What Guides Us?

Author : Diwakar Menon

Today’s newspaper article about the sentencing of a former VW executive in the now famous Dieselgate scandal, brought back memories of a talk that my colleague Sridhar Parthasarathy gave at QAI’s  Software Testing Conference, back in 2015. [The slides can be accessed here]

He raised the bogey of ethics in software development and testing, and the fact that the line between right and wrong, both legal or moral, didn’t seem to come out strongly when either developing or testing a product. Would your legal or moral compass lead you to be developing (or testing) a product such as that developed by VW?

If you were a tester, would you still have tested to deliver a ‘quality’ product, as defined by its meeting of the flawed requirements given to you by someone out to commit a moral or legal wrong? Or would your internal compass point out its flaws? Or would you need a codified set of ethics to benchmark your work against?

A question that I think we should always ask ourselves : “If I were testing legally or morally wrong software (like the VW software that deliberately gave wrong results which is legally incorrect), what would my stand be?”

While there are different bodies codifying their stand on ethics (ISTQB, ACM etc.), there is still not enough done to bring this into the public eye. Every profession I know has one (like the Hippocratic Oath), that people of that profession can identify with and will use as their compass. It is maybe high time that the software community (and specifically the testing community) has one too?

I don’t believe the violations will stop, but then the code can define good and bad behaviour and self-correcting measures.

I believe the code of ethics needs to be put out more often; we need to debate more on tester ethics than tester skills; we need to celebrate individuals who have taken a stand more!

Let 2018 be that year when the testing community celebrates its ‘Silence Breakers’!