I would never begrudge any company for becoming genuinely excited about a new product, service, or update that it’s about to release. It’s only natural that you’d want to share this news with the world.

Whenever we have new “news” at Testuff, believe me, you’ll hear about it. Email blasts, press releases, blog posts – we’ll typically explore any and all cost-effective strategies for getting the word out. This not only benefits end users who eventually subscribe to our software testing management tools, but it also benefits us. More clients = more revenue.

No big surprises there.

But in recent months, I’ve noticed a lot more media chatter about new tools and updates from within the test management world (as part of my due diligence as a developer of various tools for software testing, I subscribe to countless email newsletters and RSS feeds from the competition).

On the surface, this trend is only natural – the IT world is expanding and more people are using software and Web apps. There will always be more and more competition. I accept that.

This increased “chatter” isn’t the problem. If it were, then we’d be just as guilty as everyone else.

The problem is that many of these announcements are irrelevant (at best) and sometimes even outright deceptive (at worst). And we’re not talking about a handful of companies – we’re talking about a growing number of start-ups and established firms that are saturating online media with “important” announcements that don’t really benefit anyone at all – not even the companies themselves.

Which firms in particular? Well, I won’t name names – but I can categorize their actions in 3 broad groups (sometimes there’s a lot of overlap):

Group A: Irrelevant Testing Features That Aren’t Worth Publicizing

This group of announcements describes new and exciting software testing features that are really not that “new” or “exciting.” For example – the ability to auto-save an active test or the ability to send reports via email directly through the user interface.

These are generally minor updates that are actually okay to include in an internal blog or an email. And if a firm wants to invest money in a press release statement whose headline won’t really captivate the average user, that’s fine. I’m not terribly concerned about these types of announcements.

Group B: Deceptive Software Announcements That Mislead the End User

For the same reason that I subscribe to so many rival newsletters and RSS feeds, I also purchase many different competing tools for software testing. I like to know what we’re up against.

But what bothers me is when rivals announce a new feature or capability that doesn’t actually exist, or more often, doesn’t exist as promised.

  • It’s one thing to position your product in the best possible light. We do this for job interviews, dates, commercials, etc. Selling is an art form, and “spin” is just one of those areas you’ve gotta perfect.
  • It’s another thing altogether when you use hype and deception to get people through the door, after which you finally unveil the ugly truth – “there is no bearded lady behind this carnival curtain, and ‘no’ you can’t have your nickel back.”

Deception is the nice word for this. But lying is probably more appropriate. This offends me as a potential customer, but it also offends me as a tester. Our profession typically attracts geeky problem-solvers and not smooth, fast-talking operators. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times as software firms become desperate in today’s depressed economic climate.

Who knows?

Group C: It Should Be Beta… But We’re Calling It Live

This group of announcements offends me the most – it should bother all legitimate testers out there.

In this category, you have announcements about “stable” releases and features that aren’t truly “stable” (and the testers know it).

Look, I don’t mind if you ask your user-base for feedback. In fact, I’m a big proponent of this (see my earlier post on leveraging the wisdom of the crowds). But if you know that your product isn’t ready for primetime, then release it under beta. Let people know that:

  • There’s an earlier release of this product if you need something stable
  • There’s this newer version of the same product if you want to take a spin

This rule should apply to both major updates and incremental improvements.

Why does this last category bother me so much?

Because not only are you taking people’s money (like in Group B), but you’re also asking them to work for free as they help you work out YOUR bugs.

It’s like overcharging someone for a fancy dinner (that doesn’t deliver) and then having them clear their own table for you because you can’t spare any more waiters.

But it also offends me because, again, this tactic devalues our profession. Teachers don’t like to hear about other teachers who cut corners. Neither do doctors. Neither do lawyers (well – maybe not lawyers). And of course, neither do testers.

So what do we do about this?

We should start holding all of ourselves to a higher standard. When duped into buying a product, call the developers out on it. Let them know that this is not acceptable. And just so we’re clear – Testuff should never be immune to this type of criticism. If we ever waste your time with media announcements that fit any of the above groups, take us to task and force us to correct course.

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