Be The Headlights Not The Handbrake


Some people will tell you that slow is good – but I’m here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba…"

— Hunter S. Thompson (Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century)

I haven't been at ThoughtWorks long but its been a happy couple of weeks - There is good conversations on a wide number of lists about all sorts of crazy stuff.

One that really grabbed my interest was a whole fiery chain about test automation and much opinion. Again someone raised the point of view that testers are like tigers (In the future survival stakes rather than the scary stakes) and will be extinct soon. This is something I have been yearning after for years - Imagine a world where the development practices employed by development teams are so quality driven we didn't need to test at all after they were done :-) 

I actually think many of the projects I have worked on were like this - It didn't make me redundant - In fact I have never been so busy! I spent a lot more of my time on defining acceptance criteria, Defining automation Scenarios, writing automation fixtures, Working with the devs on their unit tests, Generally finding ways to prevent the issues from occurring in the first place. In some ways the vision of the room full of testers busily finding fault with a release is redundant. But I think that has been going the way of the dodo fast with the uptake of agile.

However it seems that people are not sure what to do with us (QA) these days, Its as if the quality of a tester is ranked by the number of bugs they find. I would argue that if you are doing your job right the answer should be none!

On a big bang project with epic specs and reduced testing time I remember getting into trouble when I found bugs. "You keep raising issues like this we'll never go live!" my standard defence was always "I didn't put the bug there - I just found it" These days I don't believe that is sufficient. I think any bug I find is a failing of a process I am an integral part of. It is a failure of mine to get the right acceptance criteria, Or a failing of the communication channels between myself and the devs to ensure we are building the right thing, Or a failing in the automation scenarios we designed that allows some of the common edge cases to be passed incorrectly. These are just some examples but where you compare this to the old Us and Them (test and dev) mentality that used to exist I much prefer driving the quality of the process and application from the front where I can make an impact rather than from the end where all I can really do is find fault.

So does all this mean I never look at an application in a test environment anymore? - Not a bit of it - It does however mean I try to never spend hours going through a costly tedious boring and above all expensive regression test suite. I spend my time exploring the application and assessing the strange edges where it may fail - Its much more fun and a lot faster to identify critical issues. and I think I started this post with a quote that says fast is better.

Don't squeeze your application out of a tube 


November 24 2010
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