Don’t be a follower, be a tester.

I’ve had this blog post in draft for about 5 months now but yesterday morning a twitter post inspired me to finally get it published. It was a link to an article from Yvette Francino and included in it was a video interview (brief one) with James Bach.

I would suggest anyone who has even the slightest interest in testing reads this article and watches the video. The video is inspiring; it’s direct, it’s James’ usual straight talking no nonsense stuff and it’s also incredibly motivating.

A few months ago I put out a blog post about plagiarism and copyright that generated some incredibly heated comments as well as direct mails and tweets along the same topic. I studied the comments and concluded that they all alluded to the three following sentiments:

We should not challenge the best practices of testing We should not challenge the experts in testing We should not talk about testing publicly unless we are an expert or we know the experts.

The comments left on the post intrigued me. It re-enforced my belief that many people in the testing community simply follow the leader. They love best practices. They love the norm. They do what others say is right. They strive for conformance. They don’t ask “is there a better way of doing this”. They don’t challenge things.

I had a fairly heated exchange at a testing conference with someone who refused to believe that testers should ever make suggestions for new ways of doing thing, improvements to workflow, improved designs, enhanced usability or the changing/modification of features in the software they test. They didn’t think it was their job. For real? Not your job? Then what is your job? It turns out that running scripted test cases based on a spec written months ago, that had locked in a whole load of ignorance with a design created to solve a problem that actually didn’t exist, or did exist but now doesn’t. That’s what a testers job is apparently. Not in my book.

I believe that when a team/tester doesn’t question the norm it leads to stale testing, uncreative work environments, bored staff, uninspiring tests, dull testing jobs. Sadly that’s the stereotype image of testing. In fact, it’s not just a stereotype, it’s a reality for many.

So I bring you this advice:

We absolutely should challenge the best practices of testing (if they actually exist) We absolutely should challenge the experts in testing (it’s good for the industry) We absolutely should talk about testing regardless of whether we are an industry expert (who says we are/are not experts…is there a list? How do I apply?)

So why not write that blog post, submit your talk to that conference, challenge the Best Practice at work, challenge the heavy scripted testing, introduce some exploratory testing sessions, drop a metric in your report, provide something different to the people that matter, learn some coding, challenge the experts if you don’t believe they are right……….?

To sum up what this post is saying:

Don’t be a follower. Be a tester.

19 thoughts on “Don’t be a follower, be a tester.

  1. Good post!One thing’s for sure: If you’re not asking questions – questioning you’re own testing, assumptions and interpretations – then you’re not doing good testing.Isn’t it easy to follow the script (most times)? I won’t call this bad testing… More “Eyes wide shut testing”!It’s a lot more challenging to question the script one is following – or following the script with your eyes wide open – demanding – much better testing I think!

  2. This is not spam! Grrr!Anyway, comment follow.Yes. Like the man said. All of it!

  3. Nice article.Very true that we have to be a tester and not a follower!!! I’d like to quote an example related to the ‘drop a metric’ line in your testing.Whenever my manager asks me: How much time you need to test X feature?I give the answer: ‘Y days/hrs’Immediately, he answers: Really? Can’t it be done in ‘Y-1’?My reply to that question is; It can be done in ‘Y-1, Y-2, Y-3, …’ also. Just that the number of tests and the risks covered would vary proportionately. Its upto you to suggest the time. But if you ask me, I’ll say ‘Y’. How do you approach such a manager?Regards,Ajay Balamurugadas

  4. Hi Simon,Eyes wide shut testing – I like it. I can completely understand why people follow the scripting norm. I did for few years, but it didn’t make sense. It simply didn’t work. I was spending more time administering the test cases than I was finding bugs. I found more when I explored than when I followed.Thanks for the commentRob..

  5. Hi Ajay,Such managers exist all over the world. It’s an interesting point you raise. Some people believe that X days are needed for testing and they can’t test in X -10 days, or whatever the value,Like you, I too believe that testing can be done in any number of days. The coverage, depth and awareness I feed back will obviously vary, but I can still test. I can still give you some feedback. Good managers will understand that testing is not something that can be defined by a metric. It’s more human and reactionary than that. An estimate is just that, an estimate. :)Thanks for commenting.Rob..

  6. Rob: Please, please, please listen! I’ve got one or two things to say. The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them! Rob: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t NEED to follow ME, You don’t NEED to follow ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for your selves! You’re ALL individuals! The Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals! Rob: You’re all different! The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different! Man in crowd: I’m not… The Crowd: Sch!

  7. Phil,There will always be followers of best practices and ideas. It’s what means these practices can exist in the first place. Nice little sketch. Can we use it in the magazine?Rob..

  8. Hi Rob,Yes, very nice post. Like you that video inspired me to write something. Often writing a post helps me clarify my thoughts.

  9. Hi Rob,Nice post. In my experience, and thinking back to the people I have worked with over my career, I have found that a great number of testers lack the drive or enthusiasm to do anything other than follow the norm. By following the criteria, laid out in the various tester certifications, of how a tester should do their job, you can pretty much guarantee yourself a job and decent income (for the moment). Not only that, but many employers place a disproportionate importance on a testers “qualifications” over any proof that they are able to solve problems or be creative in their approach to testing – and therefore will usually end up employing someone who is good at following orders rather than questioning them.On the other hand, I have worked with some good testers who have questioned their approach to testing in their own particular environment, although the rate of change may not be as fast as you may see when a developer, for example, changes their approach to their work. I think this is probably due to the old fashioned mindset that we testers have, that we are the last line of defence against any evil bugs that might creep into production code, therefore we are better safe than sorry, and should follow the good old tried and tested methods of software testing.The good news is that things are changing. Testing communities are springing up all over the place, open source testing tools are becoming more popular, the role of the tester in development teams has changed and we are beginning to question the logic of our assumptions about software testing practices.I would suggest that the best thing we can do to help this revolution is to keep spreading the word amongst testers that it is OK to have an opinion and think for yourself. Testing certifications are not worth as much as you may think. QTP is not the only testing tool out there. There are great communities which you can be part of and where ideas can be shared – and they will put you in touch with employers who really do care about what their testers are doing.This comment has become rather long now, so I will stop here. Again, good post Rob.NathanViva la revolution..

  10. Hi Nathan,Thanks for the comment. I’m feeling positive about the future of testing too. I think new generations are also demanding more visible, rapid and collaborative ways of working which the “old school” mentality of testing you mention will either need to embrace or struggle to compete with. It’s no longer good enough just to have a certification. Testing is about more than that. Unfortunately a huge portion of the market still want the click-a-button-follow-a-script tester and that probably works ok for them. No doubt it could be better….but hey….they like it.Nice sentiments in your comments and I’m glad the testing community has people like you championing new ways of doing things and creating open and evolving communities where we can all start ti champion better testing.There’s a number of groups starting who are all shouting about better testing, The Rebel Alliance, London Agile Testers, Weekend Testers and my own little group, Testing Revolutions. To be fair we only had one meeting but it was a damn good one. :)I’m shocked. I thought QTP was the only tool available. :)Rob..

  11. Nice post. I can never understand why people are reticent to make suggestions on how we can improve on the status quo — especially testers! One of the things I love about software testing is that (IMHO) we’re ideally positioned to see where the ‘problem points’ are throughout a whole organization. We shouldn’t hesitate to point out a perceived problem in a piece of software, and we shouldn’t hesitate to point them out in our company’s organization, processes, or strategies either.

  12. Hi Rick,Thanks for the comment. I personally think that one of the major barriers for testers offering feedback on anything is the environment they work in. Some places offer a more open environment where people feel comfortable speaking out. Some environments aren’t safe to do this in. And this mentality is often brought through by the people who teach testing. Techniques are important, for sure, but so is having a voice :)We absolutely shouldn’t hesitate to point out a perceived problem. Thanks for the comments.Rob..

  13. Thanks for a nice post. Questioning anything regarding a product and the surrounding organisation is a part of a testers job. That also includes what it means being a tester within the software testing world and community. I would really like to get the link to your original post, the one you describe where you got all of those comments. Would be interesting to take a look at./Sigge

  14. Excellent post Rob. In my opinion testers should question and challenge the existing practices and mindset. If you can’t question, you can’t improve things.Prem Phulara

  15. Nice post! Absolutely it’s the vision tester around the globe must have. We are no only executors we responsible for systems quality and it includes question about everything we can to gather better results!

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