Friday, January 3, 2014

Heroes and Villains


I have a host of people that I read and read and read.  These are my literary Heroes.  They constantly give me new gems and bright insights.  I pale in my work before these folks.  The sad news is that my heroes have slowly slipped away and all I have is their tremendous bodies of work.  In the blog-arena, I really appreciate Jeff Atwood, Joel Spolsky and Steve Yegge (who has multiple blogs).  Just as an example of my reading, I am all the back to 2005 in Jeff's blog, reading it backwards entry by entry.

Now two things you'll note from that.  One, I really enjoy what developers have to say and I really don't have a lot of test-related bloggers I hit on a regular basis.  Even if I start widening my knowledge net, Martin Fowler, Scott Hanselman and those Dot Net Rocks podcast guys probably has beaten out other test-related heroes I have read.  Now I do tend to focus on what they have to say on test when they have something on test, but I spend way more time on the development process than on capital-T Test.  These guys are brilliant and have wonderful things to say.  They come up with all sorts of clever coding patterns and practices.  They consider the process as a whole and care about the craft.  They are Heroes.

Then I should consider my list of more generic Heroes.  Heroes of science like Richard Feynman, Heroes of science fiction like Robert Heinlein.  Heroes of thought like Rene Des Cartes, Heroes of humanity like George Bernard Shaw.  These are all men I have read and found to have enlightening things to say, although some are rather obscure.

Right now, this is how I feel about test and "Heroes".  There are no Heroes.  There are a few knowledgeable people, but the fractured nature makes it hard to pin down.  Most people who come into test come into it by 'accident'.  We are still forging paths and hitting dead ends.  Yet we do have another aspect.


Perhaps our lack of Heroes is the nature of our business, so at best we get Villains.  Well, Villains are cool, right?  Who doesn't like a good Super Villain?  The Riddler or Magneto come to mind.  They have super powers, they do cool things and in the end, they often feel justified in their deeds.  I hesitate to call anyone a "Villain" in a community I work in.  Worse yet, CDT might be so accepting that Villains are considered good guys in their own way.  Now if I was James Bach, I would have "“depraved” enemies".  Now does that make someone like Rex Black a Villain in Bach's eyes?  Is the visa-versa true for Black?  Am I a sort of Villain of the CDT community for asking questions?  In talking with one senior-level tester, I could be seen as a Villain.  The all-mighty dollar of consultancy demands for true purity of our testing Scotsmen and my questions for CDT is dangerous for those dollars. I won't answer these questions regarding villainy for you, but I do want to be clear, I am not calling any of these gentlemen Villains.

The downfall of our method is that we don't have any golden boys of testing.  Instead, we challenge each other to get better but don't have an easy way of showing off our skills.  I can't even personally say if Kaner, Bach or Black are good testers.  I can look at some of Atwood, Spolsky and Yegges code and judge them, as that is often visible.  Testing is often an invisible task, not one with an output easily examined.  I think some of the information of the test community can be useful, but I don't use all of any practitioner's 'methods'.

I am left with two things.  Are there any real Villains of testing and can we have Heroes in testing?  How can I evaluate a given person's skill in "Test" compare to writing or management or bug writing or all the other skills that make up "Testing"?  Even with testing an application, it often requires parameters that are hard to control, like the versions of software, builds, time, memory, threading and all the other 'impossibility of complete testing' pieces.  So even with bug reports, test cases, etc. it might be impossible for me to truly evaluate the output.  If I can't know (there are plenty of heuristics, but actually knowing is much harder) someone is a good tester, then I guess I'm just left with is a Villain just a perspective or are their absolutes?

I don't know that I can answer that, but maybe I'll look into getting an outfit, just in case.

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