Skip to main content
blog title image

3 minute read - Psychology

Q: What is Testing? A: look inside...

Feb 17, 2012

What is Testing?

Do you care?


  • Do you want to know because you want to know where the limits of your job start and end?
  • Do you want to know because someone asked you that question and you think you need to give them an answer?
  • Do you want to know because you really like definitions of abstract concepts?
  • Do you want to know because you need to pass an exam and give someone the right answer?

You might have a whole bunch of other questions - most likely you do since I only provided four alternatives to the “What is Testing?” question.

Questions I would rather believe people ask themselves include:

  • What do I do?
  • Why do I do what I do?
  • What do I need to do now?
  • What risks can I think of?
  • How can we find out if this software can …?
  • I wonder if the software can still do that when …?

But enough questions. Let me provide a simple answer to the first question “What is Testing?”

I don’t think that such a ’thing’ as “Testing” exists. Conversationally  a normal person might say something equivalent using the word sequence:

“There is no such thing as testing”

And while that might not help you pass your exam, and fails as a definition, and ’they’ probably don’t want to hear that answer; it might help you figure out where your job starts and ends.

Regardless, the above answer provides comfort and guidance to me during times of trouble.

If I ever find myself in a mess and think “What is testing?” I can politely answer myself “There is no such thing as testing, figure out a better question to ask”. Or “Stop hallucinating, concentrate on what you see happening now, figure out what to do next.”

If I had an actual answer, and if I knew what a thing called testing looked like then I fear that I:

  • might never look at the testing thing differently.
  • might think that as a “tester” I couldn’t do anything that didn’t look like the testing thing.

Over the years I’ve come to believe that my job involves looking at things and processes and concepts differently.

I want the freedom to make stuff up, the freedom pull in resourceful concepts as required, and the freedom to do what it takes to achieve the identified needs of the projects I work on.

I don’t find the question “What Is Testing?” helpful.

  • I care what preconceptions other people might have about my role and their expectations of me and people like me (“Testers”).
  • I care about the processes we use to identify, mitigate and make manifest risk.
  • I care about making what we do efficient and effective.
  • I care about agreeing actions and who will take those actions now.

I care about a whole bunch of stuff. And I test, because I care.

I just don’t care about questions like “What is Testing?”.

Do you?