February 9, 2006

[Testing] QA and Integrity

This week, someone asked me what I thought the most important characteristic of a tester was. The choice of words made me think.

I mean, I'm always asked what skills are important for testers, so that answer just rolls off the tongue: attention to detail, excellent memory, grasp of the English language.

So I started thinking about what characteristics I look for in testers. "Slightly sadomasochistic" nearly came out, but it wouldn't make sense to anyone who hasn't been in QA. I finally answered, "Honesty and Integrity."

It may sound odd, but in the end, that's really all that QA has to fall back on. Anything that damages a tester's integrity damages his effectiveness in a QA department. If I don't trust a tester to test his area completely, I'll assign backup testers to that area and as a result, something else won't be tested. If developers don't trust a tester, bugs from that tester will get less attention, and real bugs will slip out.

Most people consider the source of the information in addition to the information itself when deciding what to do. For example, I was provided information recently that said that Florida attorney Jack Thompson led a secret double-life as a transvestite hooker named "Flora." However, I doubt the accuracy of this information because I don't trust the person who provided it. If I trusted the person, who knows? Maybe I'd be trying to set up Marv Albert and Jack. They'd make a lovely couple...

When a person damages their integrity too much, eventually nobody will listen to them. In the tech industry, this is referred to as "flipping the Bozo bit."

Unfortunately for testers, the "Bozo bit" is usually the kill-switch for their careers. Yet another reason why testers have an average shelf life of 5 months in this industry...

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