It’s never over, never easy

Software Testing

The waterfall model; 1976
The V-model; 1986
Goodharts law; 1975
The agile principles; 2001
Agile Testing Quadrants; 2003
Scrum 1995
Test automation (as replacement for testers)
ISO 29119

There’s  a good chance that you’re familiar with some, if not all of these, principles/models/lists/schemes/…

Over time, during the first few years as a testing professional, I’ve come across many of these ideas . Together with different people I’ve discussed them, learned from them and sometimes refuted them.

I’ve increasingly felt more and more irritated with how these heuristics are used.
The heuristics themselves remain relevant, for they provide insight in our industry’s past and growth. They give interesting and valuable insights in how people have  perceived their work and still do. More often than not, other people or teams still aim to implement these heuristics. Whether they decided so themselves or if they have been sold these as “best practices”.

Usually, these models and principles shape change into something that can be described as an Immovable Object and sometimes a whip.

“We work according to a V-model.”
“The team has implemented an Agile process.”
“SCRUM’s how we organize things.”
“I test according to Tmap.”

Sooner than later, the room to improve upon these ‘truth-dictating’ models becomes very small.
I’ve often heard the argument: “Google does it this way, so it must be working.” or “Big bank facilities have used this process template for ages.”.

That doesn’t mean it works for this team, for this project, for this product,
for this client,…
Also, we don’t necessarily know exactly how google, or any other big software firm actually works, do we? Should we care?

Do we believe that someday, someone at these firms drew a process on the wall, sat behind a drum and started beating it, upon which all the other working-ants resumed work. And when one stepped out of line, he’d be whipped with ‘best practices’, processes, procedures and documentation?
Should we stand by, looking in awe, and imitate the best we can?

If you’ve studied these heuristics you’ll find they provide an anchor. Many ideas which you already have had about our industry may become apparent or maybe something new pours in giving room for new interesting thoughts.
They are usually an excellent means around which to revolve discussions that eventually lead to learning.

Another of their qualities is that they should always raise more questions.

They never hold ALL the truth. Mankind, however, loves simplifying things, especially when the underlying body is extremely complex.

An example:
Today I heared somebody explain what a ‘cube’ (the database structure) is to a group. It took quite some time and completely changed my definition of what I thought a cube was. But, during his explanation my mind was constantly yelling “Say it like this: If your database at a certain moment would represent a flat square and you add a time-dimension to it, representing a history of your database, you have a cube.”

That definition is satisfying for most as it is simple and gives the general idea, but it is not enough when you need the details. It also oversimplifies a person’s job, which nobody likes.

Our ultimate goal is to make our users’ lives and jobs easier for them, but to do this we, ourselves, need to go through a great chasm of complexity. It does us no good to simplify. There are patterns you can follow, there are guides that are helpful, but there is no silver bullet. The rocks you thread on, however solid they look, will give way.

“If you want solid ground to stand on, you chose the wrong vocation.” – Gerald Weinberg

Software development is subject to change, constantly. Embrace it.

Pick what’s relevant from existing models, for you, for your team and for your context and combine it to something that makes sense. Hell, throw in new ideas. Shape it, mold it, re-evaluate it  and nourish it consequently.

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