5 Myths of Software Testing

As I scan the software testing stories of the day, I’m amazed at the frequency of certain misconceptions. While there are too many to list, I wanted to share five of the most common testing myths (in my brief experience). The first three I find to be prevalent in mainstream news articles, while the other two are more common within the tech industry in general.

Take a look and see if you agree with me.

Myth 1. Testing is boring: It’s been said that “Testing is like sex. If it’s not fun, then you’re doing it wrong.” The myth of testing as a monotonous, boring activity is seen frequently in mainstream media articles, which regard testers as the assembly line workers of the software business. In reality, testing presents new and exciting challenges every day. Here’s a nice quote from Michael Bolton that pretty much sums it up:

“Testing is something that we do with the motivation of finding new information.  Testing is a process of exploration, discovery, investigation, and learning.  When we configure, operate, and observe a product with the intention of evaluating it, or with the intention of recognizing a problem that we hadn’t anticipated, we’re testing.  We’re testing when we’re trying to find out about the extents and limitations of the product and its design, and when we’re largely driven by questions that haven’t been answered or even asked before.”

Myth 2. Testing is easy: It’s often assumed testing cannot be that difficult, since everyday users find bugs all the time. In truth, testing is a very complex craft that’s not suited for your average Joe. Here’s Google’s Patrick Copeland on the qualities of a great tester:

“It’s a mindset and a passion. From the 100s of interviews I’ve done,  “great” boils down to: 1) a special predisposition to finding problems  and 2) a passion for testing to go along with that predisposition. In  other words, they love testing and they are good at it. They also appreciate that the challenges of testing are, more often than not,  equal or greater than the challenges of programming. A great “career”  tester with the testing gene and the right attitude will always be able  to find a job. They are gold.”

Myth 3. Testers only find bugs: Yes, testers do find bugs, but that’s not their sole purpose. Here’s a good summary on this myth from Ankur of freesoftwaretesting.info:

This view of the tester’s role is very limited and adds no value for the customer. Testers are experts with the system, application, or product under test. Unlike the developers, who are responsible for a specific function or component, the tester understands how the system works as a whole to accomplish customer goals. Testers understand the value added by the product, the impact of the environment on the product’s efficiency, and the best ways to get the most out of the product.

Myth 4. Machines will make human testers obsolete: With advances in automated technology, it’s often assumed  that computers will someday render human testers obsolete. But since the ultimate users of an application are not robots or machines, but rather live human beings, it stands to reason that human testing will always have an important role to play. Here’s testing author James Whittaker on the importance of manual testing:

“Test automation is often built to solve too big a problem. This broad scope makes automation brittle and flaky because it’s trying to do too much. There are certain things that automation is good at and certain things humans are good at and it seems to me a hybrid approach is better. What I want is automation that makes my job as a human easier. Automation is good at analyzing data and noticing patterns. It is not good at determining relevance and making judgment calls. Fortunately humans excel at judgment.”

Myth 5. Testers don’t get along with developers: It’s not hard to see why this myth persists. As testing guru James Bach once wrote: “Anyone who creates a piece of work and submits it for judgment is going to feel judged. That’s not a pleasant feeling. And the problem is compounded by testers who glibly declare that this or that little nit or nat is a “defect,” as if anything they personally don’t like is a quality problem for everybody.”

What’s not widely known is that many testers are actually former developers (and vice-versa), so there’s a mutual understanding and appreciation for the challenges each camp faces. This is not the case inside all companies, but to say that the majority of testers and developers don’t get along is false, in our experience.

**********

 What are some other myths of testing? Let us know in the comment section.

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Comments

  1. says

    So we rented a car with a GPS system (a lifesaver) and headed
    to load up on caffeine before the 5 hour drive to Philly.
    I believe it’s okay to pick up a child that small and
    hold them close enough to your face that they can see whether you flossed your teeth, but shaking them is never okay, not even in a movie.
    Whether or not her quote pertains at all to the case is under question, and the press should have made this clear in their reports.

  2. emily says

    It is true。Some times i feel test is boring when i test some function again and again, but ,when I found new problems, i think testing is happy. Thanks, mike, the “5 myth of testing ” make me know more about testing.

  3. Anna Lilley says

    Myth – Testing extends project timelines.

    Not true, testing aids delivery by providing a distinct milestone between development and deployment. Used wisely in project management, test phases can create opportunities for earlier delivery by road-mapping project contributions into QA. After all, it’s easy to believe that you have lots of time if your project goes live in 6 months than if you need to deliver an iteration into testing after 6 weeks.

  4. says

    Why do you think that these myths still exist and are prevalent in organisations? Testing has moved on and much more interesting since the 70s and people who believe in these myths are now in minority and not worth worring about. These myths are discredited and we should be looking at future challenges and how we can rise to those challenges in terms of arming ourselves by learning new tools and techniques to cope with. Looking at ways to create a testing community that keep on sharing experiences with others so that no one feels left out.

  5. Georgios Boletis says

    It’s been said that “Testing is like sex. If it’s not fun, then you’re doing it wrong.”

    No comment! :) :) :) Great line!

  6. says

    The other myth which has been making round since ages is that people don’t choose Testing as a pre-decided career path rather its a stumble upon or forced upon when no other choice is left with them. It don’t agree with this notion. People have made significant strides in taking Testing professionally and as a demanding career these days after watching the pitfalls of not having QA around.

  7. says

    Thanks for sharing your opinion Mike. All the myths you’ve mentioned are true on occasions and wrong other times. Testing is boring : This is highly subjective and part of the testing that is offshored is boring, that’s the precise reason it was offshored. But If you are doing exploratory testing this can never be boring, provided you are doing it with zeal and not to earn bread and butter while being a painter :)

  8. Shaun says

    @John and Mike

    IGN just had an article about the life of a Games Tester. Point 1 is ridiculous, and is more an issue with the applicant not researching exactly what their role would be. The rest of them are fairly valid points from my experience (although it definitely differs from company to company, as can be the same with any field)

    http://games.ign.com/articles/122/1221612p1.html

  9. John says

    Testing is boring at times. Not very often, but there are periods of time when the possibility of being creative with your work is extremely limited – i’m currently working on a (web based) project now that is very small, with only two functions and three user input fields. Granted, it will not last long, but it’s not very exciting either, especially coming from much more grandiose projects.

    Also, there are periods during game testing when you look up walls to smash your head in, because the only green light you have is collisions, and you’ve done everything you could on your map, and aren’t allowed to test others (at least for a while). This is a waste, for a good tester, but i can understand it – it would be too easy for a “rabbit” to say his job’s done as well, just so he could jump on a different map..

    Speaking of game testing, you’ve forgot one of the most discussed areas of testing, and what most people think of it!! “Game testers are getting paid to play all day”.. Now, this could be a part of Myth 2 (Testing is easy), but i believe it is either a special category, that deserves its own myth, or is the absolute maximum level of Myth 2, and should definitely be mentioned!

    I could go into more depth with “5 reasons why you wouldn’t want to be a game tester”, but i’m not sure how much interest there is for such an article..

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *