Whither Test Cases?

So wrong. It's the bottom screen that's touch-sensitive, after all.I’m so sick of test cases. I wish they were dead.

Yes, that’s right. Frigging test cases. I hate their smugness, the way they sit there with their tedious screeds of text, secure in the warm glow of adoration they get cast upon them by everyone who doesn’t have to write the bastard things.

Oh, all right, fine – I don’t have deep philosophical objections to test cases, nor to your customers who ask for them. What I object to is over-inflation of their use to The One True Way, and more importantly the way they are perceived as infinite benefit but zero cost. If someone really wants test cases, that’s fine, but they can budget for the not-at-all-insubstantial cost of creating (let alone maintaining) them and the testing team certainly shouldn’t be solely relying on them for the testing of the solution.

What? Why don’t I like them? Well, there is a traditional perception of test cases being all things to all people: a guide, tutorial, help reference, reference bible, oh, and incidentally also the steps that you take to test the system. I think this is a dreadful, awful perception and want to stamp it out whenever I see it. What tests cases do is show you a set of specific steps that should result in specific outcomes. That’s it. Any other value people place on them is, at best, misguided, and that information should be obtained from the actual sources:

Someone said the other day that testing is traditionally the documentation layer for every other part of the system, and I think that’s now both unacceptable and frankly kind of silly. Testers should be paid money to test, not to obediently write things down that other people are supposed to be responsible for maintaining. Once we re-establish test cases as being only a largely wasteful, exhaustively detailed list of Steps To Do Things, it becomes clear that there are other more agile, more effective, and more wide-ranging ways of performing meaningful testing that will give a much better result. Plenty of people have described such methods, but the political battle needs to be won first.

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