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On testing

( I promised this article to Lukáš  today, so now I really have to write it :) )

What is the most important part of software project? Experienced developers? Creative user interface designers? Good managers? Meticulous testers? Decision making in the right hands? Hmmm ... if you ask me, it's balanced combination of all of these, but this is not what I'm going to write about. Testing - that's (maybe along with l10n work) one of the most underestimated and largely invisible part of any software project, be it a small appliance or something as large-scale as Linux distribution.

Hackers often look down on QA guys and view them as those not being smart enough to actually write the code. Nothing can be further from the truth. A good tester is worth his/her weight in gold. Fairly recent experience with work on (partially closed-source) project taught me a lesson about vital importance of  testing that I'll never forget. Really. Even the best code is dead without somebody testing it.

It is a tester who has to, using his/her experience and intuition, be able to pinpoint weak points of the software. When implementing a feature or creating a bugfix, developer's time is just enough to do some basic testing, verify it works, the bug is really fixed and be done with it. Tester has to use his/her creativity and come up with scenarios developer never dreamed about.

Tester has to have enough patience to go through the same boring set of basic routines with each and every new build. His/her learning curve with a new software has to be pretty steep. In limited time, s/he has to understand principles and configuration of the software and start using it as if s/he was an advanced user. At the same time, s/he has to quickly find out where the borderline between PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard aka Layer 8 issue) and a real bug lies. I have to admit that this was the reason why I pretty much sucked at testing - I was so anxious about "I don't want to look stupid and file an invalid bug" that I spent hours and days studying docs and verifying it's not just me doing something wrong. I didn't realize that misleading documentation or confusing UI qualify as bugs as well.

When the project is finished, hackers are the guys in the spotlight and, sadly enough, QA work often stays unnoticed. Worse even, if the whole thing is a failure, testing squad is the first one to blame ("Damn, those guys must've had no QA. What? They had some? What they have been doing all that time then?"). Needless to say, that doesn't exactly boost one's confidence in the meaningfulness of his/her work.

To conclude, I'd like to dedicate this post to all our Four-Letter-Project testers (especially to the most active one of them) and to all former, present and future openSUSE testers. Ladies and gentlemen, a big round of applause for all those heroes, known and unknown!


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 21st, 2010 05:47 am (UTC)
Nicely written post. I have come across few developers who don't respect QA but they are a minority (atleast in my observation) and most of the hackers respect QAs. Also, I personally believe Document-writers and Usability analysts (and the importance of their roles) are very less-appreciated than QA :(

On an irrelevant side note: You could've just used He,His etc. But throughout your post, since you used [S]he, his/her, it would've been wiser to use "Hero[ines]" in the end also. Sorry for nitpicking ;-)

Sankar - http://psankar.blogspot.com
Jan. 21st, 2010 10:29 am (UTC)
I personally believe Document-writers and Usability analysts (and the importance of their roles) are very less-appreciated than QA :(

Both are true, sadly. By default hardly anyone reads docs until something seriously *cobe*s up. And as for usability, this is in many cases the last and the least significant aspect included into project planning. No wonder then some devs view usability folks as a nuisance who want to disturb them from their hard-core hacking :)

You could've just used He,His etc

Eh, well, the language is just ill-equipped to cope with both genders. If I (as a woman) see "he, his, him" all over the place in a text like this, I feel like "Hey, and what about me? Am I not here?". I can image how weird a man would feel if he saw "she and her" all over the place as well.

it would've been wiser to use "Hero[ines]"

Yeah. I hereby apologize to all heroines, I've been thinking about them as well :)
Jan. 21st, 2010 11:19 am (UTC)
Wow, that was really fast ;-) And well written. Thanks!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )