Death to bug advocacy

Andrew Fraser
Oct 20, 2016 · 3 min read

I’m tired of seeing angry arrogant testers trying to do product owners jobs. Just stop it.

I must confess I used to be one of those testers. I’d get really ‘passionate’ about a certain bug and try amazingly hard to convince others that it should be fixed. I’m sure it was really annoying. In general I didn’t use data to back up why the bug was important to people, neither did the developers or product owners who thought the bug didn’t need fixing. The discussions were merely opinion cock-fights.

This type of team dysfunction has at least one major cause and result that I’ll discuss here.

Cause: Testers view of self

Testers are not intrinsically connected to the user base. We do not represent the users by osmosis or nature. Just because you are a tester does not mean you represent the user better than the product owner or developers. Let that sink in for a minute… If you are a tester, how many of the actions that you take are based on those assumptions, how do you view yourself?

Further to that just because you can find potential quality problems does not mean everything you find is automatically relevant to people who actually use your product.

Quality is in the eye of the beholder.

Tester, you need to stop thinking that your opinion is more important than everyone else on your team. If you really want to show why something is valuable to people who use your product, get the data to show it. From people who use your product. Then let people who are paid to make decisions do that with the data you provide. If you want to make those decisions and are a tester you’re probably not in the right role.

If you absolutely can’t get data from people who use your products then at least use a method that you can explain to show why something is important. Heuristics and oracles would be a good start, but remember heuristics are by nature fallible.

Result: Role Conflict

Testers should provide valuable information that help people who need to make decisions make better ones. Decisions that increase the value of products to the people who use them.

Testers play a supporting role.

If testers strongly advocate from their own opinion what should be fixed or which feature should be developed they create needless conflict with people in the roles who are responsible for those decisions. Testers are then effectively trying to perform somebody else’s role. No wonder this results in negative conflict.

Bug advocacy can actually be a serious hindrance to quality. It can create serious division in a team, frustration and can lead to wasteful work that doesn’t deliver value to people using our products.

Face it testers, you’ve got to let it go. Let go of the testers view of self as intrinsically better connected to the people who use your products than everybody else. Let go of your imagined right to make the decisions. Perform your role, nail it! Give people the information they need to make good decisions. It’s incredibly satisfying.

I am finding I enjoy a much healthier, respectful relationship with developers and product owners after stopping all bug advocacy.

This article is a result of a question I posed in a #TuesdayNightTesting session run by Simon Tomes.

I would be interested to hear your experience with bug advocacy. What do you think of killing it? If you enjoyed this article, click the heart and share it. If you think it’s nonsense I would love to hear why!

Edit: To me bug advocacy means to plead the case for a bug to be fixed. I’ve written some of the details around this in a response to Cem Kaner, that you can read here. I recommend reading his response and his linked articles.

Many thank to those that have responded and got involved in the conversation.

Thanks to Chris George

Andrew Fraser

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