Sunday Rant: I’m not a dummy. Explain it better.

I bought a book this weekend, and I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it.*

Basketball-bobble-bob believes in me, even when my books don't.

Basketball-bobble-bob believes in me, even when my books don’t.

I’ve mentioned previously that I work in the tech industry. It’s funny because I’m not particularly techy. Or even a little bit techy. I think the fact I keep repeating “techy” is probably giving a software developer a headache somewhere.

Which in general is something I’m really great at.

I’m a software tester which means a developer makes a change to the code, and then I or someone like me, tries to break it.** That way you or someone like you, won’t be able to break it first. Or, hopefully, ever.

In concept, it’s not being particularly technological that is supposed to make me good at my job. As testers, we approach software from the point of view of the person who will actually be using it. Developers, on the other hand, think of testing software in terms of the structure they already know is there, and they might miss mistakes that are lurking in the shadows.

The issue is under both of those schools of thought, there are blind spots, so software testers are encouraged to try and learn some coding basics, so you know what the moving pieces look like and can anticipate where the weaknesses live, while still approaching testing with a fresh set of eyes.

Because people talking “tester philosophy” is its own very special and particular type of boring, I will tell you, I’m actually trying to learn coding basics for very different reasons than, heaven forbid, being better at my job…


For those who are unfamiliar, FOMO stands for “fear of missing out.”

Are all your friends hanging out without you? FOMO!

Is there suddenly a new inside joke between your coworkers and you don’t get it? FOMO!

Does a group of software developers get to make things while you just test the things they made? As a creative person, that is a hearty and from the diaphragm, “FOMO!”

That’s not to diminish software testing. In my experience, testers are the reason things get done. Testers are the reasons that at the end of the day, there’s a product worth using.

I just really like making things. As a tester, I don’t really get to do much making. I do a lot of checking. And I do get to sigh wistfully a lot. I have a window made for wistful sighing.

So I bought the book. I bought the book about computer programming because what’s the harm in starting small? And having read a couple chapters, it seems pretty helpful. I do take issue with one thing though:

I am not a dummy!

Yes, inherently I know that the “For Dummies” book series has become a recognizable brand, and the author knows that it doesn’t have inept goons reading it’s pages. But when did simple and approachable explanations for subjects become the purview of “dummies”?

I can’t even pin this on software developers, though I know some that would tell you, blaming them for things is my very favorite pastime!

During grad school for opposite-software-development, it seemed as if each article we read was trying to top the previous in terms of density, vocabulary, and total usages of the word “juxtaposition.” I had to develop special reading methods involving highlighters, post-its, and verbalizing certain words repeatedly just to start wading through it.

FYI: I looked really cool, and not at all like a serial killer with all my scattered post-its, mumbling lengthy words under my breath, clutching the largest iced coffee in Washington Square Park. I could occasionally be found weeping into said iced coffee. I dried my tears with post-its.

Ultimately, it was when I could explain the concepts in small, easy to digest sentences that I actually felt like I knew the material, so why then do we dress up a subject matter to the point I need a book whose cover tries to heckle me when I want straightforward explanations?

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

And I once said, “I agree.”

Both quotes are equally meaningful.

So in honor of recognizing a human’s desire to learn to play with a new toy, here are some alternatives to the “dummies” title that is currently sitting on my desk:

  • Java for Winners!
  • Java for Multifaceted People with Many Interests, and are Now Teaching Themselves a New Skill, and Need a Little Time to Acquaint Themselves with a New Way of Thinking
  • Java for Coffee Drinkers and also Aspiring Code Writers
  • Java for Triers
  • Java for People who Don’t Rest on Their Laurels
  • Javalanche of Learning
  • Java: A Guide

Some of them have real potential!

I find myself asking a lot of questions at work. Sometimes answers make sense, and other times, I find myself politely nodding till I can find someone who has a better answer or till I can get back to my office and google some of the words they said.

I’m always going to have questions, but before I start falling back on old methods and arranging post-it heists and stocking up on iced coffee and tears, I’d just really like for all of us to establish:

People aren’t dumb. We just need to explain things better. We need to find how people learn, and meet them there.

Or as I yelled earlier today when the cover of the book caught my eye, “I’m not a dummy! You are, book!”


*If ‘Java’ means nothing, it is a coding language. If ‘coding language’ means nothing, it’s how humans communicate instructions to machines. If ‘machines’ means nothing, you are a pilgrim. How’d you get here?

** If you’ve ever opened an app on your phone, and it immediately disappeared, that was a crash. That software is broken. A tester failed you.

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