Beware Cults of Testing

jason arbon
3 min readJul 29, 2023

The many diverse views on software testing are a testament to the field’s dynamic nature and its ongoing evolution, which, by and large, is beneficial. As software quality and testing remain open to innovation and development, it’s essential to explore a variety of techniques and perspectives. However, it’s equally crucial to be wary of ‘cultish’ tendencies that may emerge within certain groups. These can potentially be harmful to the individual practitioners and the discipline itself.

Staunch Adherence to Principles and Practices

When assessing various software testing methodologies, it’s prudent to be cautious if the approach demands unquestioning obedience to a rigid set of principles and practices. As a field in constant flux, software testing should be open to revisions and challenges. Moreover, because the software industry is evolving at an unprecedented pace, older methodologies may not hold the same relevance today. This doesn’t automatically discredit older methodologies; however, it’s important not to latch onto a single approach without considering others.

Unquestioning Respect for Founders or Leaders

Another potential pitfall is the blind reverence for the founders or leaders of a particular methodology. Great ideas should be valued for their inherent worth, not necessarily because of the individuals behind them. It’s unlikely that one or two people have all the answers while everyone else is in the dark. Remain discerning and open to other perspectives.

Overuse and Creation of Specific Terminology

While professional methodologies often have domain-specific terminology, beware of those that develop insular vocabularies or redefine common terms. This can create unnecessary confusion within the industry and make it difficult for new testers to communicate their ideas effectively.

Insularity or Exclusivity

A software testing community that intentionally separates itself from others in the field, or dismisses other methodologies, might be showing signs of cultish behavior. Healthy intellectual discourse should involve openness and engagement with different communities.

Resistance to Criticism

If practitioners or leaders of a testing group show an overly defensive reaction to criticism, this might be cause for concern. A healthy scientific and philosophical debate should involve the assessment of criticism based on its merit, not an immediate rejection or denial.

Mislabeling as a Science or Philosophy

If a testing discipline positions itself as a ‘science’ or ‘philosophy,’ scrutinize it carefully. Genuine science involves rigorous, peer-reviewed research, while legitimate philosophy is clear, consistent, coherent, and open to refutation. Mislabeling could be an attempt to avoid direct comparison or scrutiny.

Motivations Behind the Methodology

Consider the primary motivations behind the group. Are they seeking the truth, furthering a business, seeking personal gain, or maintaining or gaining recognition? In the realm of software testing, these motivations can manifest in many ways, including through consulting contracts, training programs, proprietary testing tools, or simply the desire for notoriety.

Are you in a Cult of Testing?

No single factor conclusively determines a cult; however, the presence of several such elements increases the likelihood. If you find yourself in a testing ‘cult,’ it may be difficult to recognize, as you may dismiss these signs. Some people may choose to join such groups knowingly, but for the sake of software quality and personal career growth, it’s crucial to remain vigilant against such tendencies.

For additional insights, consider researching cult mind control. A great tester questions biases, both within themselves and others, while avoiding any tendencies towards cultish behavior.

— Jason Arbon



jason arbon

blending humans and machines. co-founder @testdotai eater of #tunamelts