Behold, the “better Tester”

Reaction to a discussion in the “Software Testing & Quality Assurance” LinkedIn-group

There are some strange and intriguing questions being posed in the Software Testing & Quality Assurance LinkedIn group lately. “Who are Testing Criminals?“, “Who should take the blame for defects in production software ? ” or “Test Plan ! Do we really follow it ! ” (an awful lot of exclamation marks for a question, if you ask me) to name but a few. I read them through, bit my tongue, controlled my breathing and managed to ignore them in the end. 

But two days ago, another gem was posted:

Who is better Tester?

@Who finds highest defects..?
@Who can say in 100% confidence that this product\application is BUG\DEFECTS free..?
@Who creates highest testing scenarios,Testcases,etc..?
@Who has as many as software testing certifications like ISTQB or something like that…?

Mmm… I thought about Pradeep Soundararajan’s blog post about the infamous Black Viper Testing Technique as a provoking response to another discussion in that same group, and decided to react.

Who is the better tester? Well… None of them, actually.

  • “Highest number of defects”
    What does that tell you, out of context? Maybe the person that found the highest number of defects has tested more hours than the rest. Maybe he tested a buggy part of the product, while others were concentrating on a more “mature” part. Maybe he only found “low priority” bugs, while others – with less bugs on their list – found more severe showstoppers. Which tester would you prefer?
  • “100% Bug free”
    I wouldn’t hire a tester that dares to make claims such as “this software is 100% bug free”. It isn’t. It can’t be. If you continue testing, more bugs will be found. This is the catch-22 of testing. We stop testing when we’re finished, but we’re never finished. So we stop testing because of other reasons.
  • “Highest number of test cases/scenarios”
    Again, without context, this is a worthless statement. Maybe he works faster, but more sloppy. Maybe the other testers were investigating bugs they found while scripting. Time spent hunting/pinpointing bugs is valuable, and if testers are asked to engage in that, they’re also not “writing tests”. Maybe other people are designing tests in a slower pace because they tend to talk to stakeholders about the requirements first, to be sure that they understand what is really going on. The person with the highest test case count may be designing tests badly, or testing things the wrong way. Or maybe he’s just testing the wrong things. The productivity of a tester can/may never be measured in number of test cases, but this seems to happen all too often.
  • “Number of certifications”.
    What do certifications tell you? That a tester was able to sit through a short course and was able to score +28 out of 40 on a multiple choice exam? Does certification actually tell you anything about the real skills the tester possesses? Is he able to think critically, to question the product in order to evaluate it?

I would say the better tester is the one that adds the most value with his testing, one that is able to explore the software and recognizes problems. A good tester doesn’t just ask ‘Pass or Fail?’. A good tester asks ‘Is there a problem here?’ (props to Michael Bolton for that one).

There. I said it. I actually felt relieved after writing that down. Who is better Self-therapist?