The Myths of Testing

I find it interesting how themes can pop up and attract attention on social media. Sometimes when I see a theme that is misguided, I’ll sometimes chip in, other times I’ll just shrug. A theme I see pop up reasonably often is the one focused on “testing myths”. So, what is a myth?

If you describe a belief or explanation as a myth, you mean that many people believe it but it is actually untrue.

If I extend that definition to software testing then a “testing myth” must be a commonly held belief about software testing, or testers, that is factually untrue.

Are there myths in software testing? I contend that there are people that mistakenly hold onto false beliefs about testing. “Testing prevents defects”, “automation finds bugs” and “testing is all about bugs”, to mention just a few, certainly fall into the myth zone. But here’s the rub, the examples I just proposed have little meaning or weight on their own. Without me digging in and providing evidence of my reasoning, my example myths can be easily dismissed. Hitchens’ Razor comes to mind:

According to Christopher Hitchens (hence Hitchens’ Razor), “what can be asserted without evidence, can also be dismissed without evidence.”

Perhaps we should have a look at the most recent series of testing myths I found circulating on social media. None were posted with any supporting evidence or reasoning. Note that the following list of testing myths has been copied without edits.

  • You are a tester because you are not technical enough
  • Testers are breaking the product
  • Testing is for finding bugs
  • Everything can be automated
  • Testing can be estimated
  • Quality means testing
  • Anyone can test
  • Testers won’t become project managers, 
  • Testers should follow developer’s work schedule
  • Testers should not get equal time to test than developers needs to develop

Are these claims myths, are they beliefs commonly or widely held by people but untrue? It’s hard to say because when a list, or even a single claim is posted, and there is no supporting evidence or commentary, it’s hard to judge. I mean I can form my own opinion on each of those items listed but isn’t that the role of the tester posting the myths? If a tester is going to post claims I thought it was in the nature of the tester to also provide some level of substantiation. Some evidence, some thoughtful analysis, stories of experience and observation.

Testing, at least in my mind, is, amongst other things, an evidence based pursuit. I can’t imagine being seen as credible if my work is founded on unsubstantiated opinion. “A desirable outcome is …. because it is and clearly you see the logic of that” is not a rational or compelling argument, or an approach to one, and can be easily dismissed. “A desirable outcome based on the following oracle and using the consistency heuristic would be to consider….” is far more credible and engaging. It is thoughtful and evidence based.

So, what am I really getting at here? 

  • If you want to contribute to the discussion that is generated in the name of software testing, do it with thought and reason. Present a position that is underpinned by reasoning. 
  • Tell a story, present research data, use relevant statistics, relate your previous experiences and observations. 

Make a difference, explain your idea or thought in a way that demonstrates the critical thinking, analysis and reasoning that many testers seem to think just comes bundled with the job title (hint – it doesn’t. These skills require work, constant practice and refinement). Am I a little snarky? Yeah, a little, but I’m also tired of seeing a tsunami of what is effectively clickbait passing around ideas that range from bad to flat out wrong. That there are plenty of people who respond to these posts with “helpful”, “useful”, “very insightful” and similar is more than a tad worrying. There’s a lot of uninformed and misinformed representation going on. That’s neither good or helpful for those who are working hard to elevate the credibility of excellent testing.

A tester whose work I have admired and followed for a couple of decades once noted in conversation “the testing world is awash with bullshit and we do not have enough brooms to clean it up”.

Brandolini’s law (also called the bullshit asymmetry principle), is the adage that “the amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it”.

How about we turn our focus from getting “likes” to making reasoned arguments and helping testing advance through useful knowledge. 

Those of you who have made it to the last paragraph might be wondering why I made assertions about testing myths and then moved on. Not in the spirit of the post, right? That’s a fair point, so let’s fix that. Click on the links below for few samples where I tackle myths.

“Testing prevents defects” – Testing and Prevention – The Illusion

“Automation finds bugs” – Automation – what bugs me

“Testing is all about bugs” – Testing – Not Just Bugs

Thanks to Lee Hawkins for his review and feedback (and never ending encouragement).


2 thoughts on “The Myths of Testing

  1. Thanks for this Paul. I was getting to the stage where I was just shrugging and going ‘meh’. Especially that post about 10 myths of testing. I’ve been testing for over 30 years now and am gobsmacked on the amount of crap you find on LinkedIn.


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