I am thinking and talking a lot about ethics, lately. Maybe that’s because Context-Driven testing is getting better traction, now. More testers are approaching me, asking for guidance. More testers are challenging fake testing in their organizations.

Or maybe I’m just noticing it more, because Cem Kaner used to take the brunt of all this. In that respect, I have historically been more a follower than a leader in our community. Recently, I’ve stepped forward to be more of the role model that I am expected by my colleagues to be.

(Note: Ethics is a guaranteed sore subject. Whenever I talk about ethics, I can’t avoid implying that I believe some people are not as ethical as they should be. But, you know, that’s the burden of leadership. To those who avoid politically difficult subjects, enjoy your shadowy existence. Lurk on, yon lurkers.)

I have an ethical code. Actually, several! The Association for Software Testing adopted the ACM Code of Ethics, verbatim. It’s okay. I would have preferred the simpler IEEE Code, personally. I also almost completely follow Jerry Weinberg’s code. I take comfort from all of them, plus I have my own.

I need my own, because these codes above don’t directly deal with certain common testing ethics issues.

So, I’m the content-owner for the 2nd Kiwi Workshop on Software Testing, tomorrow morning, here in Wellington, New Zealand. Our topic is ethics. To get ready for it, I thought I would write out some of the ethical principles by which I strive to operate. Here they are:

  • Know what a test is. Avoid labeling an activity as a “test” unless it represents a sincere effort to discover a problem in a product.
  • Maintain a reasonable impartiality. The purpose of testing is to cast light on the status of the product and its context, in the service of my clients. I may play multiple roles on a project, but my purpose, insofar as I am a tester,  is not to design or improve the product.
  • Do not claim to assure, ensure, or control quality. I don’t control anything about the product: a tester is a witness. In that capacity, I strive to assist the quality creation process.
  • Report everything that I believe, in good faith, to be a threat to the product or to the user thereof, according to my understanding of the best interests of my client and the public good.
  • Apply test methods that are appropriate to the level of risk in the product and the context of the project.
  • Alert my clients to anything that may impair my ability to test.
  • Recuse myself from any project if I feel unable to give reasonable and workman-like effort.
  • Make my clients aware, with alacrity, of any mistake I have made which may require expensive or disruptive correction.
  • Do not accede to requests by my client to work in a wasteful, dangerous, or deceptive way. (e.g. I will not keep test case metrics, because they are damaging in almost any context)
  • If I do not understand or accept my mission, it shall be my urgent priority to discover it or renegotiate it.
  • Do not deceive my clients about my work, nor help others to perpetrate deception.
  • Do not accept tasks for which I am not reasonably prepared or possess sufficient competence to perform, unless I am under the direction and supervision of someone who can guide me.
  • Study my craft. Be alert to better solutions and better ways of working.