Your mileage may vary

I’ve been thinking a lot about tools, process, features and investment. A whole mix of thoughts crossing from my role in software test and my passion for wood work.
In woodwork I frequently consider my options to improve my work and give me more range of options. Do I invest in a brand new tool, or perhaps upgrade something I’ve already got? Should I focus on improving they way I work with existing tools? At the moment the main tool I’m interested in buying is a bandsaw (mmm bandsaw), however this is not cheap. Then I already have a lathe which I love, but perhaps I should buy new chisels for it. Or instead of spending money on new tools for new tasks, perhaps I should invest in tools to better sharpen the chisels I have to improve the quality of the tasks I already perform. Even there I have many options, from just practice and maybe some additional sharpening stones, all the way up to the tormek.

On the flip side at work I sometimes have occasion to be debating the benefits of new process and new tools. I am aware that many people waste a great deal of time by not using the right tools for the job or by failing to follow a simple process that would save them time in the long term. In some cases having experienced the benefits of using the right tool, or following a good process I try to convince others that the investment is well worth it. But it can be very difficult to convince someone that this is the right place to put their investment. “Trust me, I’m a software tester” does not seem to cut it.

So on the one hand I find myself wondering how to decide what is the right choice of new tool, when the best advice I can find is hard to relate to my own needs. And on the other I find it hard to convince others of the right investment, because it’s hard to convince them that they will see the same benefits in their situation. The common thread here is how do you represent cost/benefit in a way that is meaningful to the person who’s deciding, when in all honesty we have to admit that ‘your mileage may vary’.

I intend to follow up with a more detailed look at my options in lathe tools, and a separate post about the best practices I’ve used in software testing that I want to find good ways to convey to others. And who knows, I may find techniques in the evaluation of one that will help me present the other.

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