Code is Poetry – But What About Testing?

WordPress used to have a tagline saying “code is poetry”, apparantly Microsft has used it too. I don’t know who came up with it first, but I agree. I wrote my first piece of BASIC code almost 30 years ago, my first machine code program more than 25 years ago, and learned C also about 25 years ago. Code can be as meaningful and meaningless as poetry, so the analogy is correct. To me at least.

Now, many years later, I’m a professional tester. I find problems with other peoples business processes, architecture, software designs, and implementations. I don’t write code any more (except when I’m using it to test something).

But where’s the poetry? Is testing essentially a non-poetic activity?

I don’t think so. Yet, it doesn’t make sense to say “tests are poetry”. They aren’t. Then, what are they?

13 thoughts on “Code is Poetry – But What About Testing?

  1. To me tests are pretty pictures, because if I was to pull out what was in my mind while testing and turn this into an art form it would be just that, pretty, with lots of never ending threads leading down all different paths.

    The most important part is it would always be unfinished! As testing is just that, an art form that never ends, we can go on for as long as time permits or our minds can retain their sanity.

    1. andersdinsen 2010-11-23 — 21:59

      That’s very good, Darren. I almost want to start painting now, and it reminded me of fractals – so I downloaded Mandelbrot Madness and made the above image. (Fractals were very big in the 1980’s. They are still fascinating and driving couriosity.)

      1. Wow your taking me way back now, I remember the hours of fun I used to have with Fractal programs.

        Your right though if it could be a picture that’s what it would be a big splurge at the start, then many side tracking paths leading me down different area’s of the product, each spawning their own treads.

  2. As Elisabeth Hendrickson has said, testing is not a phase. Testing is an integral part of development, along with the production code. And of course, we have automated tests for our code, those must be poetry as well since they are code. Exploratory testing, helping customers create good examples to drive coding, collaborating with programmers to build the right product, all these require creativity and create beauty IMO.

    1. andersdinsen 2010-11-25 — 00:26

      I like this perspective, Lisa. Code is poetry == tests are poetry because they’re part of the same. I also like how you point out that there’s an aesthetic perspective to software development, including test! Indeed there is.

  3. Michael Johnston 2010-11-23 — 23:20

    I guess i would agree with Lisa. Tests shape the code, tests help form the code. So you could say that tests are the poets tools. Though I’d prefer “tests are the poets muse”

  4. Michael Johnston 2010-11-23 — 23:22

    Perhaps tests are the poet himself.

    1. andersdinsen 2010-11-25 — 00:27

      Poets are intelligent and creative. Can tests be intelligent and creative? I don’t think so. Testers are.

  5. In contrast to Darren’s imagery, I like to think of testing as a blank canvas for each project that comes my way. Armed with an extensive array of tools that evolve with every project.

    Or perhaps (trying not to sound a bit too much like Forrest Gump) testing is like a big box of chocolates.
    Our mission? To discover the hard (toffee) centres that everyone hates.

    It’s never a great idea idea to think of analogies when you’re hungry, right? 🙂

    1. andersdinsen 2010-11-25 — 00:30

      Haha, no don’t do anything when you’re hungry. Just eat! 🙂

      But, Del. How about this perspective: You have that box of chocolates. And you want to discover THE hard centres. You do that by assuming they are there – and then you go find them.
      I think that’s an important aspect of testing. A good developer will start with the assumption that his code will work. We start out with the assumption it will not!

  6. Earl Everett 2010-11-24 — 00:20

    Test automation code can be poetry.

    If you’re willing to expand the poetry requirement a bit (i.e. “poetry in motion”) watching a tester in a ‘flow’ state can be quite poetic.

    And perhaps, just perhaps, it is poetry:

    1. andersdinsen 2010-11-25 — 00:32

      Nice Haiku’s, thanks for the link, Earl!

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