The Uomini Universali Were the Cool Cats of Literature Lecture

Try this: Go buy any new book. Then de-shrink-wrap it (i.e.: remove the book from its enveloping plastic awfulness). Place the book in front of you. Take it in your hands. Open the book somewhere. Meditate for a second. Then put your nose deep into the book and inhale.


Now comes the triage part. What is your reaction to that proposal? (mark your selection with a check mark)

  1. That’s crazy talk! Why would I do that?
  2. Yes, I know. Done it before. Ahhh, I just love the smell of new books.

If your answer was similar to 1. then stay with me and keep on reading. If you feel more intimate with answer 2. then you will probably stay with me anyway because you are a book lover and like to read.

It is amazing how many people in software testing have not read one single book on software testing. Or have even hardly read anything at all. Mostly the reason given is lack of time. But that is simply not true. Nobody can have lack of time because the flow of time is just as it is. There is no such thing as “lack” of it. It is 24 hours every single day. No deviation to that (given that you are a habitant of planet earth). The only difference is the priorities assigned to different activities and for some strange reason reading books seems to be de-prioritized by so many.

Just image e.g. a physicist, or a medical doctor stating: Bah, I haven’t had any time to read books on molecules or the human heart respectively. Would you trust such a physicist with a Large Hadron Collider? Would you trust your grandmother with such a physician?

Knowledge that may be helpful:

  • Software Testing (ok, that was obvious)
  • Software Engineering
  • Psychology
  • The art of drawing
  • Philosophy
  • Rhetoric and Persuasion
  • How to describe well
  • Literature on observation
  • Epistemology
  • Heuristics

Who should we take as role models? What’s the highest we could aim for? I propose the Uomini Universali. Or as Wikipedia has it:

The common term Renaissance man is used to describe a person who is well educated or who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields.

As software testers you might be exposed to a wide variety of different programs. If you hop from project to project it is very likely that you need to educate yourself in wide varieties of domains. Furthermore, you as a software tester are better off with a questioning and doubting mindset. This is something that can be acquired. Books are a brilliant tool for that. Not the only one of course because practice should never be underestimated. Nor should tacit knowledge, that may only be acquired through socialization processes.

And: do you think that one of the Uomini Universali would have ever been caught uttering the statement: “I haven’t read a single book”?

Ok, my friends. Please leave your comments on your favorite books that helped you become better as software testers. If you convince me that your recommendation is good, I will read the book, too. And we could start a conversation. And then the world would become a better place. And happiness would spread.

Today we finish with a poem by Thomas Moore:

Off I fly, careering far
In chase of Pollys, prettier far
Than any of their namesakes are
—The Polymaths and Polyhistors,
Polyglots and all their sisters.