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Jun 20, 2021 - 4 minute read - Racket

Do you have to be negative to be a tester?

TLDR; Negativity tends to bias processes towards the status quo. Negative feedback causes system to change. Change is how we improve.

You do not have to be negative

… you provide information. Sometimes the information acts as negative feedback.

This content was originally created using Racket. Listen to the Audio on Racket.com

Do you have to be negative to be a tester?

Well, no.

Sometimes I’m asked “Alan why are you so negative?”

And sometimes it’s asked in jest, sometimes it’s not.

But I don’t think I am.

I am often pointing out the next thing to improve because I am an optimist, I have hope, I want us to be on the right path.

I work hard to spot the things that need Improvement, so I develop the skills that I need to improve them and To find more of them.

I continue to learn and evolve so that we can make improvements.

Negativity, would likely cause me to stop, block and stagnate, right?

Bugs are problems in the here and now they stop us building for the future. They stop us advancing.

I find them because I want a better future.

I am optimistic with hope.

I don’t just look at the here now although we usually have plenty of Things to improve in the here and now.

I don’t tend to stress in detail, all things are working, because everyone else will do that. They will focus on things that are working, or they will just assume that things are working.

I don’t tend to trust without verifying all the things I am told are working because I want to see for myself.

I want to understand the current state, well enough to project forward and move forward and see what is stable and see where we’re going.

Risks are problems of the future.

Sometimes, I find things to improve by projecting forward and identifying long-term risks and issues.

I try to provide a balance so that we can optimize and improve the whole system. Not just a subsystem that we think is performing well.

Negative feedback is essential, it’s created from within the system itself so that the system can take action to improve.

Negativity is often externally imposed to maintain a status quo or to prevent change.

I want things to work and improve but I can’t just sit back and trust that we’re heading in the right direction. I have to verify.

I’m pointing out the next thing to improve. Because I am an optimist and I have hope.

I don’t think that’s negative.

The reason I say I don’t “stress in detail, all things are working,” is because I can’t. I can’t say that for sure. I can say that “under these specific conditions, at this specific time, I observed the system behave in this way, and that was what we would expect given the definition of what we expected described in oracle X”… but I tend not to say that either because its a bit of a mouthful.

I can talk about the coverage we achieved where the coverage matches the oracle, but to be honest most people don’t care about that. That isn’t really information. When people already believe the system is good, and working, and statement that confirms that is data. It isn’t new information. It doesn’t cause them to change their beliefs. If anything they start to think that testing is a waste of time because it isn’t providing any information. It isn’t providing anything they were not expecting to receive.

That confirmation work is important, but it won’t lead to much comment.

I will, because I’m human, subjectively say things like “This looks good”, “Great job everyone”, but that is unrelated to my output from testing, that is just me being nice. I can be nice.

I don’t set out to provide negative feedback. I set out to investigate and to maximise my levels of coverage for areas that I think will reveal new information. Balancing that against achieving minimum levels of coverage in areas where I think there is no information, just confirmation.

Information, from testing, is usually negative feedback. The outputs we provide that cause people to amend their models are usually related to bugs, omissions, gaps and risks.

Occasionally people will be ‘nervous’ about an area, and are expecting to receive bad news. Under those circumstances we provide information, because it isn’t what people expect, but it is treated as positive feedback because no changes or adjustments were required. This happens, but it happens less frequently than providing information that people did not expect to receive.


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