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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CAST 2014 to be Webcast Live for Testers, Full Coverage Also From uTest

The 9th Annual Conference of the Association for Software Testing (CAST), held this year from August 11-13 in New York2014_CAST_square City, is one of the premier testing events of the year. While this year’s edition is already sold out, testers will still be able to tune into all of the keynotes and full track sessions for free from the comfort of their homes.

CAST announced that a live stream will be available from its official site on August 11 and 12, from 9am-7pm EDT each day, so you’ll be able to watch sessions and keynotes from esteemed speakers including: James Bach, Richard Bradshaw, Matthew Heusser and Henrik Andersson.

The theme for CAST 2014 is “The Art and Science of Testing.” This year, speakers will be sharing their experiences surrounding software testing – whether the experience supports testing as an art or a science.

uTest is also pleased and honored to be a sponsor of CAST 2014. In addition to the live stream hosted on CAST’s site, be sure to stay tuned to the uTest Blog and @uTest on Twitter, as we’ll not only be reporting from the event, but sharing exclusive video interviews with some of the major personalities from the show.

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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Q&A: Context-Driven Testing Champions Talk Trends, Preview Let’s Test Oz

Henrik Andersson and David Greenlees are two well-known contributors to the context-driven testing community and together co-founded the Let’s Test conferences, which celebrate the context-driven school of thought. Let’s Test Oz is slated for September 15-17 just outside Sydney, Australia, and uTest has secured an exclusive 10% discount off new registrations. Be sure to email testers@utest.com for this special discount code if you plan on attending.

In this interview, we talk with Henrik and David on trends in the context-driven community, and get a sense of what testers can expect at Let’s Test Oz.

19c4175HenrikAndersson

uTest: Like James Bach, you’re both members of the ‘context-driven’ testing community. What drove each of you to context-driven testing?

HA: Actually, James did. I had close to no awareness of the context-driven testing (CDT) community before I hosted James’ RST class in Sweden in spring of 2007. During my discussions with James, I found that we shared lots of fundamental views on testing, and he insisted that I should meet more people in the CDT community.

James told me about the CAST conference that took place in the States, and that just before this, there would be a small peer conference called WHET 4 that his brother Jon hosted. A few days later, I got an invitation from Jon Bach to attend. At this workshop, where we spent a weekend discussion on Boundary Testing, I met testers like Cem Kaner, Ross Collard, Scott Barber, Rob Sabourin, Michael Bolton, Dough Hoffman, Keith Stobie, Tim Coulter, Dawn Haynes, Paul Holland, Karen Johnson, Sam Kalman, David Gilbert, Mike Kelly, and, of course, Jon and James Bach. From then on I was hooked!

DG: Difficult question to answer without writing a novel! I wrote about my testing journey some time back, however, that doesn’t really touch on my drivers toward the CDT community. If I was to pinpoint one thing, it would be the book Lessons Learned in Software Testing (Bach, Kaner, Pettichord). This was my first introduction to the community and to what I believe is a better way to test…in fact…the only way to test.

What keeps me here is the fantastic people I come across each and every day. We challenge each other, we’re passionate, and we’re not afraid to put our opinions out there for the world to hear and critique. This all adds to the betterment of our craft, which is our ultimate goal. I’m a firm believer that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to testing, and when you add that to my natural tendency to explore rather than confirm, I find that the CDT community is a great fit for me.

uTest: And speaking of James Bach, he’s one of the keynote speakers at Let’s Test Oz in the Fall. Can you tell us a little bit about the idea behind the show, and why you felt it was time for context-driven conferences in Europe and Australia?

HA: Let’s Test is all about building, growing and strengthening the CDT community. We have successfully arranged Let’s Test three years in a row in Europe, but the attendees are coming from all over the world. The idea behind Let’s Test is to create a meeting place for testers to learn, share experiences, grow, meet other testers, do some real testing, and, of course, to have a whole lot of fun.

When David Greenlees and Ann-Marie Charrett told me about what they were looking to achieve, I immediately felt that it was in line with Let’s Test, and believe Let’s Test can be a great vehicle to grow the CDT community in Australia.

Last year, we did a one-day tasting of Let’s Test in Sydney, and this year, we did one in the Netherlands. In November, we will be hosting one in Johannesburg, South Africa. The purpose of the small tastings of Let’s Test is for testers to get a glance at the Let’s Test experience, at a really low cost. If you cant come to the real Let’s Test, this is a great alternative to check out what it is all about.

DG: From the Australian point of view, it’s fair to say that the CDT community is very small. We refer to the area as ‘Downunder’ — this is our way of saying Australia and New Zealand. I felt it was time to change that, and one way to help the CDT community thrive is to hold a CDT conference.

For quite a few years now, I’ve felt that Downunder needed a different style of software testing conference, one where conferring is the ultimate goal, and so I emailed Henrik, and he was extremely positive and encouraging…so here we are.

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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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In Videos: The Best in Software Testing From James Bach

He may need no introduction to software testing vets, but for those starting off, there’s no better guy to turn to for testing advice than James Bach.

James has been disrupting the testing industry since 1987 with his blogs, lectures, courses and books on software testing and the context-driven school of thought. For more on James’ background, his body of work and his testing philosophy in general, you can check out his blog or follow him on Twitter.

In the meantime though, we’ve rounded up some of the best (and animated in discussion!) videos and lectures from the one-and-only Bach.

Open Lecture by James Bach

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Software Engineers: “Forgive Me Testers, For I Have Sinned”

A few days back, GigaOM posted terrific article on the 7 Sins of Software Development. When you read it, which I strongly suggest, I think you’ll see that testers play a huge role in absolving the various “deadly” sins of software engineers.

If you’re too apathetic to read the article (sloth is a sin, FYI) then check out the excerpts below:

Sloth
Sloth is apathy, not laziness. An apathetic programmer is the arguably the most detrimental, because he has zero interest in quality. On the other hand, a lazy programmer can be a good programmer, because laziness can drive long-term efficiencies. For example, if I’m too lazy to type in my password everywhere, I might create a single sign-on feature. Or, if I’m too lazy to manually deploy software, I will instead write an automatic deployment tool. Laziness and scalability go hand in hand.

Wrath
Although many software engineers seem peaceful, underneath the surface often lurks a passive aggressive personality. Take a look at source code comments to see examples of this hidden hostility. Usually profanity in source code is proportional to technical debt. However, it is vital that your engineers are not milquetoasts. Beware of the programmer who does not ask questions or who will use any text editor willingly. Good programmers have strong opinions, but they also appreciate lively debates.

Envy
Envy can be very dangerous in software development. Envy for other products often leads to feature creep. If someone mentions feature parity, you should ask, “But do we need it?” The ultimate killer feature is simplicity, but simple to use is hard to design. Also, it is easy to lose focus when you are constantly watching what other companies are doing. Imagine building towers out of Legos. Would you rather build one tower at a time or many towers in parallel? The parallel approach only works if the towers are identical. Otherwise, you spend too much time context switching. Agility is not the same as half-baked. And doing one thing well is still underappreciated.

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8 Tips For Becoming a Dedicated Tester

Become a top software testerOur old friend James Bach recently fielded a question on his blog from a new tester seeking advice on what her daily routine should include so that she can grow in her new field. James seems impressed by the new tester’s discipline (she did willingly ask for daily testing “homework” after all) and dedication to the craft. He outlined five tasks he believes every tester should practice on a daily basis, here’s a quick summary of his tips:

Write every day
Whenever I find myself with a few moments, I make notes of my thoughts about testing and technical life.

Watch yourself think every day
While you are working, notice how you think. Notice where your ideas come from. Try to trace your thoughts.

Question something about how you work every day
Testers question things, of course. That’s what testing is. But too few testers questions how they work. Too few testers question why testing is the way it is.

Explain testing every day
Even if no one makes you explain your methodology, you can explain it to yourself.

I like these tips because they aren’t the typical recommendations you run across, like “test whenever you can,” “read an array of testing books” and “be open-minded when it comes to techniques.” Those are great tips too, just nothing special. Of course, James didn’t just give one sentence explanations for each of his pointers, so take a few minutes and read his complete blog post to get the full impact of these smart tips.

And as a little extra, here are a couple more tips James’ readers left in the comments section.

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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:

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