Testing the Limits With James Bach – Part I

JamesBach150James Bach is synonymous with testing, and has been disrupting the industry and influencing and mentoring testers since he got his start in testing over 25 years ago at Apple. Always a great interview, James is one of our most popular guests and we’re happy to have him back for his first Testing the Limits since 2011. For more on James’ background, his body of work and his testing philosophy, you can check out his blog, website or follow him on Twitter.

In Part One of our latest talk with James, he talks about a future that involves a ‘leaner’ testing world, the state of context-driven testing outside of the United States, and why you’re “dopey” if you’re a manager using certain criteria in hiring your testers.

uTest: We know you don’t enjoy certifications when it comes to testers. In fact, in a recent blog, you mentioned that ‘The ISTQB and similar programs require your stupidity and your fear in order to survive.’ Do you feel like certifications are picking up steam when it comes to hiring and if they’re becoming even more of a pervasive issue?

JB: I don’t have any statistics to cite, but my impression from my travels is that certifications have no more steam today than they did 10 years ago. Dopey, frightened, lazy people will continue to use them in hiring, just as they have for years.

uTest: Speaking of pervasive problems, what in your opinion has changed the most – for better or for worse – in the testing industry as a whole since we talked with you last almost 3 years ago?

JB: For the better: the rise of the Let’s Test conference. That makes two solidly Context-Driven conference franchises in the world. This is related to the general rise of a spirited European Context-Driven testing community.

Nothing much else big seems to have changed in the industry, from my perspective. I and my colleagues continue to evolve our work, of course.

uTest: In a recent interview, you mentioned that you see the future of testing, in 2020 for instance, as being made up just of a small group of testing “masters” that jump into testing projects and oversee the testing getting done…by people that aren’t necessarily “testers.” Do you see QA departments going completely by the wayside in this new reality of a leaner testing world? Wouldn’t this be a threat to the industry in general?

JB: I’m not sure whether you mean QA groups, per se, or testing groups (which are often called QA). I don’t see testing groups completely going away across all the sectors of the industry, but for some sectors, maybe. For instance, it wouldn’t surprise me if Google got rid of all its “testers” and absorbed that activity into its development groups, who would then pursue it with the ruthless efficiency of bored teenagers mopping floors at McDonald’s (a company as powerful as Google can do a lot of silly things for a very long time without really suffering. Look at how stupidly HP has been managed for the last 20 years, and they are still, amazingly, in business).

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Are There Enough ‘Intellectual’ Software Testers?

imagesJames Bach is no stranger to tackling heated topics, and in general, being one of the most influential disruptors in the in the testing industry.

So it comes as no surprise that in a recent blog, James provided some fodder for a great discussion in the uTest Forums, arguing that there aren’t enough intellectual testers in the field — that is, testers that are willing to challenge themselves or the status quo:

“The state of the practice in testing is for testers NOT to read about their craft, NOT to study social science or know anything about the proper use of statistics or the meaning of the word ‘heuristic,’ and NOT to challenge the now 40 year stale ideas about making testing into factory work that lead directly to mass outsourcing of testing to lowest bidder instead of the most able tester.”

While there was a fair amount of pushback to this, a surprising amount of uTesters tended to agree, including one tester that even went so far as to call it a “pet peeve” of his. However, while agreeing with Bach’s assessment, these same testers argued that it isn’t necessarily their fault — it’s a product of their environment:

“To conclude, I believe that the issue lies with how projects are managed. If no time is left for more robust testing, then it almost doesn’t matter how intellectual or technically savvy a tester is if all he/she is going to have time to do is create and execute tests against specifications. In other words, intellectual testers don’t have much opportunity for more intellectual testing. A strong tester would not be able to showcase those skills in this environment.

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5 Ways to Learn About Software Testing at uTest

computer mouse and book, concept of online educationThe software testing world can be a complex maze, especially if you are new to the industry. There are various testing types, testing methodologies, and testing schools of thought, as well as guidance about bug reporting, project etiquette, and working on a testing team. The amount of information can be overwhelming, but we’ve outlined a few ways you can easily get your bearings and start off on the right foot in software testing here at uTest.

Read About Testing News

The Software Testing Blog is your source for news and information about the testing world. You can find posts about events, careers, trends, and specific testing types like mobile and security. The blog also features Q&A sessions with industry experts like Stephen Janaway, Craig Tomlin, and Dave Ferguson, along with upcoming interviews with leaders like James Bach.

Connect With Other Testers

The Software Testing Forums is your place to meet fellow testers from around the world and discuss the hottest topics in testing today. The forums includes over 80,000 posts in more than 5,000 topics. Take a poll, share your favorite testing quotes, or just introduce yourself to the community.

Attend An Event

The Software Testing Events calendar is a comprehensive listing of testing events happening around the globe. You can find both in-person and online events, as well as new courses available to testers. Some show organizers also offer discounts for members of the uTest Community. See event listings for more details.

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Why Developers Won’t Necessarily Make the Best Testers

I think we can all agree that development and testing are two essential parts of any successful software project. Both roles are unique, have separate skill requirements, and a special way of thinking to get the job done right. There is an overlap in understanding, though, and they both have the same goal – to release quality software projects that make their users happy.  But, can developers be good testers?

I’m not asking whether or not developers can be good at testing their own code (or whether or not they should – which I discuss in a previous blog post). Instead, I am asking whether or not developers, in general, have the skills and abilities necessary to switch hats with their tester compatriots. Do developers innately have what it takes to be good at testing?

My answer is, in short, it depends entirely on the developer in question. I do not think that being developers grants us a special insight into the world of testing. In fact, I think that in some cases, being a developer can hamper being an effective tester. If we understand and know innately how a piece of software should work, or have very strong views around how it should work, then we are not going to be able to break it properly. We’re going to overlook bugs simply because our brains fill in the blanks when something doesn’t work or read the way we think it should.

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Experiences from the Testing Trenches: In GIFs

Memes, Grumpy Cat, Which State are You? quizzes and now GIFs. At the risk of not turning into Reddit or Buzzfeed who do these things far better than we ever could, we rounded up some of our testers’ experiences as told in movable image form…just this one time. Enjoy.

Is it a bug? Is it working as designed? Can’t decide:

QA’s look at a new build:

My reaction when there’s a known issues list of 300+ lines when receiving a new build:

Product was shipped with a critical bug:

It’s all fun exploring new things until something serious happens:

This gif is epic XD

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Four Reasons Pessimists Don’t Make the Best Testers

Is the glass half empty or half full? Depending on how you answer that question, you may be a pessimist (Although in Boston, it’s just called realism…tsome-people-call-me-a-realist-some-call-me-a-pessimist_o_720627he Red Sox are 39-50 and aren’t going anywhere!).

When it comes to testing, it’s easy to paint pessimism as something that should come naturally to a tester. After all, isn’t it a tester’s job to find things wrong in an application, foresee problems, and break stuff…bringing out the worst in an app? One would think so, but our testers debated this topic heavily in the uTest Forums, and came up with several ideas resoundingly against the notion of the “pessimistic tester.”

Pessimism is toxic on testing teams

“Pessimists tend to see the worst. If someone sees the worst in everything, especially in what they do, who would want that on a team?” – Marek L., uTester

And this doesn’t just go for testing: Who wants to work with a Debbie Downer? Sure, there may have been a devastating hurricane that took 100 lives in another country, but if you’re reminded of it every time the sun is shining, it could make for a long eternity on your testing team.

Pessimism takes away the tester work ethic

“Any tester, even the eternal optimist, should know that no software product is bug-free. And since pessimists are…well…pessimistic, they’ll probably also be pessimistic about being able to find bugs, too.” – Lucas S., uTester

It may not be the only task of a tester, but it’s arguably the most important: Testers are hired to find bugs. If testers out of the gate have a pessimistic point of view, it could hinder their ability to think clearly and do the major task they were hired to do. And that’s a problem in a world of software that’s hardly close to being perfect.

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10 Quotes for Software Testers…Since the Last Time

So we had to dig back deep into the archives to see when the last time was that we featured some testing quotes worthy of hanging up on the ol’ refrigerator. To our horror, it was over three years ago, so we decided it was time again for another roundup. Without further ado:

Testing means learning. Learning requires faith in one’s ignorance combined with the confidence that it can be extinguished.”James Bach

“Testing is organized skepticism.”— James Bach (A double dose of Bach!)

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs

“There are only two things that seem to be even close to universally true when it comes to testing – things are constantly changing, and if you put three testers in a room with a testing term or topic to discuss, no more than two of them will ever agree at the same time.”Scott Barber

“A ‘passing’ test doesn’t mean ‘no problem.’ It means no problem *observed*. This time. With these inputs. So far. On my machine.”Michael Bolton

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Testers: There is No Such Thing as Too Much Detail in Your Bug Reports

info-meterIn a recent debate over in the Software Testing Forums, the question of TMI (too much information) in bug reports was raised. It’s a great question, and the answer to it can determine whether the bugs you write are seen as valuable or not.

Speaking as a tester, we want to give the best possible information in our bug reports, while at the same time taking care not to bog down the report with extraneous information. We don’t always have a way to know what pieces of information are extraneous and which are relevant, however, so it can feel like a gamble.

Speaking as a developer, the information you give us in a bug report is crucial to how valuable we perceive the bug report to be. The more relevant information you are able to provide, the better and faster we can find and kill those bugs you worked so hard to tell us about.

Relevant information provided literally translates directly into value.

And that, really, is my answer to the debate. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too much information in a bug report, as long as all of that information is relevant.

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13 Ways Our Testers Describe Testing…In One Word

Have you ever been asked on a job interview to describe yourself in one word?One-word

It’s certainly a tough question to distill down into one compact answer, but it sure beats ‘What kind of animal are you?’ Because, honestly, I couldn’t even tell you how I’d answer that insane question.

We asked our testing community how they would distill testing down into just one word, and here are 13 of them that they used to describe their profession:

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#TestingChatter: Why Do You Test?

This week’s #TestingChatter Twitter Challenge is pretty straightforward, although it could qa_tester_screeningelicit some really passionate and unique responses from our testers.

We want to know what drives you. To put it simply…Why do you test?

Perhaps it’s because you’re a perfectionist who’s obsessed with quality and detail. Maybe you’ve always been tech-savvy and testing was just something you “fell” into. Whatever the reason, something brought you into the wonderful world of testing, and we want to know what it was.

Join in on the discussion in real-time and share with your colleagues: Tweet your answers to the question on Twitter using the hashtag #TestingChatter and we’ll be publishing YOUR tweets on the uTest Blog!