Bullshit Alert! On The Bullshitisation of Software Testing
Maaike Brinkhof

Bullshit Alert! On The Bullshitisation of Software Testing


In 2018, David Graeber published the book Bullshit Jobs, in which he argues that over half of societal work is pointless. This book struck a chord with me because in the last 10 years I have felt that my job as tester was at times pointless. Testing in itself is not bullshit, but it definitely has many elements that we can classify as bullshit. This has caused me to feel cognitive dissonance and other unpleasant feelings about my job, as you can imagine. In this talk, I will map the main arguments from Bullshit Jobs to testing and investigate the bullshitisation of software testing jobs. 

I’ll go over the 5 types of Bullshit Jobs and argue which ones apply to testing. I will then try to identify why testing in itself is not pointless, but how it transforms into mostly bullshit when you add certain elements and tasks to it, based on personal experiences. Are some testing roles more susceptible to bullshitisation? I’ll also take a look at the correlation between how testing work is organised versus the amount of bullshit this adds to a testers job.  

Last but not least, we’ll have to confront ourselves with the question “now what!?”. What can we do to avoid the bullshitisation in testing? Is it even a problem? Because this is ultimately an extremely opinionated talk around what the value of testing is and isn’t, I cannot answer this for you. But I can tickle your brain and get you to ponder over this topic and that’s what I’ll do! So grab your bullshit alert and come listen.

What You'll Learn

  • Brains will be tickled: I want you to consider if there are elements in your job that are bullshit
  • Understand the 5 types of bullshit jobs and which ones possible map to testing jobs
  • I hope you will be inspired to read the book Bullshit Jobs and find out for yourself if you agree with what's written and map it to your context as software tester.