You are always doing it wrong

No tendency is quite so strong in human nature as the desire to lay down rules of conduct for other people.

I keep reading/hearing statements about the purpose of test automation, and it’s starting to grate. What grates is hearing the same soundbites, as 10+ years ago, by people who seem more interested in raising their own public profile, than making real change. I don’t want to be pointed about this, if possible. I am aware it is easy to get caught up in something, such as perception of testing for example. Not to mention the turgid debates over terminology. It’s right to question the past and it’s right to demonstrate better ways of doing things.

But once these debates start, different sides start to become apparent. One side gains more weight, and then the danger of the clique will rear its head at some point. We are pack animals after all.

There has been an ongoing celebration of testing on Twitter and a lot of damnation about the past. There is a reason why - assuming that all things that went before are wrong. So everything new is right. Wrong. That misses something very key - learning. And for all the speeches about the place of testing, the value of test automation I realised it was simply replications of previous speeches. There is only so much talk you can do before action needs to start.

Quotes I see from conferences are good, but truisms mostly. No one is going to want to listen to someone just being negative the whole way through. Or even halfway through. So now it’s sounding like it’s in the Evangelical territory. Now that loses the thread entirely because your clique is closing in on cult-status. Definitely, time to reverse. The business of events and conferences has other problems of perception, specifically to do with pay and expenses, and it highlighted a few divas. How did this happen in software testing?

These soundbites are nothing new, but successive people are latching onto them like a life raft. Reality check: Few developers I have met have never heard of the testing communities, or indeed most of the names that apparently are at the top of the field (bar the usual suspects of course - many of them have heard of Michael Bolton and James Marcus Bach).

This is the bubble, the unreality that software testing world is living in, and it’s a concern. In test engineering in the UK, it’s kinda lonely. But if I just went by what I see on Twitter and LinkedIn, I would think there is a whole revolution going on. There isn’t.

After 50+ companies I long realised, I can never bring a hint of arrogance onto a project - I am there to make things better, support development, and help the product management engage in the process of defining what quality actually means. I am also there to learn, or I am simply applying a template approach which is unlikely to match the project.

I had my own epiphany around testing 10 years ago when I realised the futile test manager role, that was becoming my rut. Test managers are originally the quality gatekeepers, but increasingly it was clear it’s was the hands-on stuff delivering real benefits. As a test manager, I commented on all layers of a project - but with test engineering, I became integrated, rather than a sidelines participant. There is a good reason I avoid testing conferences and events - I am generally disappointed with the output, which although is touted as revolutionary, is actually just derivative. And repetitive.

With a new audience, you can get away with a lot. If you have some charm, you can go even further. But then you have to ask the question, what is the actual point of these events. It quickly turns into popularity contests, which are especially evident on Twitter. And where people who question, as dismissed/blocked/ignored. That is called a clique - which is exactly what we need to get rid of if software testing world wants to join the software development world as a whole. So instead of saying its all about the conversation, have the conversation with people who aren’t in software testing.

And never assume there is a blanket approach to test automation and the benefits. If I am saying that after 50+ projects, maybe I am saying something that’s true. Remember each project has a different team, i.e. different human beings. There is no greater challenge in software development than human beings, and the art of bringing quality to a project is to listen and learn.

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