Magic principles in test automation: Framing

testing magic automation
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In magic, one of the greatest challenges is framing. That means finding a context for your effect. In this article of the "Magic principles in test automation" series, I will talk about this.

To make magic an art form that is relevant to the audience, a magician has to go above and beyond of just presenting effects. They need to have meaning or they become just puzzles for the spectators to figure out.

Let's take a simple effect like vanishing a coin from your hand. This can be a solid trick if the magician puts enough practive into it. However, this will not provoke massive reactions. The same trick, however, can resonate with the audience very differently if presented like this (some random ideas that just popped into my brain):

  • The magician talks about what happened to the coin on a recent trip to a famous Las Vegas casino. By talking about slot machines, the odds of winning and finally showing that the coin disappeared, this suddenly has a lot more context.

  • The magician mentions a close relative who performed the very first magic trick with this exact coin. By recreating this effect, the audience gets way more engaged. In general, it is much easier as a magician to connect to an audience if the material is presented with a personal story or meaning behind it. People are interested in other people, their experiences and stories.

  • The magician talks about the heads or tails game and attempts to play this with a spectator. Just before the coin is thrown into the air, it disappears, leaving the magician startled. This takes the same effect but does not present it as magic but a surprise that even the magician did not anticipate.

  • The magician talks about hypnosis and halucinations and presents the coin as an imaginary object that only exists in the minds of the audience. Later when it disappears, it is because the audience is not in trance anymore. This way of framing puts another spin on the effect in which the disappearance of the coin is not the magical part but its existence in the first place.

While this "context of content" is important, situational context may be even more essential. Every effect can be presented in a funny or serious way, with speech or to music, lightly or dark, etc. In no case should the type of demonstration be out of place, it must always fit the current setting, occasion and location.

The same is true for a lot of disciplines in the software world.

You may have the best idea and the best intention, but if you phrase it poorly, it can fail miserably.

I gave an example in my blog article Overcoming the "triangle of doom" - how we improved test automation acceptance through a new team setup.

In a nutshell, we introduced a new central test automation team in our company and started working on frameworks, CI pipelines and dashboards but without any concrete frame. So while, in our minds, it was clear that our work in this team was very important, nobody else had this impression. We simply forgot to have meaningful conversations upfront and match the setting, occasion and location.

Other examples I encountered several times (and I was even guilty of this myself sometimes) were workshops and presentations for employees. Especially here, it is crucial how the presentation is made, how the content is prepared and - maybe most importantly - whether there is a connection to the audience.

Framing is important and unfortunately, it is one of the hardest disciplines in magic and in life.

I would like to conclude this article with a quote from the sadly deceased American magician Eugene Burger, one of the eternal masters of framing:

The house of magic has many rooms.

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