Five Testing Questions with James Bach

Is this a series? Yes, apparently it is.

A couple of weeks ago I published a post where I asked Jerry Weinberg 5 testing questions that I had been pondering over for the last months.  The questions were about the stuff that makes us better testers, as well as about the future of the testing profession.

After getting tons of feedback and noticing the large amount of attention around this post, I realized it would be even better to ask these same questions to additional testing experts to get their insights and advice on these topics.

With this in mind I made a list of testers and QA experts I follow and respect, and I decided to contact them one by one.

I was extremely happy when one of my favourites testers, James Bach – the original buccaneer tester – told me he would be happy to reply to my questions so that I can share his answers with you here.

About James

To me James Bach is one of the biggest names in testing.

If you have not seen or heard him up to now just google his name and check out a couple of the life video presentations that will jump at the top of your search.

I met James for the first time in one of the Start Conferences over 10 year ago.  I remember he sat on a room and challenged us (the audience) to name any application, and he would find bugs on it even if he was not familiar with it up front.  To jump to the chase: he not only found bugs on the app, but he crashed it TWICE.

This experience was not only the first time I met him in person, but also the first time I perceived the strength of Exploratory Testing (a name that has become synonymous to JB for many of us).  Together with Cem Kaner, James is the father and one of the most active contributors to Exploratory Testing and the Context Driven School of Testing as a whole.

He is a genial speaker and one of the most inspirational testers I’ve met.  One episode that jumps to mind is of an afternoon I spent with him where he introduced me to “the dice game” and through this exercise thought me one of the biggest tools I now have to train testers on the importance of rapid learning, data analysis and self-driven-understanding as a tool for testing problem solving.

There are too many additional things I could write about him, but in the interest of time and self learning I will let you find these interesting facts by yourselves (hint: you will want to start from his site – satisfice).

Five Testing Questions

1) What is the role of testing in today’s “typical” development process or organization?

I can tell you about the role of what I would call testing. It means questioning the product (through the mechanism of operating and observing it) so as to enable informed decision-making by the people who matter.

Testing is kind of like insurance. No matter what you do to prevent bugs, you still have to plan as if they might be there. So, we’d better go look and see.

2) Which are the most important traits a tester should have (or should develop) in order to succeed today?

A zeal for rapid learning is one, and I agree with Jerry Weinberg that courage is a vital quality.

I’ll add one more: a strong sense of ethics.

3) There have been a number of publications, talks and twitter threads lately about the possibility that testing is in fact a “Dying Profession”.  Do you agree with this statement?

No. That’s a dumb idea. It’s propagated by people who– SURPRISE– aren’t testers and don’t study testing.

However, I would say that Factory School testing (dim-witted script following) is something that I HOPE will die. And soon.

4) Looking back at your successful professional career, can you point to 2 or 3 milestones (or people) that made you the testing professional you are today?

0. Conversing with my father.
1. Dropping out of high school.
2. Reading books by Douglas Hofstadter and Paul K. Feyerabend.
3. Taking the Problem Solving Leadership course from Jerry Weinberg.
4. Reading the works of Jerry Weinberg.
5. Working with Cem Kaner.
6. Working with my brother Jonathan.
7. Working with Michael Bolton.

5) What would be your most important piece of advice to a beginner tester today?

1. Practice practice practice.
2. Build your colleague network.
3. Everything important about testing happens inside your head, not out on your desk.


Thanks to James!

I wanted to thanks James for taking the time and for sharing his insightful views on these topics.

I’m sure that both young and experienced testers will gain greatly from these answers.


Share your feedback

I’d like to invite you all to share your feedback.

– Do you have something to say to James?
– Is there a specific tester you think I should have on my list of testers and QA experts to ask these questions?
– Would you change part of these questions?

Let me know, leave a comment!

About PractiTest

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Designed for testers by testers, PractiTest can be customized to your team's ever-changing needs.

With fast professional and methodological support, you can make the most of your time and release products quickly and successfully to meet your user’s needs.

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9 Responses to Five Testing Questions with James Bach

  1. Thanh December 18, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    Thanks for the post. I like and often read your posts.

    Regarding the advice: 3. Everything important about testing happens inside your head, not out on your desk. Sorry but I don’t understand. Can someone elaborate?

  2. Rajeshwar December 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    Yehh i have the same question and would like an answer from james!!

    However, as i understand, i think of a plan in my mind to break the software and make a note of my different plans in form of testcases. The other day i execute them and some of them do work and crash the app. May be this is what james wanted to say.

  3. joelmonte December 23, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    Obviously James can answer if he wants to elaborate, but in the meantime for me this comment means something close to what Rajeshwar wrote. The most important process in testing is the one that you are running through your head, either by thinking of the needs of your users and executing the product like they would, or by analyzing the product (based on your knowledge, experience, a heuristic, or a combination of them) and looking for the issues that are hiding in it.

    To quote James in one of his previous answers: “…questioning the product (through the mechanism of operating and observing it)…”
    Based on this the essence becomes – to observe and think.

  4. meteorman January 19, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    The answer is simple to me. He’s telling you to think.

  5. meteorman January 19, 2013 at 12:47 am #

    Great article, although I think recommending people drop out of school is not a good idea.

  6. Thanh January 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Thanks Joel for elaborating.

  7. P. Fard January 30, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    I like the post especially number 3. Even though I have never had a testing function, but I believe it is a very important role that has to be around for years to come and this role cannot be replaced by developers by any means.

  8. Rajesh Maadireddy February 25, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    Master has given a excellent climax for this article – “Everything important about testing happens inside your head, not out on your desk”.


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