Deciding to have lots of children and lots of tests is still fun later on

I recently saw a paraphrased quote by James Bach from a testing meetup in Sydney.

Deciding to have lots of (automated) checks [sic: tests] is like deciding to have lots of children. It’s fun at first, but later…

I read it a number of times and each time I read it I disagreed with it a little more.

As a proud father of three beautiful boys, I truly believe having lots of children is fun at first AND fun later on. Sure, having lots of kids is hardest thing you’ll ever do and continues to be hard as each day goes by, but hard and fun aren’t opposites or mutually exclusive whatsoever1; I’ve actually found them to be strongly correlated (think of your funnest job: was it easy?). So don’t let anybody put you off having lots of kids ever, because they are still loads of fun later on (assuming you’re not scared of hard work). I love my boys: they’re the funnest people I know and they get funner every day.

As a developer of software, I also believe having lots of automated tests is fun later on, on the proviso that you’ve put thought into them upfront. I truly believe the only way to make sustainable software that you can change and refactor with confidence is to develop it using self-testing code. Sure, having too many automated e2e tests can be a PITA2 but I’d choose lots of automated tests over no or very few automated tests any day of the week3. Again, don’t let someone put you off having lots of automated tests: just do them right!


I asked James Bach on Twitter about his quote (and how many children he has, the answer is one), and in the typical self-righteous context driven testing ‘community’ style I was called ‘reckless’ for choosing to have three beautiful boys with my lovely wife.

It didn’t end there with other members of the ‘community’ doing what they do4 and taking the opportunity to jump in uninvited, attack me for even wondering how someone with only one child can comment on having lots of children, and try to intimidate me by accusing me of using ‘ad-hominem’ falacies/attacks against James Bach (they like big words).

This entire episode reaffirms my choice to have nothing whatsoever to do with the context driven testing ‘community’ and anyone who associates themselves with it (which started by me deleting my twitter account so they can’t attack me or have anything to do with me).

My final word of warning to those of you who still consider yourself part of that ‘community’, a comment about ‘context-driven testing':

“I chose not to engage in those dogmatic discussions. I once had a job interview where the term context-driven led one of the devs to do some googling. I had to defend myself for affiliating as he’d found some right contentious and dogmatic stuff and wondered if I were some kind of extremist for including that term in my resume. It’s no longer in my resume, FWIW.”



[1] I recently read that happiness and unhappiness aren’t actually the opposite of one another: you can be both happy and unhappy at the same time.

[2] In case you didn’t know: PITA means ‘pain in the ass’, and lots of end to end tests are a pain in the ass. There’s lots of articles on here about why, the most recent one being about and its 100,000 e2e tests.

[3] FWIW most codebases I have worked on have had zero to little automated tests, so I don’t think having too many automated tests is our common industry problem.

[4] It’s not hard to find examples of where members of this ‘community’ rally against and intimidate a particular person they disagree with on twitter, for examples: here, here, here, here, here, etc. I personally know a fellow tester who had a very similar negative experience to me a couple of years ago and has since distanced herself also.

8 thoughts on “Deciding to have lots of children and lots of tests is still fun later on

  1. “just do them right”
    Having lead a team of testers which had a tremendous amount of test debt (poorly written,unsustainable & unreliable) thrust on us …it would have been an easy choice for us to give up and declare automation tests are hard /satanic/non sapient/useless
    Instead we chose to build tests from scratch and more importantly the team built trust IN the tests first BEFORE building trust in what they output

    Same applies to children :)

    And thank you for standing up & expressing your thoughts on the glorified trollism that occurs in the name of testing schools .

  2. Thanks for sharing this Alister.

    Disclaimer – I recall seeing some of the tweets but I probably didn’t get to them all.

    As you know, I’m a member of the CDT community and my only real gripe is the hint of generalisation in the post. I don’t consider myself, or any of my closet colleagues in the CDT community, to be self-righteous. It is a shame that such a personal analogy was used, or indeed it was taken that way. I have one child, and while I agree it would be harder with more, I also agree that it would be a lot more fun. However, to be honest, I don’t think the analogy is a good fit and therefore don’t want to get into it. Children and automation checks are not comparable in my opinion, and the level of difficulty with large quantities of either depends on a great many things.

    “This entire episode reaffirms my choice to have nothing whatsoever to do with the context driven testing ‘community’ and anyone who associates themselves with it (which started by me deleting my twitter account so they can’t attack me or have anything to do with me).”

    While I understand this Alister, I also see it as a shame. I think you have a lot to offer and would like to learn from you… but if you will have nothing to do with me, then…

    I’ll still read your posts though.


  3. Hi Alister, when I read your post, it had a feeling of familiarity. I have had a couple similar exchanges with similar folks, and the haughty vibe can be pretty evident. Anyway, thanks for your blog. I enjoy it and share many posts with my team…Bob

  4. There are problems with taking metaphors and similes as literal statements. I think that may have happened here.

    I’m getting older and my memory is getting fuzzy, so I’d be interested in seeing Alister’s tweets that preceded James’. My recollection is that they represented a personal attack, provocative, and not exactly overflowing with the milk of human kindness. If I remember right, the tweets asked how anyone with only one kid could possibly know anything about what it was like to have multiple kids.

    Speaking of kids, this post reminds me of something that one sometimes hears from kids: “It all started when he hit me back.” However, since the account has been deleted, it’s unlikely that we’ll be in a position to reconstruct the exchange, and so we’re left here with only one side to the story. Oh well.

    I notice that both members of the CDT community here have signed their names, rather than posting with pseudonyms. That’s interesting to me.

  5. Good one Alister! I am a bit shocked by James Bach’s comments. How does someone so arrogant as to criticize anyone who disagreed with him. Unless he was joking, otherwise I am feeling sorry for his child.

  6. Alister: For what it’s worth, I share your sentiments with the so-called “Context Driven” crowd. I have found that, over time, they have become intolerant of anything that doesn’t fit their perceived definition of context. Ironic, considering that context is supposed to be situational and … well, contextual. Those few tweets you pointed out, as well as many other examples, show the context crowd as more often than not being divisive and combative, largely because if you don’t agree with their notion of “right” or “correct” then you are not part of “their community.”

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