Thus, they feel like they have things covered. They don’t really need to be disturbed, or so they think. Typically, this state of affairs lasts until something catastrophic happens, or barring catastrophe, something that really brings into question your supposed expertise and skill.  Some react defensively, some reflect, and some decide that maybe they need some help.

It’s at this point where community becomes critical, and encouraging others to get engaged, to participate in the “thrill of the chase” to find what they need, comes into play. We often want to encourage other testers to join us. Heck, we scream  for it! The problem is, our screaming won’t register with those who have no desire to hunt. It won’t matter to those who don’t have a sense of the thrill of the chase, and the fact is, those of us who heed that call do so because we’ve decided we need something more. We tend to equate the idea that the really good testers are the ones that are engaged in the broader community, but is that because we are good at what we do, or is it because we are the type that will engage, that that helps us become better than we would if we didn’t engage with the broader community?

This past weekend reminded me that most of us fall on a continuum of expertise and understanding. Many of us feel that we know enough to go it alone. Many of us find value in community engagement. We look to see if we can engage others and come with us, but as my fish keeping history has reminded me, we seek when we are ready to seek, and we get help or reach out to community when we reach a point where that is what we want to do. Perhaps the better approach is not to put out what we are and what we can do, but to let them discover us, and if they are inclined enough to chase after us, then let them :).