Why bother testing?

As a tester, I don’t practice selling my craft very often. This blog post is an attempt to put together my thoughts when asked the question, “why bother testing?”

Let’s talk about bugs

When was the last time you used some buggy software? How did it make you feel? Did it cause you to swear at your computer in frustration? We are surrounded by software full of bugs, some bugs are minor but some cause us to pull out our hair in frustration. Some bugs when discovered cause nightmare headlines to spread like wild fire. Buggy low quality software is hard to sell, maintain and keep people using. Your customers won’t rave about your products to their friends if they think it’s shit.

Your customers won't rave about your products to their friends if they think it's shit

Testing doesn’t improve quality

Testing itself doesn’t improve the quality of the product, but it can help highlight issues that could impact the perception of quality. Bugs will always exist in software, it’s impossible to test for every possible scenario every time before releasing to production (especially in a world of continuous integration/deployment) but if you knew about some the bugs in you products before your customers find them then you’d be in a better place to make informed decisions about what to release and when.

Testing is active discovery

Everyone does testing on some level, most of the time we are unaware of what we are doing until we discover a frustrating situation. Testing is a skill where you practice looking for quirks in software. Testers are constantly experimenting and observing the product and are well practiced in talking through their thought processes.

There are generally 2 activities people say they are doing when they talk about testing;

1 – Verify the product works as intended

2 – Actively go hunting for bugs

Activity 1 is usually where people talk about automation, when your product can be codified as “working as intended” you might be in a place to build some automation checking to help facilitate faster feedback. However you could build all of the automation checking in the world into your products but people can still think it’s shit. You users don’t care that your unit tests are less than 0.01% flakey.

Activity 2 can be easily practiced, it’s not like anyone knows where the bugs are in software until they are discovered. You can build things into your products that make it easier for people to report the bugs they find or you could do a chaos monkey approach to find out where your product crashes unexpectedly.

There are many other activities involved with testing but I want to keep this high level.

People say testing is risk mitigation

This is not true, testers may use their own internal risk radars to help guide their testing efforts but testing itself doesn’t mitigate any risks. I like the analogy; testing is like an x-ray, an x-ray on it’s own can’t tell you how healthy you are or prevent issues from happening but it’s a tool that can give you a snapshot in time so your doctor can make informed decisions about some element of your health.

Testing can help people answer questions like, “are we comfortable shipping this code to customers?”. Bugs are a fact of life but we can’t fix what we don’t know. Testing helps us discover these potential issues.

Good morning World, what offends you today?

Ah the internet… is it just me or a things getting angrier lately?

Sometimes I can see how the internet makes people angry. E.G. there is a bit of a Uncle Bob vs Sarah Mei thing happening on twitter over how the word craftsman isn’t inclusive. I think it’s a reasonable point to raise, I’ve intentionally tried to stop using the word “guys” in my vocabulary here is an example tweet that demonstrates why I might try to avoid using those words;

A fond memory from my university days: I was seeking to understand why we can't use "mankind" or "men" for all cases. A wise woman asked me to name 10 famous men. I named 10 famous males, and no females. Her point exactly. That's the problem with using craftsmen for all cases.
https://twitter.com/srogalsky/status/991431460681854976

So I’ve come to realize words like guys and men aren’t really all that gender neutral/inclusive after all. I personally didn’t think about the word craftsman being noninclusive before this point. I do talk about the craft of testing and will continue to talk about it. But I’ll make sure to try to catch myself if I’m about to use the word craftsman. Huzzah, the power of language; it changes and adopts to new cultural expectations. Original tweet for reference;

Uncle bob says; "Rude. Craftsman is a gender neutral term"
https://twitter.com/unclebobmartin/status/990411971106426880?s=19

My takeaway here; it’s hard to be polite on twitter. Both sides are being rude (but their online personas are built around this, I imagine these people are too busy to give a shit over how the world interprets their tweets and rudeness/bluntness can help drive conversation, it motivated this blog after all and many people are now re-assessing the word craftsman). But I’d have to side with Sarah on this one and I think Uncle Bob was just a little ruder than Sarah here. Do you disagree with me on this one?

Other things I see are just riding the “anger” train to get people riled up. People on both sides of the equation are guilty of over reacting though. Then there’s this teenager who found a Chinese dress in a thrift store and wore it to prom;

How did this become news? I was given a Japanese Yukata from a mayor of a Japanese town, do I have to be concerned when I wear that now? I think that aj+ piece is just asking for that knee jerk emotional reaction, I’m actually a little disappointed in aj+ about this. It reminds me of an article I saw come up in my facebook feed from a pop culture media outlet about wonder woman’s hairless armpits; about how angry feminists were critiquing the trailer and asking, how does wonder woman shave? This was clearly click baity because 1 “okay the Wonder Woman movie looks rad but why does Diana have clean shaven armpits” is hardly angry (or did I miss something?) and the article was clearly shared on facebook for the knee jerk facebook reaction, “dam special snowflake feminazi’s ruining a good movie like wonder woman”. I stopped following the pop culture media outlet because of it. Does anyone remember how angry Australia got over Yassmin’s, “Lest. We. Forget. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine…)” tweet? I definitely wasn’t proud to call myself Australian after the hate she received after that.

However anger is pretty effective at engaging people, it’s a common marketing tactic now (get people angry and talking about it). BUT I think it causes people to get into a “defensive” thinking mode and it can be really hard to reason through that knee jerk emotional reaction.

Now I’m not a christian but when I feel that anger bubble up and inspire me to get all keyboard warrior I take a moment to reflect and think, “how would Jesus react with love and compassion in this situation?”. Jesus is my role model in these kind of situations. How do you catch yourself before you respond in anger? Or maybe I should harness my anger to drive discussion? Like James Bach does in this blog about Machine Learning tools in software testing are bullshit. It definitely has a lot of people talking about it.

Is it just me or are there more angry people out there?

Bias and race

I’ve been following the online conversations about race (particularly in the US) via AJ+ on facebook. This morning I saw this video shared by AJ+ about a white guy opening up about his prejudice and asking for advice on how to get over it.

Now the other day I was going through the train station and saw this ad from Calvin Klein;

calvin klein ad, group of mostly black guys all in demin

It was placed slightly above my eye level it almost felt like they were looking down at me and I actually felt a little intimidated/scared by this group of people. I know Calvin is trying to make their products seem cool but this was the first time I was consciously aware of a group of black people making me feel intimidated.

This realization surprised me, I often have a curiosity for other people and love hearing their stories. Sometimes I make up my own stories about them in my head. When was the last time you became aware of your own prejudice? What did you do to counter it?

Growth of the value adding marketer

I’m pretty new to the marketing industry, whenever I start a new job I do a full on deep dive into the industry. This helps me understand what matters to our users and helps me advocate for quality products on their behalf. I’ve recently started a new job in an email marketing company called Campaign Monitor as a Quality Coach. Before starting this job I knew nothing about marketing. I feel like I’ve gotten myself up to speed now. One thing I’ve noticed that is growing in marketing is people talking about value adding marketing.

Now fundamentally marketing is about selling more product, it’s just part of the capitalistic world we live in. However the decent marketers are talking about value adding, they might not be calling it that but it’s amazing how well “being a decent person” can be for marketing.

Unfortunately Marketers and Sales People have a bit of a reputation for being a bit “fake”, non genuine and money oriented. I guess you kind of have to be inclined that way to survive in this industry. Good marketers seem to be focusing on keeping leads warm, generating content that connects with users and monitoring engagement. If a lead is showing potential it might be a good time to call. There are a lot of tools out there that help support this, especially around the monitoring/measuring.

My future predictor for marketing; in light of the data breach with facebook and Cambridge Analytics (article) I think ethics in marketing is going to be a big conversation soon. In stead of “how can I monitor engagement around X campaign”, I think marketers should be asking themselves “should I monitor this?”.

To anyone who is thinking about big data in their marketing, have a read of “weapons of math destruction, how big data increases inequality“.

Marketing seems to be an industry full of lots of change but I think the marketers who continue to add value will be the ones who continue to survive. The tools will change but the goal will remain the same.

Feed a Starving Crowd – marketing training overview

Last week on Friday I attended a 1 day workshop run by Robert Coorey author of Feed a Starving Crowd. Rob’s book is full of marketing tactics, 147 of them require no advertising budget. This course was run by Zambesi; a learning platform targeting entrepreneurs learning from people with skin in the game. Each workshop is limited to 12 people and you learn just as much from the group discussions as you do from the instructor. I quite enjoy this learning style. This blog post is an overview of my key take aways from this course. I attended this course with some interesting people who had some cool business ideas.

Why did I want to attend this course?

Since I’ve started working at Campaign Monitor, I feel like I haven’t learnt much about marketing. I’m meant to be working in email marketing but I don’t understand the people I am helping build products for. What makes a marketers mind tick? What language do they use? What are their biggest challenges? I wanted to learn about marketing to help me build up user empathy, how can I advocate on behalf of quality if I don’t know what is a quality product in the eyes of the people who matter? I want to learn about marketing tactics and put those learnings into practice by using my personal brand as an experiment bed for it.

Who is your ideal client?

After some introductions; the first exercise was “Who is your ideal client?”. As this was early on in the day I was thinking from a Campaign Monitor point of view and I came up with Gertrude; she works as a travel agent, mostly helping Australian retirees book cruise ship holidays. She’ll often email her clients with updates about upcoming cruises, travel tips and special offers. It’s a small company of a dozen people and she wears a lot of different hats. Sales, marketing and travel agent. She’s approaching retirement age herself which gives her good empathy with her clients. She lives on the Gold Coast, she’s on Facebook to keep in touch with her family, she enjoys watching my kitchen rules on the evening.

What are their pain points?

The next exercise involved brain storming their pain points. We often came back to the pain points when it came to generating content ideas later. One way to brainstorm pain points was to look at all of the 3 star reviews about books your target audience would read on Amazon. As the day progressed I started thinking about these exercises from a software testing consultant point of view and how I could sell my services. I’ve done this activity from a software testing point of view and have discovered that a lot of the good content feels a little dated and people feel like it hasn’t been adapted for more agile practices. So publishing content around software testing in Agile practices seems to be an unfulfilled market segment and an area worth experimenting more in.

Industry Leadership

Being seen as a industry leader is a good thing. My involvement with tech conferences and meetup events is a good starting point in growing this perception. There’s a lot more work I can do from this point of view and I’m excited to grow in this area.

Building a sales funnel

There was a large section on building the sales funnel with a focus on paid advertising vs free advertising and using quality content in your advertising. E.G. coming up with a quiz to generate leads (for software testing I could generate a quiz like; what type of tester are you? How mature is your agile testing approach?). You then follow up with quiz participants with some email content e.g. if some took the agile testing quiz maybe send them an email on agile testing and best practices, you can then retarget this audience with facebook/linkedIn advertising. Basically people need to see your brand at least 7-10 times before it becomes memorable. Rob also went over how to structure a sales team based on the most common model used in silicone valley.

Conclusion

Email marketing is still a useful tool for anyone working in Sales/Marketing but businesses should diversify their tactics. I was able to get a good basic understanding of sales/marketing and the main idea out there is people should combine paid and unpaid advertising tactics in creative ways to get the best of both worlds. My commitment out of this training is; putting aside 10 minutes of my time a week to do LinkedIn networking with purpose. I will have a process for engaging people on social media around my personal brand. I have a few other ideas for growing my engagement that I’d like to test out too and I’ll keep you posted on how they go.