Testing the Limits With James Bach – Part I

Back for another session on the Testing the Limits hot seat is James Bach – one of our most popular guests and one of the most widely recognized figures in testing today. A prolific author, speaker, coach and consultant, James has been disrupting the testing industry since 1987. For more on James’ background, his body of work and his testing philosophy in general, you can check out his blog, website or follow him on Twitter.

In part one of our latest interview, we get his thoughts on his previous life as a developer; how testers should interact with engineers; the biggest waste of time in testing today; the skills that most testers lack and more.

uTest: In a recent lecture you said that you hated being a developer, saying it was like completing 25 crossword puzzles every day (i.e. boring and repetitive). What’s the one piece of advice you would offer to those are who are thinking of making the transition from dev to testing?

JB: I advise: make that transition– but please, study testing as you do.

Testing is not just another programming problem. Yet, too often, a programmer mentality sees testing as just the process of manipulating software. Sometimes, programmers dream of robot armies to do their “testing.” The quest for the clever tool then eclipses the mission of excellent testing. This is a little like trying to invent an android that can talk to your wife so that you don’t have to.

You can use all your tech skills, programmers. It’s fine to write software. But what testing is really about is rapid, deep learning. To do that, you have to get your face, and all the rest of you, right up close to that product. You must wrestle with the product– yes– by hand. Or as we like to say where I come from: you need to do your testing sapiently.

uTest: In that same presentation you also talked about the importance of making friends with developers. Why is the tester-developer relationship so adversarial at times?

JB: I don’t know, why does my wife not like it when I report defects in her? People are strange that way…

Seriously, it’s easy to see the dynamic. 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. It is further compounded when programmers and testers are separated by large distances or other communication barriers, not to mention the process barriers.

Even though technical people are renowned and sought after for their social skills (I understand United Nations programmers were just about to solve the Arab-Israeli situation a few months ago, had it not been for the need to calm tensions between the Koreas.) testers and developers are people who see the world very differently. It’s a special challenge to relax and smile when a bug report seems to have been ignored.

Personally, I make a set of explicit commitments to any developer I work with on a project. I write them down and deliver them. This seems to help.

uTest: You’ve said many times that belief is a sin for testers – something we assume you’ve learned from experience. Was there anything in particular that led you to this truism? Or was it just years of experience?

JB: It’s not a matter of experience, but reason. Our job is vigilance. To lose vigilance is to abdicate our responsibility. Vigilance, in testing, means being a good skeptic. We must reject certainty in any form. We’re the Knights of May Be. To believe is to cease questioning; to fall asleep at our posts.

I use lots of information. I work hard not to believe it. This is my discipline.

uTest: What’s the biggest waste of time in testing today?

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Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Does “Quality” Come From Testing?

Okay, call this a bait and switch if you will, but the bottom line is you cannot test quality into an application. So if you can’t test quality into an app, do you then build it into an app? Or perhaps the more pertinent question is, ‘who contributes more to app quality – software developers or software testers?’ Playing with dynamite here, I know…

Let’s begin with a simple fact – developers are the ones who “create” software defects in the first place. To be fair, they don’t knowingly create buggy software, but that’s the widely accepted norm – we’re human after all. However, when bugs are discovered after the product launches, testers are typically singled out and blamed. Why?

Part of the reason is due to the misnomer that QA should stand for “quality assurance.” Do QA professionals truly assure the quality of a product, or do they assist in delivering high quality products (as Jon Bach has suggested)? So if you’re a tester by trade, I sympathize with you. On the one hand, buggy software leads to job security. On the other hand, you are constantly on the hot seat and looking over your shoulder, wondering when and where the next bug will surface. But instead of despairing over these details, testers should rise to the challenge.

Here are a few examples of how testers can lead the quality initiative:

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Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

What’s the Difference Between Designers and Developers?

Not long ago, I wrote a post about tester stereotypes – where I dispelled the notion of testers being the lazy, blame-shifting robots they are often portrayed as in the tech world. Today, SixRevisions.com reminds us that testing is not the only profession subject to such generalizations. Here’s their funny graphic explaining the differences between web designers and web developers (click to enlarge).

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Mobile App World, London: October 19-20, 2010

Apps! Apps! And more apps! As the summer starts winding down here at uTest, we’ve been able to take a step back and a closer look at the big trends emerging all around us. What has been most apparent is the tremendous spike in mobile app testing needs. From top marketing agencies to retail giants to social gaming startups, our customers are developing more mobile apps to grow (or define) their businesses than ever before.

According to Game Developer Research, 25% of game developers are now making mobile games – that’s up from a mere 12% in 2009!

In addition, a survey conducted by iGR found that more than half (53%) of US mobile developers are building apps for Apple’s iPhone OS. BlackBerry was the next most popular, followed by Android and Windows Mobile.

In response to this incredible momentum, this year marks the launch of Mobile App World 2010, where global leaders in mobile tech and app development and entrepreneurs will gather to network and learn about the latest developments and innovations.

uTest will be among the outstanding line-up of more than 40 speakers, which includes Google, Microsoft, Ericsson, Orange Global and the BBC, who will be discussing the future of mobile apps. Shoot us a note if you’ll be around!

Note: If you’re looking for some cool, new mobile apps, check out Mobile App World’s August Apps Of The Month. You may spot a uTester’s favorite app! :)

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Why Software Testers Need Interpersonal Skills

Our guest blogger this month is Atul Angra. A resident of India, Atul is one of our more accomplished testers (a Gold Tester in fact), with over six years of professional experience. He’s a photographer at heart, but a tester by trade, with domain expertise in healthcare and finance. He’s also a former Bug Battle winner, a guest judge, a Tester of the Year, a Forums junkie, a crash course author and he’s here today to discuss how interpersonal skills can make or break a tester’s career. Enjoy!


Let’s take a scenario where a tester follows the rules and reports 100 bugs. Some of these bugs were traced to non-documented requirements that are implicit in nature, such as a drop-down list not populating alphabetically and things of that nature. These bugs are quite common and usually end up in conflict, as development teams reject them based on the argument that it’s not a defined requirement.

Here, both the developer and tester are not ready to close this issue – and they are both correct. The traditional way these issues are resolved is by involving someone from management to intervene and make a decision. The time spent in escalation and argument is much greater than what it would have taken to actually fix the issue.

At a high level, we could blame the team which collected requirement, but this may not be the case when it comes to implicit requirements. Many of these situations could be resolved if the tester demonstrates interpersonal skills.

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Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing