Getting out of our own way as Testers, part 1: changing the metaphor for bugs

In my presentation at CAST 2013, I will be talking about some non-traditional things that the best testers I know do, using material from TED talks, biographies, and various fields of research. Because I have been spending a lot of time looking at these talks as I rehearse my talk, I have a lot of Recency bias causing me to connect those talks to ideas that I heard at this weekend’s TestRetreat in Madison. One that has stood out as I have listened to all these testers talk about their experiences is that many of us undervalue our contributions to our teams and projects.

We feel a little guilty admitting to non-testers that we like finding bugs and get a little thrill from “beating the game” by finding a bug. I posit that this comes from thinking of our bug reports as attacks, or the results of “breaking” something that others worked hard on. Dan Cohen’s TED talk on argument says we need to move beyond the metaphor of argument as having winners and losers. My extension is that we need to move beyond thinking of our bugs as “flaws in the system” and see them as discussions that need to be held, and as a step toward gaining greater unity and clarity of vision about what we as a team want the system to do or not do.

I do better testing when I stop thinking of my bugs as a battle between the developer or BA or whoever and me and see them as a building block of confidence in the system, regardless of whether I am “right” or “wrong”. (More to come on “wrong” in another post about Kathryn Shultz’s TED talk on being wrong.)

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