Philosophical Questions for the Software Tester

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Summary:

What is quality? What makes some people notice bugs and other people not notice them? Are defects always bad? Software test engineer Bernie Berger has spent time considering the nature and essence of testing. This article takes an introspective approach by posing a list of philosophical questions for testers to consider.

I'm not a philosopher. I am, however, an experienced software tester who likes to think about what he's doing and why he's doing it. On second thought, this might make me a philosopher.

At a recent conference, James Bach, a well-respected software testing consultant, described software testing as "organized skepticism" toward software. Along those lines, if we are skeptical about the specific behavior of software, we could also have a more general skepticism about our personal functions and relationships within the software quality organization.

For those of you who have taken time to ponder the meaning of life or "QA," I present this list of philosophical questions about software quality. Some of these questions have obvious answers, some have multiple answers, and some others are rhetorical. There’s not a single correct answer to any particular question; in fact, there might be many or there might be none. Perhaps you'll gain new insight as you ponder.

This list is not a completed work. It is intended to be a first step in gaining a deeper appreciation for what we claim to do as software quality professionals. You will probably get the most out of it by reading through the entire list, then returning to the top to consider your answers as you re-read each question.

The Nature of Quality

·                     What is quality?

·                     What is perfection?

·                     Is perfection binary? Something is either perfect, or it is not perfect?

·                     Is quality binary, or are there levels of quality?

·                     Are humans perfect?

·                     Are humans capable of producing perfection?

·                     Are humans capable of producing perfect software?

·                     Are humans capable of producing quality?

·                     Are humans capable of producing quality software?

·                     What defines high and low quality?

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About the author

Bernie Berger's picture Bernie Berger

Bernie Berger has recently tested the merger of two investment trading systems as part of the takeover of a large asset-management firm by an international bank. In his spare time, he moderates the yahoo group, tester-career-support , and updates his Web site http://www.testassured.com/. He can be reached at home at berger_qa_@yahoo.com.

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