Monday, April 27, 2020

The Fellowship is Formed

This is the seventh part of the story which began here. The second is here.
The third is here. The fourth is here. The fifth is here.  The sixth is here.
This saga continues below.
This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their
quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great.*

Gandalf was silent. The Four Travelers shuffled their feet and looked around the room as if they were looking for an escape from his gaze. There was none. They felt like he was testing everyone in the room, but them in particular.

Then one noticed Galadriel was sitting quietly, next to Elrond. She looked at them and smiled a gentle smile, as if to reassure all of them that things would work out. She relaxed immediately.

It was then Gandalf spoke.

“Elrond has spoken of the past, the distant past some might say, of how electronic computers and software came to this point. Faramier, Gimly and Legolas have spoken with words of warning in their hearts. You yourselves, all of you, have seen the growing trends of late. The changes in wind and water. The unsettled energy all around us.

“Most of you here have been witness to great shifts though you may not have recognized them as such. The shift toward a regulated and controlled method of creating software has been subtle. Even among those who call out for more “flexibility” they are implementing greater controls than existed before.

“The idea of teams being ‘self-organizing’ is a threat to some organizations. They demand strict compliance. They demand fierce loyalty and they expect each worker to reject anything other than what they are told to do. Because the “Company” knows best. 

“We have heard these things before. The slave of Sauron and Saurumann spoke ever thus. The Haradrim or Southrons spoke thus. Though we defeated Sarumann and Sauron, we did not defeat all of the evil they drew upon and fed. There is still darkness here. Our challenge is to be diligent in searching it out, identifying it and destroying it. 

“The proud and fell Easterlings are still present. The Haradim still live. They reach out and corrupt ideas by twisting words to fit their purpose. Beware of them! Beware of the words spoken as reasonable people speak that run counter to what others might say.

“Beware those who belittle and demean others because they have different ideas. They will insist those ideas are false and must be overturned. They will speak from emotion rather than fact and truth. Remember, to the crooked eye, truth can wear a wry face.

“Their words will be comforting, as were Sarumann’s words. They will seem reasonable and draw you in to wish to appear reasonable as well. This is their trap.

“Beware those who tell you you speak wrongly or ill. They will find ways to undermine your heart and spirit. They will tear down how you communicate with others and insist their words are the only true words. If you question them you will face their wrath.

“You fear them. But you do not fear them enough. They can bend and twist your words around you then deny they are doing it. When they finish, you will be worn down and vulnerable. Then no one will understand your words when you speak.

“When you explain your new truth, you will become the outside to them. You will become the outlander who threatens all.

“Make no mistake, you will threaten them. You will threaten the ones who dwell in comfort and accept their lot. You will threaten their masters who hold them in thrall. You will threaten the order imposed from above. You will threaten their models and justifications. You will threaten all that they have built up, which others see as strong and powerful and ‘right’.”

Gandalf stopped and looked directly at the Four Travelers. Then he continued.

“This challenge is nothing more than the challenge taken on themselves by Meriadic Brandybuck, Perigrin Took, Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins. They journeyed with great purpose, with people in this very room, to do a great task. They accomplished it. It was only on their return home they realised their hardship, suffering, challenges and loss prepared them for the great task no one could ask them to do.

“They arrived home and found it disordered and disturbed. Violence was present in ways it had never been before. The very values that were cherished by everyone in the Shire had been upended and tossed away.

“No person told them they must do this thing. They told themselves they must do this thing. Everything they had seen and done prepared them for the doing.” 

Then, looking around the room, Gandalf said “You four from the Shire, and all others here who would see a better world have the same challenge. Find a way to make your world better, or accept all as it is and be still.  No wizards can aid you. No elves or dwarves can help you. Our time is past.” 

With that he sat down. The room was silent. The Travelers looked at each other. They looked around the room. Most people in the room were looking lost, deep in thought. Some were frightened by Gandalf’s words. 

Then Galadriel spoke.

“All of you, heed the words of Gandalf, Elrond and the others who have spoken. I have words for you as well. Gandalf gives words of warning. Words to help you avoid traps and snares that will capture the unwary. These traps are not of the sort that you might think. But they are present nonetheless. Remember how comforting things seemed at first, the words and instructions you were given? Remember the result of following them? Remember what advice was given by those who advocated, then pushed, then demanded they be followed?

“We elves can see some outcomes. We do not know which actions lead to which outcomes. Our power is fading. Now is the time for those who believe they have no power to discover theirs. Now is the time for each of you, all of you, to consider in your hearts what it is you would have done and what kind of world you, your colleagues and your children will live in, work in and grow in.

“Many long lives of Men we have lived here in Rivendell. Many things have we seen start well then fade. Many things have blossomed unexpectedly and grown and flourished, when nothing was anticipated. This decision is on each and every one of you.”

Then she sat and looked to the center of the room and said no more.

For a long time no one spoke. Most looked down at the floor in front of them. Some were deep in thought. Even Gandalf and Elrond look uneasy. A stirring began inside one of the Four Travelers. She looked up. First at her companions then around the room. She felt herself rise silently. Everyone looked to her.

“I will take these words and ideas and warnings. I will go back to The Shire and spread them as my father spread the soil  from your garden you gave him long ago, great lady. I do not know what shall happen. I do not know what will come of it. But I will go and I will try.”

Then she sat down. Her companions looked amazed at her. She herself looked amazed the words came from her.

Gandalf looked on her with a soft smile, as if remembering deeds long past. Elrond looked at her with great pity. Then Elrond said, “Once, long ago by your reckoning, I told your father’s companion that no one could place the burden he was taking on him. No one could order him to take up his great task. Indeed, your father was hiding in that dark corner of this very chamber, behind that very plant.” 

The young woman looked where Elrond indicated, and was amazed. She had heard the tale but had not quite believed it. Then Elrond spoke again.

“No one can place this burden on you either, Eleanor Gamgee. If you take it up of your own free will, then so be it. This is a task that will bring hard labor and likely hard words. Your Father, Samwise and your mother Rose, have prepared you as best they can for any challenge. Choose companions who would do well and who can help and support you.

“As I said all those years ago, again, this is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. You have greatness in you. Use that greatness for good to overcome the greatness which is aiding ill.”

With that, Eleanor smiled. Her companions stood and embraced her. One by one, they pledged to work to make testing and all software creation better. Not with threats and intimidation and whips and cruelty. But with wisdom and compassion.

Wisdom and mercy in their proper measures, with determination and a will to succeed will do more than threats and fear ever could.

The others in the room looked at each other and nodded. Many murmured assent. All pledged to take up the challenge in the path shown by Eleanor, daughter of Rose and Samwise, and return to their homes with the same task.


*JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, ©JRR Tolkien, 1954, renewed 1982, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, Boston, 2014, p. 264

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

At the Council of Elrond

This is the sixth part of the story which began here. The second is here.
 The third is here. The fourth is here. The fifth is here. 
This saga continues below.

In Rivendell

After a few hours walking they came to a beautiful city in a valley more lovely than any they had ever heard of or seen. The elf, Erestor brought them to a massive gate which opened at his approach. They found themselves entering a great hall. Seated at one end was two tall, noble elves. One was Elrond. The other was Galadriel, of whom so many songs were sung.

They were made welcome and told the next morning there would be a council that would be of interest to them and their quest. Until then, they could refresh themselves and wash away the dirt and weariness of travel. A feast was being made ready for that evening where they would meet others and make merry as they saw fit. So, they joined in, celebrating with wine or the heady mead the elves liked to drink. A few dwarves were drinking heavy ales and a couple of the travelers switched to that, being their preference. A very few other humans were there as well.

The next morning the travelers were awoken by a tall man in their room, even though they locked the door the night before. He was wearing white robes with a white hat and long flowing beard. He carried a long staff and appeared to have a sword hanging from his belt.

“Wake up, foolish testers! Wake up! You barely have time to wash your faces and get dressed and get to the Council Chamber. The bell has already rung for people to attend. You have come this far, now move! Quickly!”

Without another word he left. They looked around and realized their clothing had been washed and folded. They jumped up, washed their faces in the basins provided and threw on their clean clothes. They grabbed a bun and a piece of fruit each that had been laid out for them and walked quickly down the hallway.

Following the sound of voices, they found a large chamber where a multitude of people sat in a large circle, taking up most of the room. They find four empty seats waiting for them and sit down. Looking around the room they saw a variety of elves and dwarves, human men and women. Some were dressed richly, some as if coming from long travel. Some openly carried swords or large axes. Some were wearing chainmail, and some were wearing silk.

Elrond stood and looked around the room. “Well met,” he began. “The Purpose for which we are called hither. Called I say, though I have not called you to me, strangers from distant lands. You have come and are here met. Believe also, that we who sit here, and none others, must find counsel for the Peril of the World.”*

“Never has there been a gathering like this, save when the Halflings brought Sauron's One Ring forth and journeyed to Mordor to destroy it at the end of the Third Age. It is impossible to tell now, in this age, what may come of this gathering. The future is unknowable. All we can do is make the best choices we can make with what we know now.

“Most of you know the recent history of how we arrived to this point in software development. The older history might be unfamiliar to you, save by rumor. I remember well how the first programmers were women. They worked hard understanding the connectivity required for the first electronic computers to work and how they could be made more flexible. I remember how they were pushed aside when Men found their work and discoveries more interesting, and likely more lucrative, than what they did.

“I remember how languages were developed to make use of these advances. How the people working to make them better worked side by side. I remember how rank and position was set aside for most. I also remember how people were slighted and relegated to “less important” and glamorous roles because of outward looks.

“I was saddened to see Men presume that because Sauron was defeated, they no longer needed to listen to the wisdom of other races who had long ago deemed such differences to be irrelevant.

“Still, I saw hopeful signs that they might learn to be equals. People set aside job titles and specific roles and worked to make technology do amazing things. Many of the Elves thought the time had come for us to finally go to the Havens and cross the Sea. We few stayed because we saw evil at work again and thought to counter it, if we could. Even without the power of the Three Rings, we thought we might give counsel one more time before leaving at long last. 

“And here we are gathered.” 

A dwarf stood and looked at Elrond and the man in white robes. "Forgive me Master Elrond. All you say is true. Dwarves remember well how these things came to pass. We feared that the Race of Men might falter even though the Evil of Sauron was removed. We hoped that the King, Aragorn, might order all things differently. Alas for our times. It would seem the hopes of Dain in this have not come to pass. We will aid this, however we can. If you or Gandalf can guide us a little longer, we would not replace one Evil with another."

Two Elves stood. One was Erestor, the other dressed in more simple, green clothing. “Gimli, son of Gloin, we know your worth and see your concerns. A better companion no elf could ask for. We know these threats have existed in the race of Men from the early times. Through the Dark Years they slumbered. While your request is heartfelt, I fear this falls on the Race of Men to address. Our time is over. We elves will fade. We have little influence except in rare people.”

“Legolas Greenleaf, you speak for me as well,” said Erestor. "We can offer some amount of counsel to Men. But, only those willing to hear it will act. We cannot change them, no matter our good intent.”

All sat and looked downcast. Gimli most of all. Elrond looked around the room. “Faramir, Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithelen, speak now. You have thoughts on this.”

A tall, noble looking man in white and green livery bearing a silver tree wrought by some craft the travelers did not know, stood and looked around the room. His gaze landed on the four travelers and he spoke.

“Let us remember the words of Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror, King under the Mountain and predecessor of Dain. Thorin at the time of his parting, regretted that so many valued wealth and hoarded gold and jewels over companionship, good food, shared experiences and happy memories. Since the decision to make Software an asset to be created or manufactured, Men have longed to control the making of it.

“Indeed, much of the ill will that exists in the making of software comes from those who would assert control over the making and testing of software. All would control that which cannot be controlled. It might be discovered, but controlling how it is discovered in folly. All attempts to do so lead to bitter division and rancor.

“People come forth from time to time with the “best ways” to make software. They speak of ideal ways that software can be crafted - dreamed, designed and created. They put forth their methods over all other methods and fail to see the folly they bring.

“This is common among all men. They see only that which they would. Even those of the Race of Numenor can be deceived by their own visions, as my father was ere the end.”

The man robed in White looked thoughtfully at Faramir as he sat down. Elrond smiled and said “Now Gandalf, let us hear you. Your wisdom is great and you have seen much of the world. Your long struggle against Sauron and his minions have taught you much about Men as well. Speak now and do not be silent.”

Gandalf, for verily it was Gandalf the White who stood before them now, looked at the gathered assembly who seemed ill at ease. His eyes fell on the Four Travelers.

The Noon bell chimed. Still, silence filled the room and no one made to move. The Four Travelers shifted uneasily in their seats.

The Story continues here.
* JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, ©JRR Tolkien, 1954, renewed 1982, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, Boston, 2014, p. 236

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Road to Rivendell

This is the fifth part of the story which began here. The second is here.
The third is here. The fourth is here. This saga continues below.

On the Road

The travelers left Bree the next morning. All the residents of Bree and the surrounding country turned out to watch them leave. Not because of any sense of wonder, but mostly making sure they did not trespass on any of their property or work domains.

Because they wanted to be certain that the travelers didn’t do anything without the proper sign-offs.

They followed the road a fair distance, making sure no one could see them from Bree. They also made sure there was no one else watching them, monitoring their progress and gathering measurements that could be misused or interpreted inappropriately.

After what seemed a very long time, they turned off the road and headed cross country. Cutting through bracken and furze. They found a swamp that needed to be skirted as best they could. At one point they found themselves moving in circles as they really had no guidance nor sure idea where they were.

After several days of wandering aimlessly with no significant adventures of interest to us, and no dangers along the road save the inconvenience not finding a conveniently located inn, they heard horses hooves. Looking through the undergrowth they saw a fine white horse. Mounted on the horse was an elf who appeared to be looking for them.

They held their breath, afraid of what might happen. That is, until one of them whispered “Why are we hiding? This is an elf! Not something evil like an Orc, or Troll or Manager!”

The elf heard the whisper. He laughed and said, “You have no reason to fear me. Indeed! Word of your quest reached Elrond at Rivendell. He sent riders out in the directions you were likely to travel that we might find you. Will you hide or wander forever or will you come with me to speak with Elrond at fair Imladris, or Rivendell as it is now called?”

They came out from their hiding spot and looked in wonder. They had never met an elf before. Indeed, they thought elves and such to be long vanished if they ever existed at all.

He dismounted from his horse and walked toward them “Greetings! I am called Erestor. You look weary and perhaps a bit dazed. Wandering in the wild without a guide can be challenging if not dangerous. I can walk with you and bring you to a camp where I have some companions preparing food, expecting me to find you today. The way is not far. There you can rest and refresh yourselves before we journey to Rivendell. It is not far, but will be full night before we arrive there.”

With that, the travelers happily joined Erestor and went with him. A short distance only they walked, less than a mile. Still they would not have found the camp at all, save for Erestor leading them. They also found the road they had been searching for. The elves's camp was right near it.

The next morning, the travelers woke to find a delightful breakfast of fresh baked bread with butter, fruits, nuts and honey waiting for them. They ate this gladly, then went with Erestor, walking with him as he told many tales and stories from the past.

But any information about testing or software he would not share. “Such things are not for me to talk with you about. Elrond should be the one who can speak with you on these matters.” 

The story continues here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

We Are Right

I see it all the time.

I bet you do, too.

People have a different view than us.
They see things differently.
They must be wrong.
Because we are right.

We shut out people with different opinions than us.
Or we shout them down until they go away.

What we have left are people who all agree with us.

We are right.

They are not.

We are well reasoned and considered.

They are blinded by charlatans or sheltered from the hard thinking we have had to do.
They don't know about the choices that really matter.
We have thought those things through and made the hard choices.

Anyone who does not agree with us is wrong.

They are foolish.
They are misled.
They might be stupid or idiots.

Or sheep.

I'm talking about software testing.
What did you think I was talking about?