Finding the perfects

Friend and tester colleague Jesper Ottosen participated in what appeared to be a great event and discussion at EuroStar 2010: The rebel alliance night (link to Shmuel Gershon’s blog with video recordings of the talks), where he spoke about whether we as testers can start looking for more than defects. What if we started looking for the perfects?

I like the idea: Is testing really only about finding problems? It can be depressing to be the one always to tell the bad news (especially when there is a lot of bad news or the bad news are not really welcome). Do we testers really have to be worried all the time? If we start communicating perfects too, will our careers not get both better and more successful?

I see a problem, though. Looking for good things will be in conflict with the very mindset of testing. Programming is a creative process where the programmer creates something new and unique. He does it to solve a problem and he does it in the assumption that it will solve the problem. If he starts out assuming that it won’t work, he will be psychologically blocking his creativity and he will probably not perform well.

As a tester, I look at software with the reverse assumtion: I assume that it will not work. This assumption is stimulating my creativity to find the bugs because I will get ideas of where they’re hiding.

With that assumption, I just can’t be successful looking for good things!

That said, however, I do beleive that we sometimes need to be positive, especially to satisfy some managers and programmers. They’re used to hear bad news from us and some people can’t take that. Switching for a moment to looking for “perfects” might actually work very well in this respect. Just don’t forget that we’re doing it for them, not to do our job.

And don’t forget that it can only be for a while: We have to think negatively to be successful. We make a difference when we find the obvious problems with the product: The problems that will cause severe dissatisfaction among users and managers if they slip into product. We’re a great help to our clients because we prevent bugs by finding them before the users!

Here’s Jesper at EuroStar 2010: