Testing the Limits With James Bach: Part II

In part II of our latest Testing the Limits interview with James Bach, we tried something a bit different this time, crowdsourcing some ojamesbachf the questions from our uTest Community members. Additionally, James shows us his lighter side and which of his picks won the World Cup — of his heart. 

Be sure to check out Part I of our interview, if you already haven’t.

What is the biggest hurdle to testing you see testers struggle with? (Jeff S.)

JB: The hurdles that come with having no credibility. Gain credibility, and every external hurdle gets a lot smaller. If you ever find yourself saying, “I want to do good work, but my manager insists that I test in a stupid way, instead,” then probably the issue is that your manager thinks you are incompetent. Fix that. Then when you politely tell your manager to mind his own business, he will let you get on with your work in the way you see fit.

Do you see the tide changing for development teams modernizing their testing philosophy? Or is entrenched thought winning the day? (Jeff S.)

JB: I don’t know, really. I don’t do polls or anything. I can say that business is good for me and my colleagues, right at the moment.

Which area or skill is best to focus on first as a tester to build a solid foundation or understanding of testing? (Frank B.)

JB: I would say: general systems thinking (GST). See the book Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Jerry Weinberg. Within the realm of GST, I suggest: modeling. It’s vital to gain control over your mental models of products. Models are a prison from within which you test.

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Three Essential Features for Test Management Products

Note: The following is a guest submission to the uTest Blog from Nicole Abrahams.

You don’t need us to explain to you the importance of working with a test management product that not only gets the job done, but is a pleasure to work with on an ongoing basis.checklist

Managing the software testing process is by no means glamorous work, and moving between different test procedures, although interesting, certainly isn’t the most exciting activity programmers ever get to do. But it’s an essential activity, and when you’re looking through all the test management products on the market today, it’s within your best interest to find one that not only looks great, but which displays the three essential features listed below.

Whether you’re an amateur tester or you’ve been working in this field for many years, three essential features you should look for (and ask about) before purchasing any test management software are:

Ease of Use

One feature you should look for in a test management product above all else is: How easy is the tool to use? It may sound obvious, but the easier a particular test management product is, the more inclined you will be to use it on a frequent basis, and the shorter the learning curve will be when moving over from another, similar tool.

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Announcing the 2014 Summer Bug Battle, uTest’s First Since 2010

Marty3uTest is happy and excited to announce that a proud tradition and competition that started in our community in 2008 is back after a four-year hiatus…the Bug Battle!

Bug Battles are arguably even more popular than they were since the last time we held this esteemed competition. Companies from Microsoft to Facebook are offering up bounties to testers that find the most crucial of bugs bogging down their apps, and putting their companies’ credibility on the line.

The Bug Battle launches right now, Wednesday, July 23. Testers will have two weeks, until Wednesday, August 6th, to submit the most impactful Desktop, Web and Mobile bugs from testing tools contained on our Tool Reviews site. Only the best battlers will take home all the due glory, respect, and the cash prizes! And speaking of those cash prizes, we’ll be awarding well over $1000, along with uTest swag for bugs that are not only the most crucial and impactful, but that are part of well-written bug reports.

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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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