"Some birds aren't meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright"- Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption. This blog is from one such bird who couldn't be caged by organizations who mandate scripted software testing. Pradeep Soundararajan welcomes you to this blog and wishes you a good time here and even otherwise.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Using "testing" || Abusing "testing"

As you have started to read this post, before you continue further, I'd like you to listen to a podcast - The Word Test . If you are skipping the podcast, it's OK but it might be a good idea to not skip.

Also, don't read this post while you are mid way listening to the podcast, it's more bad than not listening to it.

One of my student who works for a leading IT services provider from India, asked a question to testers in the organization he works for - "Is it good to stop testing after a couple of years of experience or after promoted to a lead or a manager?" [ My intention of this post is not to answer this question that my student asked but ... ]

There were responses like:

One need not do hands-on testing all through his/her career.
When you test all by yourself, you are adding a value of say 'X' to your project. When you manage say 5 Testers, you are letting your skills, knowledge and experience on Testing percolate to 5 other members and you would be adding a value of 5 times X to your project.

and

Whatever you have said is ok for a resource working in a team which uses tools for testing. For someone who is into manual testing where is the career growth? For those wouldn't management be a blessing to be grabbed with both hands?

and

You cant be a tester for all your life. Same is the case with development. You need to manage things at one point in time. But when and where, you need to decide yourself......

and

more such.

All of these people ( including my student ) and maybe testers who are sitting nearby your cubicles while you read this mean "testing" as test execution. [ You wouldn't be surprised at this, had you listened to the podcast ]

Here is my question to those people: If testing means test execution, under what category does - test planning, test data collection, finding bugs, reporting bugs, triaging bugs, test set up, test bed creation, test documentation, thinking of test techniques, exploring, investigating bugs, reviewing test results, test reporting, modeling, diversifying test approaches, etc... fit in?

Well, when the word testing could mean so many things, why are most of us thinking only about test execution when someone uses the word "testing". This makes me question, how many people who claim to be testers really know little about testing that is enough to communicate with people without such ambiguity?

A lot of testers' only thinking is -- every thing in this field is defined pretty well and no need to think beyond it. A definition, in my opinion, should be viewed as a help for a human to think further on it and not in stopping to think beyond what it states.

In another context, if you ask them what "testing" means, they'd love to share their own impractical definitions like:

"Testing is a process of making a product bug free" OR "Testing is a systematic approach towards delivering a quality product" OR "Testing is about following quality processes to ensure bugs don't leak to customer"
and more such stupid stuff !

That's an evidence that the word "testing" itself is context sensitively used by the whole world out of which most of them might disagree with the context driven testing community about their approach. Funny world!

Ben Simo, in a recent conversation, helped me become conscious of the fact that the word "test" is both a noun and a verb; and that one feeds the other.


If one doesn't know what "testing" means, how will they ever know when they are stopping to do it?


If you think you have benefited by this post, here is a "test" you might want to take:
  • What would you say, when you want to communicate that you are doing test execution?
  • What would you say, when you want to communicate that you are stopping to execute tests?
  • What word would you use instead of "testing" to communicate any specific activity that you do as a part of testing?
  • When someone uses the word "testing", what would you want to ask them?
  • When someone says "test", would you be curious to know if it is a verb or a noun?
  • What would you want to know if someone said, "I want to do testing"?
  • Would you be interested to pass this learning to someone with whom you have been communicating on "testing"?
If you think you haven't been benefited by this post, here are things you could do:
  • Read it once again ;-)
  • Listen to the podcast, if you have missed it ;-)
  • And then exit. It's just not worth one more glance, for today.
As testers we use the word "testing" so many times in our life without ever (knowing) wanting to know if we abused it, too. I have done it, too. There is nothing wrong in abusing the word "testing" as long as you don't know that it means a lot by itself and in different contexts.

--
Pradeep Soundararajan - http://testertested.blogspot.com - +91-98451-76817 - pradeep.srajan@gmail.com

"The test doesn't find the bug. A human finds the bug, and the test plays a role in helping the human find it." --

9 comments:

David Drake said...

It's funny, but I was pretty sure that I understood my testing mission until I reflected on how our company reacts to bugs found in production code. The unstated expectation is that all code should be completely bug free, when in reality this is of course an impossible task (for many reasons). Is my mission to perform the impossible? When no bugs are found, have I fooled the stakeholders into believing that it is possible to produce bug-free code when QA is performed "correctly"? These are things I'll have to think about.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@ David Drake,

You are in a place where most of us live and most of our management demands "bug free" stuff although they haven't used or purchased any such product.

It might be a good idea to educate our first customers ( our first line manager ) and if they were happy to learn it then they would pass it on to their first customer.

I'd love to see chain reactions!

Gita said...

What you wrote is so true..
I meet people everyday who ask me isn't it boring to test? And when I will return to development? They think about testing only as "test execution". It's sad, but it takes hour or more to prove that testing is something more.

Ben said...

Why have a mission when you can have a best practice?

Without a mission we can have conflict, unhappy stakeholders, poor quality, slipped schedules, ambiguity, employee retention problems, lots of documentation, poor testing, and even project failure. Why then would I want a mission?

;-)


Now seriously: Nice post Pradeep. Experts have been disagreeing about what it means to test software for years. I believe that part of the conflict comes due to the fact that testing means different things in different contexts. (As you can see demonstrated at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Context, even the meaning of the word context depends on its context.) A great practice in one context may not work well in another.

The context of your testing mission matters. Test strategies, processes, and procedures, that help us execute our testing mission are helpful while others may hurt more than they help. When asked to test, inquire about the purpose of your testing.

Identify your mission first, and then develop a strategy that helps you achieve it.

Ben Simo
QuestioningSoftware.com

Tarik sheth said...

Sometime the mission gets misinterpreted due to misunderstanding of managment on testing,if management really treats testing as a mere test execution then if a tester identifies an enhancement defect or a defect that really will take developer's efforts then they will obviously say not to come up with such type of issues.

Mission identification is very critical as it is a driver of testing.

Shrini Kulkarni said...

At times I am scared to ask people what do they mean by "testing" as I stand to look fool in front of them. Most of the people give me a strange and wierd look. one said .."Oh!!! come'n dont start your philosophical debate ..."

Reality is, very few has guts to question themselves "what do I mean by testing?". Every one in testing has become managers or sales person and have forgotten the essential quality of questioning.

Few interesting definitions I have heard :

1. Testing is an activity to check the work of developers

2. Testing is the process of delivering quality software

3. Testing is the process to ensure that customer's needs are met (without knowing who is/who are the customer and when they live)

4. Testing is a verification and validation activity to confirm that requirements are properly translated to software features.


Shrini Kulkarni

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

At times I am scared to ask people what do they mean by "testing" as I stand to look fool in front of them. Most of the people give me a strange and wierd look. one said .."Oh!!! come'n dont start your philosophical debate ..."

It is a big surprise to me that you, Shrini, is scared. I think maybe "hesitant" could fit in rather than being scared because you are a very bold person I know.

Just because someone thinks asking such a question is a bad idea, I wouldn't want to stop questioning.

I have realized that it is also important to know how to structure and construct a question to get an answer:

What do you think testing is?

might sound different from

I am curious to know what reply you'd give to those people who ask you a question, "What does testing mean?" and then pause to say, "I think I will have something to learn from what you say"

Influencing a person to give us an answer for the question we pose them is a skill, too.

Anonymous said...

HI Pradeep,

Nice post...i stumbled upon your blog while searching for "What a tester can do during lean period".

To me, still testing is all about test execution coz i feel that the crux / rather exciting activity amongst the gamut of testing activities. Not that i discards the significance of test planning, test bed setup and other activities...For me they are the stilts and test execution is the edifice mounted on these stilts…

Even if we do a test execution, without meticulously planning and bring a spectacular result, our mission is accomplished. Though this sounds superficially spurious, this could be possible.


If igniting a never ending debate was your intention; pat yourselves you have done that much better than anyone… have decided to follow this ardently…

Che Guevara

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Che Guerava

To me, still testing is all about test execution coz i feel that the crux / rather exciting activity amongst the gamut of testing activities. Not that i discards the significance of test planning, test bed setup and other activities...For me they are the stilts and test execution is the edifice mounted on these stilts…


So does this mean, each time when you say, "testing" you specifically state to people "I am meaning test execution in most contexts" even if they dont ask you what it means?

If igniting a never ending debate was your intention; pat yourselves you have done that much better than anyone… have decided to follow this ardently…

Welcome to Tester Tested! I hope I'd be able to add value to the time you (and/or your co-workers) spend here.