Agriturismo Umbria
This is why I don't read test books PDF Print E-mail
Written by Arjan Kranenburg   
Sunday, 12 July 2009 22:11

On some conferences, time and space is reserved for some shameless book-promotion. Sometimes entire reviews are published in magazines and if you have written a book, you are almost automatically considered the authority on the subject. Test books are popular and in these days of crisis, it seems that even more books are published.

Personally, I don't read a lot of books. At least not on the subject of testing, and here is why:

  • A book is an old technology. There is no interaction, no feedback, no discussion. Especially on the subject of testing, the interaction and discussion is very necessary.
  • The content is already old when the book is published. The ICT world goes faster and faster these days, but books must be reviewed, edited, printed, distributed, etc. And a good book gives discussion. This discussion is never printed (see point 1), but corrections resulting from this discussion are only published in later versions of the book.
  • The purpose of the authors of test books is often for their own promotion. It looks good on their CV, not that of the reader
  • Test books are rarely based on good research. E.g. the kind of research done at universities. This makes the foundation very thin and often applicable to a very specific situation. What is left are opinions. Blogs and online fora are far more suitable for that.
  • I am, and this a personal one, a slow reader. I simply don't have the time to read boring books of 400+ pages.

This does not mean that I don't educate myself. I read a lot of blogs, magazines, participate in online fora, and goto events and conferences when possible. For me these are valuable sources of information. They provide me with tips, new insights, hints, etc., and keep me up-to-date with the latest from the testing field. And in a much faster, honost, and direct manner.

No doubt that there are exception and that there exist books that do not have one of the drawbacks mentioned above. Let me know if you've found one.

 

 
Comments (6)
1 Monday, 13 July 2009 02:22
Joe Strazzere

Arjan,

 You make a lot of sweeping generalizations about books, yet say you don't read them.

 I feel bad for you - you are missing out on a lot.

 In case you ever do find time in your busy life, you may wish to check out some of these:

http://www.sqablogs.com/jstrazzere/56/My+QA+Bookshelf.html

 -joe

P.S. The verification word for this comment was "apathy".  How appropriate.

2 Monday, 13 July 2009 11:14
Michele Smith

Hello Arjan,

I have a few comments on the bullet points you made: 

  • A book is an old technology. There is no interaction, no feedback, no discussion. Especially on the subject of testing, the interaction and discussion is very necessary.
Does saying a “book is an old technology” imply it therefore has no worth?  There are lots of old technologies that still have plenty of worth, even though something bigger/faster/better has come along.  Factories can build furniture with machines; a craftsman can build furniture with tools.  Though both can do the same thing, and one is “old technology”… which one has more value to someone who wants more than just a piece of furniture?There is and always has been a lot of interaction and discussion stimulated by the reading of books in general, and the same can be said for testing books – whether they have been good/bad/boring. 
  • The purpose of the authors of test books is often for their own promotion. It looks good on their CV, not that of the reader
I do not think you understand what writing a book entails because of this comment.  Writing is an art, a form of expression.  People who write do so because they have to.  Just like Mozart composed music because it was in him – and yes it promoted him – but not because that was his aim.  And who could compose Mozart’s music other than he himself?  No one.  The same is true for writers of books.  Sure there are some that write books and should not, just as there are some that perform music that should not.
  • Test books are rarely based on good research. E.g. the kind of research done at universities. This makes the foundation very thin and often applicable to a very specific situation. What is left are opinions. Blogs and online fora are far more suitable for that.
What makes the “kind of research done at universities” better than any other kind of research?  Is not the point of research to gather information?  Does it really matter where I do that? 
3 Monday, 13 July 2009 13:54
Tony Bruce

Arjan,

As Joe has stated, you are missing out.

  • A book is an old technology. There is no interaction, no feedback, no discussion. Especially on the subject of testing, the interaction and discussion is very necessary.

I disagree, especially when it comes to testing.  Often the author will ask for feedback on chapters before they go to print.  The authors will usually have a blog or website where the book can be discussed and the interactoin will be there. 

  • The content is already old when the book is published. The ICT world goes faster and faster these days, but books must be reviewed, edited, printed, distributed, etc. And a good book gives discussion. This discussion is never printed (see point 1), but corrections resulting from this discussion are only published in later versions of the book.

I'll take an example from your list of blogs you read.  James Bach (and a couple of others) wrote 'Lessons Learned In Software Testing' which was published in 2002.  That makes the published book 7 years old and I can tell you everything in there is still relevant and should be mandatory reading for testers.  I haven't looked but I'm sure there are discussions regarding that book all over the place.

  • The purpose of the authors of test books is often for their own promotion. It looks good on their CV, not that of the reader

What's wrong with promoting yourself?  You have a blog, I have a blog, we use it to discuss ideas as well as self promotion.

It doesn't necessarily look good on the CV.  Writing a book doesn't impress.  Writing a good book does.
  • Test books are rarely based on good research. E.g. the kind of research done at universities. This makes the foundation very thin and often applicable to a very specific situation. What is left are opinions. Blogs and online fora are far more suitable for that.

How do you know? You don't read.  I agree there are bad test books out there, there is bad everything out there but you'll still learning something from the bad ones.  I disagree on the research as well, there's plenty of research, plenty of experience and plenty of situations that have gone into good test books.

  • I am, and this a personal one, a slow reader. I simply don't have the time to read boring books of 400+ pages.

 Don't read the boring books of 400+ pages.  Read the good ones.

 

4 Monday, 13 July 2009 20:34
Arjan Kranenburg

Joe, Michelle, and Tony: First of all, thanks for commenting!

Maybe that wasn't clear, but I did start reading in a few books on testing. But I have also not finished one of them, disappointed as I was by what I had read after a few chapters.

Joe: don't feel bad for me. I still get my information from blogs and fora and doing not so bad as a tester, if I may say so myself. But thanks for the list! Maybe.... you never know....

Michelle:

  • Indeed not all old technologies are obsolete. But in books I specifically mis the interactive parts that blogs and fora do have.
  • No doubt that writing a book is very hard, but I don't want to read test books that are written as an art form. I just want to be informed in a good and efficient way. Just like Mozart, authors have every right to write their 'art', but I chose just not to read them.
  • Not particular universities, but good research follows a "discovering, interpreting, and the development of methods and systems"-cycle. Often I find that the discovering and interpreting phases are left to some vague observations and opions leaving the rest of questionable value. I just wish there was more "science" behind it, although I realize that Testing is no Physics.


Tony:

  • Yes many books are based on articles published earlier on blogs. But why not leave it as a blog-post? Why not stop there? Sure, you will not reach all your readers, but then again, everyone has internet. Why not advertise for your site and increasing the discussion?
  • "Lessons Learned in Software Testing" is indeed a good example. I understand that the book contains a list of lessons learned. Great matterial for All you can find on the sites of Kaner, Bach or Pettichord are a short summary and a link to Amazon. Haven't they learned anything since 2001? Aren't there new lessons learned? Do others have lessons to add? Putting each lesson in an article and giving the possibility to people to comment and react on that, would definitely increase the value of those lessons.
  • Nothing wrong with some (modest) self promotion. But if books are written just for that, it means that the content of the book was of lesser importance than getting the book to the printer or reaching the targeted number of pages. I've seen those books just one too many and refuse to waste my time on that.
5 Tuesday, 14 July 2009 00:01

When you read a book, there is most certainly discussion - with yourself!  Almost every time I read a book, good or bad, my thinking is improved by my inner dialogue with the author.  If it's not, I put the book down.

The fact that you had any kind of emotional or logical response to what you read suggests that you did get something out of it.  In my case, that's usually a better understanding my own thinking.

I'm with you though on 'don't read boring books'.  That was the key to me re-discovering reading.  Find a library, quickly get the interesting (and possibly wrong/harmful/bad) ideas out of those bad books and take 'em back.

6 Sunday, 28 February 2010 08:04
steive

IMO reading books is one of the most important things for the human's evolution. read books, it helps!

 

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