Eavesdropping On Testing

On the bus the other day I overheard a woman discussing her upcoming nuptials. She was quite the modern girl, it seems, and was not going for any of the traditional ceremonial wedding stuff. Well, maybe a small wedding party, like three bridesmaids and three groomsmen, definitely no more than that! And certainly no flowers, no boutonnières, no tossing of the (non-existent) bouquet, no dancing, and no wedding cake. "I want this to be about me getting married", I heard her say, "not about all this wedding stuff. I want it to be a party!"

Another conversation I overheard was between a young man hauling "Mass Transit Now" lawn signs (we have a large mass transit expansion proposal on our November ballot) and an older man who had bicycled to his bus stop. The older man commented that taking the bus to plant the lawn signs seemed apropos. The younger man replied that he never took a car. "Never?" rejoined the older man; "That's stupid!"

I see connections to testing in each of these overheard conversations. I often see testing approached with great ceremony. Teams form traditions around how they test and seem to forget they could work in other ways. The ceremony with which they test becomes all-important, performing each of the steps in their testing ceremony becomes paramount, and no one dares to (or even thinks of doing) their work any other way. They appear to have forgotten that testing is about providing information to their stakeholders, not about following a process or performing a ceremony.

The woman I overheard was dispensing with ceremony and tradition insofar as they did not fit her idea of an ideal wedding - insofar as they got in the way of her celebrating her marriage. Similarly, the best testers I know dispense with the ceremony and traditions they and their teams have accreted around testing and get on with the business of providing information to their stakeholders. The soon-to-be-bride wanted her wedding to be a party; great testers love testing so much that they cannot help but party every moment they are testing!

The Mass Transit Now guy takes bus riding to a point his seatmate evidently considers extreme. The best testers I know continually do the same and take their testing to a point their developers, program managers, and even fellow testers consider extreme. This might mean writing test automation rather than testing manually, testing manually rather than writing test automation, or deciding that a particular piece of functionality does or does not need any (more) testing when everyone else believes it does not or does. Regardless of what they are doing that seems extreme to the rest of their team, they are confident of their decisions and the reasons behind them, even if their colleagues think these reasons and decisions are stupid.

What kind of tester are you? Do you follow traditions and partake in ceremony and go with the crowd? Or do you evaluate each situation as it arrives and decide what is your Best Option in that particular case? Whichever you do, how is that working for you? Let me know!

*** Want a fun job on a great team? I need a tester! Interested? Let's talk: Michael dot J dot Hunter at microsoft dot com. Great testing and coding skills required.

Comments (4)

  1. Ido Schacham says:

    I like to mix it up.

    Sometimes a ceremony can be helpful, like running a sanity when you receive a fresh build.

    At other times testing in context works out great, letting go of your dispositions and treating each testing session as a brand new experiment. Even then there are some ceremonial things to do, like inputting long strings with odd characters 🙂

  2. m_i_m says:

    I am still at the point of learning how others test, not forcing myself to accept all there ways, but objectively looking at it and practicing it and then if i have an issue about it i would critique it.

    So for now, i will be mostly following processes others believe works.

    Hopefully some day, i will be able to have my own style, which would possibly be a mix between a myriad of different styles others have shared with me.

  3. Corissa Andrascik says:

    Loved the post – I had different reaction as you described the ‘Mass Transit Now’ guy, though. I agree with you that it’s a fantastic parallel to going your own way even if it seems extreme to others.   The other aspect of this that caught my attention, however, was that he *never* drives.  

    Anytime someone uses such a superlative I wonder if they are really taking the unique aspects of each situation into consideration or just clinging to one way that they think is best.

    I think that’s pretty much the sentiment you expressed later in the post – I guess I just looked at that example a little differently.

    I’m a member of a small(ish) QA team that is still hashing out what tools and approaches are best for us.  I’m trying to amass evidence against anything that will require too much conformity and not enough imagination.  

    Thanks for the food for thought.  🙂

  4. Dionne Gordon says:

    It’s all about being acutely situationally aware!!  No one test method or methodology works in any given situation.  There is no Test/Quality ‘silver bullet’.  

    And as for the bride-girl, well if her purpose is to create a party all about her, then she’s right on track. But if she is interested in all aspects of said-wedding (family, friends, presumeably a groom) then she might be missing a huge chunk of the solution and cause herself some un-anticipated pain-points resulting from her wedding methodology and practices.

    The last man, however, is right on target.  He knows his purpose, he knows his goal and he is focused on achieving it to the extreme.

    The only problem with being obsessed with test is that most people’s eyes start to glaze over, their mouths drool and they start to twitch uncontrollably when you’ve only just started with your discussion about how to achieve best results, and why yesterdays scenario is no longer (and never was) etched in stone as a quality superlative, and really repeatable testing is not actually always the best in every situation (repeatable testing?  I laugh in the face of repeatable testing!!) and… oops, there they go, slinking away, drooling and twitching about how us quality folk are crazed and borderline insane….

    Oh, yeah, right.  Ok, so your analogy… I can buy that.



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