February 17, 2010

…like watching paint dry”

Colleagues who volunteer comments like testing is more boring than watching paint dry!” make me laugh. To me that displays an astonishing lack of curiosity. Yes, watching paint dry is boring, but only if you’re entirely passive.

Testing is as interesting as you want to make it. Let’s imagine testing really is like watching paint dry. What sort of questions can you ask about paint that’s drying? From those questions, what kinds of tests could you devise to help you find out new things about the process?

  • How does the paint dry? From the edges in, or from the surface down?
  • If it’s from the surface down, does a skin form?
  • Is that skin permeable to air? If not, how can the lower layer of paint dry?
  • Does the crust inhibit drying? Could paint be formulated to dry more quickly?
  • What’s our definition of dry’? Some maximum percentage moisture content?
  • How can I observe the drying process without interfering with that process?
  • Do oil-based paints dry differently to water-based or emulsion paints?
  • At what level of detail can we be said to be watching paint dry? Are we attempting to observe individual H20 molecules being liberated from the paint?

If you’ve got an inquisitive mind and a bit of a scientific bent, you’ll see that questions like these provide fodder for a variety of tests which will undoubtedly lead you to interesting discoveries.

I think you’ll find that paint dries surprisingly fast when your brain is engaged! Now, what about watching grass grow..?

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