Blog Posts from June, 2016

s/automation/programming/

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Several years ago in one of his early insightful blog posts, Pradeep Soundarajan said this:

“The test doesn’t find the bug. A human finds the bug, and the test plays a role in helping the human find it.”

More recently, Pradeep said this:

Instead of saying, “It is programmed”, we say, “It is automated”. A world of a difference.

It occurred to me instantly that it could make a world of difference, so I played with the idea in my head.

Automated checks? “Programmed checks.” 

Automated testing? “Programmed testing.” 

Automated tester?  “Programmed tester.” 

Automated test suite?  “Programmed test suite.”

Let’s automate to do all the testing?  “Let’s write programs to do all the testing.”

Testing will be faster and cheaper if we automate. “Testing will be faster and cheaper if we write programs.”

Automation will replace human testers. “Writing programs will replace human testers.”

To me, the substitutions all generated a different perspective and a different feeling from the originals. When we don’t think about it too carefully, “automation” just happens; machines “do” automation.  But when we speak of programming, our knowledge and experience remind us that we need people do programming, and that good programming can be hard, and that good programming requires skill.  And even good programming is vulnerable to errors and other problems.

So by all means, let’s use hardware and software tools skilfully to help us investigate the software we’re building.  Let’s write and develop and maintain programs that afford deeper or faster insight into our products (that is, our other programs) and their behaviour.  Let’s use and build tools that make data generation, visualisation, analysis, recording, and reporting easier. Let’s not be dazzled by writing programs that simply get the machinery to press its own buttons; let’s talk about how we might use our tools to help us reveal problems and risks that really matter to us and to our clients.  

And let’s consider the value and the cost and the risk associated with writing more programs when we’re already rationally uncertain about the programs we’ve got.