Tag Archives | tester traits

What Makes a Horrible Software Tester?

For fun, I decided to post a parodic adaptation of Dr. James McCaffrey’s terrific article on What Makes A Good Software Tester? Hope you like it.


1. No Passion for Analysis and Testing: The key to being a horrible software tester is to truly hate what you do. A horrible software tester will generally get more satisfaction from playing Plants vs. Zombies than from any sort of testing related activity. This characteristic is often associated with people who don’t have a college degree in a quantitative field such as mathematics, economics or computer science. To a large extent, this disdain for analysis seems to be an innate, rather than acquired, characteristic. They could prove this with numbers, but whatever.

2. Lack of Technical Skill: A horrible software tester must not understand the code they are working with. They probably can’t even spell HTML. Technical skills can be acquired through education and experience – two things a horrible tester will avoid at any cost. On a scale of 1 to 10, a horrible tester must have a score of at least 0.012 in terms of development skills.

3. Limited Cranial Capacity: A horrible software tester must be dumb – really dumb. Like finger-in-a-light-socket dumb. Software development is essentially an exercise in logic, and to operate at a base level in this environment, a software tester simply has to be exceptionally limited in his or her mental capacity.

4. No Ability to Prioritize and Organize: A horrible software must have an extremely short attention…Look at that! A blue car! Software development and testing is a highly dynamic and fluid activity; the key variables can change weekly or even daily. There’s no need for a horrible software tester to recognize, interpret or organize around these frequently changing job environment factors.

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Testers Wanted (incompetent programmers need not apply)

Joel Spolsky (@spolsky) – known widely as Joel On Software – recently penned a great article on the role of software testers. I’m sure you’re aware that most people tend to regard testers as the bearers of bad news. But as Joel correctly points out, “one of the most valuable features of a tester is providing positive reinforcement.” Many testers understand this, but few are given credit for it.

Anyway, he also provides an excellent summary of the traits that make testers successful. He says they need to be scientific, methodical thinkers who enjoy working with software. Above all, they need to be smart. But do they need to have a background in programming?

A particularly terrible idea is to offer testing jobs to the programmers who apply for jobs at your company and aren’t good enough to be programmers. Testers don’t have to be programmers, but if you spend long enough acting like a tester is just an incompetent programmer, eventually you’re building a team of incompetent programmers, not a team of competent testers. Since testing can be taught on the job, but general intelligence can’t, you really need very smart people as testers, even if they don’t have relevant experience. (Editor’s note: emphasis is mine).

That was Joel’s view. What’s yours?

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