As I scan the software testing stories of the day, I’m amazed at the frequency of certain misconceptions. While there are too many to list, I wanted to share five of the most common testing myths (in my brief experience). The first three I find to be prevalent in mainstream news articles, while the other two are more common within the tech industry in general.
Take a look and see if you agree with me.
Myth 1. Testing is boring: It’s been said that “Testing is like sex. If it’s not fun, then you’re doing it wrong.” The myth of testing as a monotonous, boring activity is seen frequently in mainstream media articles, which regard testers as the assembly line workers of the software business. In reality, testing presents new and exciting challenges every day. Here’s a nice quote from Michael Bolton that pretty much sums it up:
“Testing is something that we do with the motivation of finding new information. Testing is a process of exploration, discovery, investigation, and learning. When we configure, operate, and observe a product with the intention of evaluating it, or with the intention of recognizing a problem that we hadn’t anticipated, we’re testing. We’re testing when we’re trying to find out about the extents and limitations of the product and its design, and when we’re largely driven by questions that haven’t been answered or even asked before.”
Myth 2. Testing is easy: It’s often assumed testing cannot be that difficult, since everyday users find bugs all the time. In truth, testing is a very complex craft that’s not suited for your average Joe. Here’s Google’s Patrick Copeland on the qualities of a great tester:
“It’s a mindset and a passion. From the 100s of interviews I’ve done, “great” boils down to: 1) a special predisposition to finding problems and 2) a passion for testing to go along with that predisposition. In other words, they love testing and they are good at it. They also appreciate that the challenges of testing are, more often than not, equal or greater than the challenges of programming. A great “career” tester with the testing gene and the right attitude will always be able to find a job. They are gold.”
Myth 3. Testers only find bugs: Yes, testers do find bugs, but that’s not their sole purpose. Here’s a good summary on this myth from Ankur of freesoftwaretesting.info:
This view of the tester’s role is very limited and adds no value for the customer. Testers are experts with the system, application, or product under test. Unlike the developers, who are responsible for a specific function or component, the tester understands how the system works as a whole to accomplish customer goals. Testers understand the value added by the product, the impact of the environment on the product’s efficiency, and the best ways to get the most out of the product.
Myth 4. Machines will make human testers obsolete: With advances in automated technology, it’s often assumed that computers will someday render human testers obsolete. But since the ultimate users of an application are not robots or machines, but rather live human beings, it stands to reason that human testing will always have an important role to play. Here’s testing author James Whittaker on the importance of manual testing:
“Test automation is often built to solve too big a problem. This broad scope makes automation brittle and flaky because it’s trying to do too much. There are certain things that automation is good at and certain things humans are good at and it seems to me a hybrid approach is better. What I want is automation that makes my job as a human easier. Automation is good at analyzing data and noticing patterns. It is not good at determining relevance and making judgment calls. Fortunately humans excel at judgment.”
Myth 5. Testers don’t get along with developers: It’s not hard to see why this myth persists. As testing guru James Bach once wrote: “Anyone who creates a piece of work and submits it for judgment is going to feel judged. That’s not a pleasant feeling. And the problem is compounded by testers who glibly declare that this or that little nit or nat is a “defect,” as if anything they personally don’t like is a quality problem for everybody.”
What’s not widely known is that many testers are actually former developers (and vice-versa), so there’s a mutual understanding and appreciation for the challenges each camp faces. This is not the case inside all companies, but to say that the majority of testers and developers don’t get along is false, in our experience.
What are some other myths of testing? Let us know in the comment section.