Saturday, 19 November 2011

The first impression bias

Hi y'all!

I just started in a new job in a new city so everything is new to me. I still live in Tampere (a midland city in Finland) but I commute to Helsinki every day (about 180 km). The job I got is a Quality Engineers position at F-secure Corporation in Maintenance team with (hopefully soon) some managerial tasks regarding Customer Care and whatnot. Most of all testing, testing, testing. Enough of that! My point was that when everything is new you get to look at things fresh eyed. I didn't say biased as I'm TOTALLY biased when it comes to all these new things as I compare them to my previous jobs. I just have a different perspective onto things some people have been looking at for years. I have longed to work at F-secure since I first started to dabble with testing and now that I have the chance I embrace this opportunity with every cell of my being. (This is to make my boss happy! ;) ) But nonetheless I have be critical as I am the new guy and I may have an impact onto those settled ways of doing things and maybe even improve them. We'll see how this goes...

In the -blog (which is in Finnish, sorry) Antti Niittyviita wrote about first impressions. He said (free quote) "The first impression is an opportunity to get new information of the quality of the product or service. It should not let get wasted!" When I got to the company I though "Wow, this is quite rigid stuff", for the security part was mandatory and quite formal. Actually on retrospective the event was less than formal, but I think I was so nervous.

Later this week I got to get to know the products from public website so that I get a basic knowledge of what this all is about. I thought about Antti's blog post and took a critical and learning attitude towards the browsing of the products. I was amasing how much defects, issues and such I picked up from public website! The new perspective really opened my eyes.

The testing I got to do the first week got my critical thinking up and I ended up making observations that might have been insignificant to others but I reported them nonetheless. As it turned out these thing teached me quite a bit about the behaviour of the product and the platform I ran on. They were no bugs but something that were not documented in a sense that I would have been able to learn from documentation or from tutoring. So the first impression and critizism thereof teached me something important.

The first impression also has a negative side. If you get a first impression about something you rarely change the attitude if you don't have to analyze the cause of the dissatisfaction. For instance a product that is thought of as slow and reduces performance on your computer (my sister-in-law said she hates a F-secure because it slows her computer down and eats the disk space) doesn't get to change the consumers opinion if they toss the product. If the bad image has gotten through to customer, the dent in the image will be hard to repair.


As testers we have the job of trying to test on the best ablity possible. We all get a first impression on something and we may guide our next move by the impression we get. This applies especially in exploratory testing. We guide our next step so that we take in account what we have learned in previous steps (in steps I don't mean scripted testing but actions we take during our testing). Because it is very power tool, we should use first impression as a first guidance tool for our testing. To remain critical we NEED the first impression. What is the first thing we feel might just be right.

As the first impression might be a inference instead of observation we must be careful not anchor ourselves onto the first attribute we percieve. Here the critical thinking of a tester comes to fore. We need to be able to recognise what we observed and afterward make assumptions from those observations instead of inference. By making judgement upon inference we lead ourselves into a trap and start thinking we something that is not there and miss things that are as irrelevant.

There are some basic tools to guide ourselves away from anchoring ourselves onto a inference, but I ain't gonna go through those here. Point being that we have to remain critical even though we have indication to start thinking something about the product/service/whatever. The first impression is a good tool just as long as you remain critical and don't let yourself be anchored onto an attribute that you have infered. (Here's the difference between inference and observation)

Hopefully I remain critical in my new job and start defending the quality of those products we offer. The first week is behind now and new challenges are coming. I hope all my colleges have the nerve to cope with my bad humor and loud voice. :)


Michael Bolton said...

"The first impression is an opportunity to get new information of the quality of the product or service. It should not let get wasted!"

An American shampoo company used to run an advertisement on TV. The tag line was "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

---Michael B.

Pekka Marjamäki said...

Thanks for sharing, Michael. I have to admit I have never seen any American shampoo commercials (or any shampoo commercials one might think from the look of my receading hair). :)