donderdag 24 november 2016

Lullabies to Paralyze

For those of you who are expecting a blog about the 4th album by Queens of the Stone Age: I have to disappoint you. This blog has nothing to do with 'little sisters', 'broken boxes' or 'medication '. It has to do with testing, software testing that is.
I can no longer ignore some of the expectations and assumptions that are made about testing, I have to speak up. I have observed, for quite some time now, that testing service providers, independent testing professionals, testers, etc. etc. are advertising their activities in a way that I find is not what testing should be about and it worries me. It bugs me and as a tester I really dislike bugs...
I assume this advertising is done because companies who hire them (or the actually the people who hire them) have a soft spot for this kind of message. I find this alarming. Time for a wake-up call.
Slogans and sentences like: "Be Quality Re-assured", "we are testing so you don't have to lie awake at night...", "We will take your worries away", "hire us and you'll be certain and assured of...", they have one thing in common: they are lullabies that paralyze!
Testing should not be about taking worries away nor should it be about giving the customer a warm and cosy feeling. The customer on the other hand shouldn't be expecting this. They shouldn't assume that hiring testers or paying for testing(services) will suddenly make every worry go away nor should they think having 'testing' in place will abstain them from certain responsibilities.
Lots of testers (and/or companies) have taken up the role of pacifier, they are singing their lullabies and the client let's them sing. They feel comfortable, they don't have to worry and everything is alright.
People who know me a little, know I fancy a sturdy rock song. Maybe sometimes it's uncomfortable to listen to and a lot of lyrics are about ugly truths, but it certainly keeps me energized, aware and awake! Testing should be like a rock song, not the lullaby that features little white, fluffy sheep, soft and warm kittens and twinkling little stars...
Letting testing become the lullaby has its downsides. A lullaby has the goal of making you sleepy and that is exactly what I see happening in an alarming rate.
When you think everything is all right and warm and cosy, you won't be as receptive for dangers and risks.
Testing won't take away dangers or risks. Testing is about providing information, about providing insight on fitness for use, performance, security and what not more. But you'll have to act upon this information to actually mitigate dangers and risks and to address issues with performance, security and other things that testing will point out. That's not a responsibility of testing departments, testers or testing services; no matter what they tell you or what they promises.  That's the responsibility of the organization or team as a whole.
I think that as organisation you should be aware of testers (or services e.a.) that sing lullabies, that make you feel comfortable, that make you feel completely at ease and where you feel you haven't got a thing to worry about regarding your software and systems. Testers that 'Rock' are the ones you want. Testers that make you aware, energize you and wake you up. They make you think!
Organisations should also stop wanting to listen to those lullabies. I've got plenty of examples where the information provided by testing is ignored, because - like in a lot of rock songs- it contains some painful, ugly truths. If you don't want to listen to the songs, why buy the record? 
Thirdly I'd like testers, testing service providers etc. to stop lulling their customers into sleep. Besides the downsides I've already mentioned, they are also digging their own graves businesswise. Because when somebody feels very safe and has nothing to worry about, why would you pay for testers? Hey... no risk, no test right?
So from now on the only Lullabies to Paralyze you are listing to are those by The Queens of Stone Age J

4 opmerkingen:

Always fearful zei

Well, of course testing is a pacifier - one of the strongest reasons to hire testers is to be able to sleep better at night.
However, it is a tricky thing to say - the way I, as a tester, provide that sort of peace is not by doing some magic and making everything better. I deal with a certain kind of anxiousness - the fear of the unknown. I do my best in order to give those I work for (and with) as much information as needed so that when we release, no one has to lie awake in bed in worries about what might go wrong this time. I do my best to try and find those issues beforehand (and even prior to that, I try to reduce the issues created).

As software testers, we get hired for two things - costs reduction, and peace of mind (also referred to as "risk mitigation"). It's a bit tricky to differentiate between "we help reduce risk of the unknown" and "hire us so you can sleep better", but this difficulty isn't a reason to state that testing is not about risk mitigation, because it's still an important part of it.

Nathalie Rooseboom de Vries - van Delft zei

Thank you Always Fearful for your (time to) reply, much appreciated!

I'd like to reply though that I didn't say that testing isn't about risk mitigation (!!). I think risk mitigation itself isn't the responsibility of a tester him/herself. I DO think testers are involved at risk mitigation by providing - like you said- the information to take mitigating actions, those mitigating actions can also be procedural or other non-IT related; actions that are a company-wide responsibility and not only those of testers.
Yes, I think risk mitigation is giving peace of mind as is having information (iow not having information or not knowing stuff makes restless and anxious). The danger is that risks aren't perceived as risks as the tester is broadcasting the message as 'lullaby' instead of a ‘rock song’.

I don't agree that as software testers we get hired for cost reduction nor have I ever see a job description stating 'tester is supposed to reduce costs', as testers we can help reduce costs of errors, faults, failures and inefficient processes, by simply pointing those out during the testing process, also we can help reduces costs when we are improving test processes, test automation etc.

Always fearful zei

Sorry for the misunderstanding.
You or, of course, correct in that that no company (that I've seen) is publishing "I'm hiring testers to reduce costs", but the way I like to think about this subject isn't "what is the responsibility of the tester", but rather as "what is the value that a tester is providing". I wrote about it in length a few months ago ( , English is in the 2nd part of the post), so maybe it will be a bit more clear there.

I wonder though - with the exception of marketing propaganda, have you seen a tester that is sending a lulling message when it was not appropriate to do so?

Nathalie Rooseboom de Vries - van Delft zei

Hello Always fearful,

Ah, that makes more sense. I also like to have the 'what is the value a tester is providing'.

And yes, I've (alas) seen different testers (and testmanagers) that send a lulling message, this is why I mostly have a satisfying (or difficult) job revealing stuff; sadly enough.
Your guess is as good as mine here why they choose to do this...(false sense of) jobpreservation, having a 'good' idea why. Honosty and truth always last longest in my opinion...