; How Google Tests Software - A Brief Interlude | Google Operating System News

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

How Google Tests Software - A Brief Interlude

How Google Tests Software - A Brief Interlude

By James Whittaker

These posts have garnered a number of interesting comments. I want to address two of the negative ones in this post. Both are of the same general opinion that I am abandoning testers and that Google is not a nice place to ply this trade. I am puzzled by these comments because nothing could be further from the truth. One such negative comment I can take as a one-off but two smart people (hey they are reading this blog, right?) having this impression requires a rebuttal. Here are the comments:

"A sad day for testers around the world. Our own spokesman has turned his back on us. What happened to 'devs can't test'?" by Gengodo

"I am a test engineer and Google has been one of my dream companies. Reading your blog I feel that Testers are so unimportant at Google and can be easily laid off. It's sad." by Maggi

First of all, I don't know of any tester or developer for that matter being laid off from Google. We're hiring at a rapid pace right now. However, we do change projects a lot so perhaps you read 'taken off a project' to mean something far worse than the reality of just moving to another project. A tester here may move every couple of years or so and it is a badge of honor to get to the point where you've worked yourself out of a job by building robust test frameworks for others to contribute tests to or to pass off what you've done to a junior tester and move on to a bigger challenge. Maggi, please keep the dream alive. If Google was a hostile place for testers, I would be working somewhere else.

Second, I am going to dodge the negative undertones of the developer vs tester debate. Whether developers can test or testers can code seems downright combative. Both types of engineers share the common goal of shipping a product that will be successful. There is enough negativity in this world and testers hating developers seems so 2001.

In fact, I feel a confession coming on. I have had sharp words with developers in the past. I have publicly decried the lack of testing rigor in commercial products. If you've seen me present you've probably witnessed me showing colorful bugs, pointing to the screen and shouting "you missed a spot!" I will admit, that was fun.

Here are some other quotes I have directed at developers:

"You must be smarter than me because I couldn't write this bug if I was trying to."

"What happened, did the compiler get your eye?"

"What do you say to a developer with two black eyes? Nothing, he's already been told twice."

"Did you hear about the developer who locked himself in his car?"

Ah, those were the good old days! But it's 2011 now and I am objective enough to give developers credit when they step up to the plate and do their job. At Google, many have and they are helping to shame the rest into following suit. And this is making bugs harder to find. I waste so little time on low hanging fruit that I get to dig deeper to find the really subtle, really critical bugs. The signal to noise ratio is just a whole lot stronger now. Yes there are fewer developer jokes but this is progress. I have to make myself feel good knowing how many bugs have been prevented instead of how many laughs I can get on stage demonstrating their miserable failures.

This is progress.

And, incidentally developers can test. In some cases far better than testers. Modern testing is about optimizing the places where developers test and where testers test. Getting that mix right means a great product. Getting it wrong puts us back in 2001 where my presentations were a heck of a lot funnier.

In what cases are developers better testers that we are? In what cases are they not only poor testers but we're better off not having them touch the product at all? Well, that's the subject of my next couple of posts. In the meantime...


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