Karen’s unedited opinion of test script writing

Ok, so some years ago – now I promise this will tie back to a very recent conversation I had with a “tester” – but first – some years ago when I starting work as a newspaper reporter, I was getting my first assignment from my editor who was a rather gruff older gentleman. I think back now and realize how green and eager I must have looked. I was certainly Mary Tyler Moore and Jason was my Lou Grant. Really – down to the cigar because back that long ago you could still smoke in offices and Jason smoked cigars. I can recall the intensity and importance of the dialog. Boy I really wanted the work and I was willing to take whatever bottom of the bucket story I was about to get assigned (and I did). I was primed. I recall Jason asking me; hey do you have a camera?

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Sure I said, um, yeah of course. I didn’t own a camera but the last thing I wanted to do was create a roadblock in my getting the assignment. Hungry for the work, wanting the work – I felt like I could taste it – the last thing I wanted to do was say no. So I said yes.

When I got back into my car, I drove to the local electronics shop and bought my first camera and went onto the assignment. Up until then I had always used my big sister’s camera. I was decent with photography but had somehow squeaked by without owning my own camera. My photo was printed with my first story and time moved on. I worked as a reporter for another two years.

So now here I am some decades later, talking with a tester – a tester (who I did not hire) new to an assignment from me. And I ask – can you test without a script? Tell me what it is you do. And the response I heard was a slow paced, no. I write scripts. I read requirements and I write test scripts. Do you want to see the format of my test scripts?

I could just feel my blood boiling. No, I don’t want to see a template for test script. In fact, I’m sure it’s a gloriously long winded highly formatted waste of effort. I want to know if you can test. I want to know that you feel confident that you can be handed an application, learn at least its primary aspects at a fairly rapid pace, jump in, join this project and find bugs. I could care less about test scripts. This isn’t a medical device and this isn’t a regulated product so unless I have the FDA breathing down my back, I don’t want to create bloated documentation that serves little to no value.

Where’s the passion? Where is the pure desire to test? I can’t express strongly enough how I feel that if the only aspect of testing a person has is to read requirements and write scripts – I just don’t know what that job is. It’s a script writer right?

I’ve never felt too passionate about the whole debate of QA vs. testing. But I do feel passionately about script writers vs. testers. I think if writing scripts and executing precisely what has been written is a person’s idea of testing – then please mark your resume as a script writer and test executioner. A skill as valuable as the pay rate the market offers. A job and work that is so deathly dull I can see why executives want to hire testers at the lowest possible rate on the market.

If you want to be a reporter, you buy a camera. If you want to be a tester – at least show me you have that hunger to learn, be able to become a tester without needing directions, or scripts if that’s what we call them.

Where did the tester come from? Since I mentioned that I didn’t hire the tester, let me clarify where the tester “came from”. In this particular environment, testers get passed around from team to team. I’ve seen the pass the tester around practice before. The practice appears to come from the assumption that all testers write test scripts and that all testers have reasonably equivalent skills so moving a tester off on one project and onto another project where testing is needed must appear to be an efficient solution to management that stays from afar – how else can I comprehend seeing the practice in multiple companies?

I’ve met testers before who seem to bank on this fact – they get passed so quickly it’s tough to assess what they’re doing and how they’re doing. And yet somehow they get kept. In some environments other team members are so used to testers being more about documentation than anything that as long as they shuffle from team to team generating some volume of test scripts, it seems they could last a long time at the same company.

I think many people don’t understand what testing can be – especially if their only experiences have been with script writers. I think many people and especially for management that stays from afar, view testers as a low-end high-doc position – a situation that’s more likely to be tolerated in a regulated environment – where the fear of the FDA audit runs high and the understanding of what it means to test software may run low.

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