How NOT to Write for the Software Engineering Community


Pop quiz.... here is an article I recent stumbled upon, which side (pro or con) do you think the author takes?

Pros and Cons of Requirements-Based Software Testing

For something that is essential, fairly fundamental and seemingly straightforward, requirements-based software testing sure does generate a lot of discussion. Rather than representing opposite extremes of the same continuum, pro and con camps come at the topic from disparate perspectives. Advocates of requirements-based testing tend to be analytical, whereas opponents tend to couch their objections in more emotional terms. Each approach has its own strengths and issues.

Turns out, those emotional folks are the proponents of agile, or at least the author’s faulty understanding of agile.

A key requirements-based testing issue is that some prominent voices within the testing community deride it, often loudly and with great emotion. They say that the rapid pace of constantly changing business and technology makes it essentially impossible to define requirements ;therefore trying to test based on defined requirements is a waste of time. They say instead of spending time trying to define the requirements, just go code and run tests. 

He never uses the word “agile”, but does go on to tip his hand:

Second, foes of requirements-based testing often speak monolithically as though the only alternative to their favored just-go-code-and-test approach is interminable analysis paralysis in a mindless and inflexible exaggerated "waterfall"…

The actual topic here (requirements-based software testing) is not important.  What is interesting the author’s lack of maturity.  A simple change to the title to indicate this is not a balanced pro/con piece would help, but mischaracterizing and belittling the opposing view is always bad form.


Comments (4)

  1. Byron says:

    Really sounds like some who doesn't understand agile belittling it. Agile does use requirements, but the process contains the real world expectation that those requirements will change a great deal or be sometimes be misunderstood as first envisioned.

  2. Joe says:

    While I pretty much agree with you, attacking the author of an article, without even linking to the article in question, isn't the best form either.

    I'd rather form an opinion based on the entire article.  

    I'll probably still agree with your conclusions…

  3. Seth Eliot says:

    @Joe: That is a fair comment.  It is possible I take the author out of context (of course I do not think I do).   I debated including a link to the article, but decided not to for 2 reasons.

    1. The author and his work do not really matter.  In other words it could have been any author or any article….I was more interested in discussing the approach taken.

    2. I read the article on one of the "parasite" sites that does nothing more than capture other's content and republish it.  I found the original publication site, but it is registration only.  I will not link to the "parasite" site, but here is the original:…/Pros-and-cons-of-requirements-based-software-testing

  4. Joe says:

    Yup.  I found a copy of the entire article without having to register.

    The author clearly sets up a lot of false dilemmas and strawman arguments, and is extremely dismissive of any possible alternative solutions.

    Whenever I read an article that uses phrases with the capitalization and emphasis like "REAL requirements" (which the author does several times), I'm turned off.  I don't know if maturity is the issue here, but I agree that this is pretty bad form.  Or perhaps this is REALLY bad form?


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