July 21st, 2009 | Published in Google Testing
By James A. Whittaker
"Testing is boring." Don’t pretend for a moment that you’ve never heard a developer, designer or other non tester express that sentiment and take a moment to search your own soul for the truth. Even the most bigoted tester would have to admit to contracting the boredom plague at some point. The day-in, day-out execution of tests and the filing of bug reports simply doesn't hold the interest of most technical people who are drawn to computing for its creative and challenging reputation. Even if you find yourself immune to the boredom, you have to admit there are many monotonous and uncreative aspects of testing.
It doesn’t begin that way though. Early in a tester’s career, the thrill of the bug hunt can keep a tester going for many months. It can be as intoxicating as playing a video game and trying to find some elusive prize. And lots of progress in terms of skill is made in those early years with testers going from novice to pretty good in no time flat. Who can argue with a career that offers such learning, advancement and intellectually interesting problems?
But as the achievement curve levels out, the task of testing can get very repetitive and that quickly turns to monotony. I think, promotion concerns aside, this is why many testers switch to development after a few years. The challenge and creativity gets eclipsed by the monotony.
I think bored testers are missing something. I submit that it is only the tactical aspects of software testing that become boring over time and many turn to automation to cure this. Automation as a potion against the tedium of executing test cases and filing bugs reports is one thing, but automation is no replacement for the strategic aspects of the testing process and it is in this strategy that we find salvation from this plague. The act of test case design, deciding what should and shouldn’t be tested and in what proportion, is not something automation is good at and yet it is an interesting and intellectually challenging task. Neither is the strategic problem of monitoring tests and determining when to stop. These are hard and interesting strategic problems that will banish the plague of boredom. Testers can succumb to the plague of boredom or they can shift their focus from mostly tactical to a nice mix of tactical work and strategic thinking.
Make sure that in your rush to perform the small tactical testing tasks you aren't dropping the strategic aspects of your work because therein are the interesting technical challenges and high level thinking that will hold your interest and keep this plague at bay.