Takeaways from Alan Richardson’s “Dear Evil Tester”

Alan Richardson is the Evil Tester. He talks and writes about evil testing, about how to be the best software testers we desire. He gives talks at conferences, offers consultancy services and training over at Compendium Development, and writes about Selenium on Selenium Simplified. He’s been in the testing industry for many years and certainly knows its ins and outs, and he’s continuously trying to keep himself and other software testers in the field updated and valuable. His book, “Dear Evil Tester“, is his way of providing us with an approach to testing founded on responsibility and laughter.

Some lessons from the book:

  • The point is we don’t need permission. We should do whatever it takes.
  • If you short change yourself then that isn’t self-preservation. It is allowing your skills and integrity to slowly rot, wither and die. It is condemning yourself to victimhood as a response to other people’s actions. Don’t do that to yourself. Always work to the highest level that you can be proud of. That is an act of self-preservation.
  • I try very hard to get in the habit of evaluating myself. Not in terms of the actions of others, or in terms of their expectations of me, or in terms if a ‘generic’ tester. I try to evaluate myself in terms of my expectations of me. And I try to continually raise my expectations.
  • Stop doing the same things you did on the first day.
  • Test with intent, with minimal up-front planning, taking responsibility for your path and the communication of your journey.
  • Anyone can test. And you need to be able to test better than anyone off the street. And be capable of demonstrating that you can test better than anyone off the street.
  • I don’t believe that systems ‘regress’. I believe systems ‘are’. I believe systems can exhibit behavior that we don’t want. I believe systems can exhibit behavior that we don’t want and which we have seen the system before. But I don’t call that regression.
  • The best test tool to help me test is my brain. I then use that to help me find other tools that help me observe, interrogate, and manipulate the system at the different technological levels I’ve found the system to be composed of.
  • I don’t think I do test the quality of a product. I think I test ‘qualities’ of a product. I test observations of those ‘qualities’ against models that I have made of the ‘qualities’ independently of the product. And then I put the product into different states, allowing me to observe the product in different ways. And when I see a difference, I can then offer commentary upon the differences between my observation and its comparison to my model.
  • The hard part is not finding tools, and making lists of tools, and learning how to use tools. The hard part is figuring out what you need to do, to add value to your test approach.
  • I look at my model of the system and I see parts I’m not observing, or manipulating, or interrogating. I try and work out what risks I’m not testing for, because of that. Then I work out which of those risks I want to target. And I go looking for a tool to help.
  • Good and Evil are relative terms. If you accept that, then words hold less power over you. Choose your actions well. Stop labelling them ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’. Take responsibility. Build your own models. Do what you need to. Do what you have to, to be the change you want to see.
  • Not all testers are evil, just the good ones.

2 thoughts on “Takeaways from Alan Richardson’s “Dear Evil Tester”

  1. Hi Jason, thanks for reading “Dear Evil Tester” and taking the time to collate quotes and write them up. Good to see what parts of the book resonated with you. Thanks. Alan

    • Hi Alan, I’ve found out that it’s people like you and James Bach and Michael Bolton, and many others, who inspire me to keep getting better at software testing. I’m really glad you guys are out there doing your thing. Thank you. 🙂 Jason


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