I caught two Stareast James Bach talks. The “The Myths of Rigor” dealt with when to use rigor and when not to. The main idea (as I understood) was to use more rigor upstream and less downstream. For example, if you're coaching a new tester, you may want to provide them with checklists and lots of details, then encourage them to begin thinking without following said checklists once they grok the concept. Experts are bad at explaining what they know and learners tend to say they understand when they don't; the checklists and details may help, but only at the beginning.

This clicked for me when James asked, “Have you ever written a process document and then not followed it?”. Absolutely! I'm smart enough to understand when to break the rules. How about a test case? Of course! Per James...

  • Rigor at the outcome of a test is optimized for a static well-known world.
  • Rigor at the planning of a test helps you adopt to a changing world.

Writing test cases is valuable as long as we don’t become victims of what James calls “Pathetic Compliance”; following the rules just so we don’t get yelled at, even though we don’t understand the rules. The value in writing test cases is:

  • they are excellent for a quick review before test sessions to get your head straight
  • they are a good tool for discussing tests and understanding each other
  • creating them helps learning

So write test cases but don’t force yourself to use them.

BTW - James Bach is working on a book about how to coach software testers.

The second of James Bach’s talks was a keynote, “The Buccaneer Tester: Winning Your Reputation”. This seemingly dull topic is actually important. The main takeaway for me was:

Making yourself unremarkable does not keep your job safe.

Per James, being good at testing and getting credit for your work are both optional. Sadly, I’ve worked with lots of unremarkable testers. His advice, if you choose to become remarkable:

  • Determine what mix of tester skills you have that nobody else has.
  • Use the above to come up with some kind of vision about testing. It doesn’t even need to be a good vision; bad visions can also give you a reputation.
  • Take a stand on an issue.
  • Participate in public (volunteer) testing.
  • Write, teach, speak, study, and experience more types of testing


  1. gMasnica said...

    Fantastic post. There is a lot of wisdom in those bullet points.

    I need to get myself to a Star conference one of these years. Your last 2 posts are great advertising for them! Have you had fairly positive experiences there?

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