Getting our message across about what “testing” really is

A recent Tweet about the BugBuster product again made me realise what a long journey we have as a community to educate the wider populous about what “testing” actually is (and is not).

The BugBuster website, for example, says this on its “Features” page:

Who said testing meant writing and endlessly maintaining test cases? BugBuster runs smart software agents that explore and test your website automatically. That’s right, no need to write test cases! The agents … test the various elements of the web app as if it was done by a human being.

The emphasis on the tool doing the same thing as humans is such a common perception of what testing can be reduced to, the “checking”* mentality is everywhere. I have no issues with using tools to help with testing, with automation to perform mundane checking, to help speed up development (not testing). But I do take issue with the idea that testing is dehumanizable.

They raise a good question here: “who said testing meant writing and endlessly maintaining test cases?” I spent too long thinking this was my job too and it’s almost unbelievable to look back at that time and think that I was adding any value to anything. The realization that testing really isn’t this but is in fact intellectually challenging and can add incredible value to the process of delivering great software for our users took me too long to reach, but at least I got there (thanks to Michael Bolton and the life changing experience that was his Rapid Software Testing course back in 2007).

How do we help others in this industry come to the same realization when they are bombarded with messages that dehumanize what “testing” really is? The context-driven testing community is full of great thinkers and their ideas about how to do great testing, but how do we in that community get our message across to the masses? While we do already have organizations like AST and ISST flying the CDT flag, what else can we do to broaden the wider community’s knowledge of what “testing” really is?

* Want to know more about the “Testing vs. checking” distinction? Start here with this Michael Bolton blog post.

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3 thoughts on “Getting our message across about what “testing” really is

  1. Olivier Crameri

    Hi Lee,

    thanks for sharing your thoughts and reacting about our product claims.

    I’m the co-founder of BugBuster and I just wanted to let you know that I share your opinion 100%. While it may be perceived that way on our website, we certainly don’t mean to minimize the intellectual value that real human testers can add.

    Our goal is to make it easier to automate the repetitive tasks that are also part of the testing process, in particular when looking for regressions. We do that in a way that _technically_ resembles what humans do when they use their mouse and keyboards (i.e. trigger events in a webpage), by opposition to unit testing or other types of frameworks that operate at a lower levels of the code and don’t test the entire stack end-to-end.

    We continuously improve our website and we’ll take your feedback into account to make it sure we get more accurate in the way we describe our tool and how it is different (and complementary) from the job of human testers. Feel free to get in touch if you want to discuss the matter further, it’s a very interesting topic and we always appreciate discussing it with experienced practitioners.

    With best regards,
    Olivier

    Reply
    1. therockertester Post author

      Hi Olivier,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post and follow up with a comment, I appreciate it.

      I understand the discrimination you’re trying to make between what your tool does and unit test/frameworks that are designed to exercise the product at a lower level than user interactions. As I said in my post, I support the use of whatever tooling makes sense to help with the overall effort of producing a quality product – from low level testing such as unit testing to functional UI testing (as a means of freeing humans from ‘checking’ activities).

      Choosing your words and terminology carefully are important and you could discriminate yourself from many tool vendors simply by doing what you say above – highlight the intellectual value that human testers add, describe how your tool does different work to the humans, and acknowledge that a mixture of human testing and automated checking can lead to better quality outcomes than either alone. I’d be more than happy to review any content you propose for your website towards this end.

      Thanks again for your considered response.

      Regards,

      Lee

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Testing Bits – 7/13/14 – 7/19/14 | Testing Curator Blog

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