As spooky season draws in and we’re beset by the things that go bump in the night it’s time to discuss our testing horror stories. Gather round children and listen to these tales of terror as you quake in fear.

I talked to the people of Twitter and here’s some of the horror stories that came out.

Having to manually regression test everything each sprint, because there’s no automation.

The shock! The horror! With no automation tests in place (including no unit tests) there’s no safety net for our code pushes. That means having to take the time to manually review and test everything by hand each sprint / code push. We can’t possibly check everything this way within release timelines so things get missed and regressions get released *scream*.

Fig 1. A spooky halloween skull.

What can we do? Push for automation, any automation! Talk to your team about areas of risk and ask developers to start including unit tests when they touch areas of code. Or maybe create some quick and easy integration tests using Postman to help give confidence. Failing that, why not run bug bashes or mob testing each release to make the manual regression the whole team’s problem (it takes a whole village mob to kill the monster after all).

Being seen as a gatekeeper for quality and being blamed when things go wrong.

Tremble in fear and hide under the covers my fellow testers, for this monster rears its head again! When we join a new team or organisation, we frequently get seen as “people here to break things and finger point when things go wrong”. Perhaps the team has had bad experiences in the past, or maybe the industry still pushes the “testers are gatekeepers” narrative.

Fig 2. The Gatekeeper from the game Atmosfear

It’s horrible having the view that you’re against the rest of the team or actively working against them. Who wants to work in that environment? Our best options are to talk to the team and set out our stall to help them to understand that we’re on the same side. As a part of this we can talk about how testing is a whole team sport that we champion, but everyone else is still a part of (so there’s no reason for blaming an individual).

Finding bugs in production / live!

Oh nooooooo, even though we tested we’ve seen that we’ve pushed a bug into live!

*Screams in tester*

Now the customers will see the fault! We’re doomed, doooooomed!

Fig 3. Halloween cobwebs, a staple of spooky decorating.

Okay so this seems terrifying, we’ve failed in our jobs right? Well no, it’s not the end of the world and these things happen. We can’t find everything, even with amazing testing. Maybe we just didn’t have time to test everything or we’re not supported by automation so couldn’t cover everything (see above).

This horror story comes from holding ourselves to a really high standard. We need to normalise that sometimes bugs make it through and when they do, we can find them and we can fix them. It’s not the end of the world.

Unreproducible / intermittent bugs that crop up when we least expect them.

It’s there, lying in wait… ready to jump out and scare you when you least expect it. Nobody knows when it’ll pop out, but we know it’s there… the intermittent bug!

We’ve all seen these, those bugs that pop up occasionally but we just can’t work out when will occur or what makes it happen. We try to show it to our team but we can’t get it to happen (leading to the terror of “it works on my machine”).

Fig 4. Intermittent bugs pop up unexpectedly to shock us like a slasher killer.

Like in any good horror story, sometimes you have to get through the jump scares to rally yourself and fight back. Each time you see the bug you can learn a bit more about it, learn how it occurs and what it looks like so that you can defeat it. Like learning the lore of a creature to know its weaknesses, knowledge is power. Work with developers to debug and hunt down what the bug is doing.

Falling into the testing career and then waking up to realise it’s been 14 years and you’re still a tester!

Oh god! It hasn’t been a dream… this is my life now! What has become of the young man who had hopes and dreams??? I’ve become cynical and jaded, I’ve spent 14 years being… a TESTER!

*Howls at the moon*

Fig 5. Testers, just like werewolves, are created when someone is bitten by another tester.

For this horror story I think this is the one to relish. Don’t be like Louis in Interview with a Vampire who laments what he’s become; be a Lestat and embrace the dark! You’re a tester now… you’re one of us!!!

What are your spooky testing horror stories?

If you enjoyed this spooky post, why not read Resident Evil: How in-house practices can make things worse.

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