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Perfect Software: And Other Illusions about Testing [Paperback]

by Gerald M. Weinberg
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 29, 2008 0932633692 978-0932633699
Everyone has a role to play in software testing -- even people outside a project team. Testers, developers, managers, customers, and users shape the process and results of testing, often unwittingly. Rather than continue to generate stacks of documents and fuel animosity, testers can cultivate rich opportunities and relationships by integrating an effective testing mentality into any process.

Jerry Weinberg, author of The Psychology of Computer Programming and more than forty nonfiction books, sets out to disprove destructive notions about testing and testers in Perfect Software And Other Illusions About Testing. With a blend of wit, storytelling, and jaw-dropping insight that has won him fans around the world, Weinberg deftly separates what is expected, significant, and possible in software testing. He destroys fallacies and steers readers clear of common mistakes.

We test because people are not perfect, and simply testing more does not guarantee better quality. This book guides test strategy development that's scalable for any project.

Topics include:

- Why Not Just Test Everything?
- Information Immunity
- What Makes a Test Good?
- Major Fallacies About Testing
- Determining Significance
- Testing Without Machinery
- and much more.

Frequently Bought Together

Perfect Software: And Other Illusions about Testing + Lessons Learned in Software Testing: A Context-Driven Approach + How Google Tests Software
Price for all three: $74.52

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Editorial Reviews


Finally! A book about software testing written by someone who actually understands software testing. I consider Jerry to be the greatest living tester. Jerry tests everything. Jerry tests me. . . . Read this and get your head straight about testing. --James Bach, consulting software tester, author of Lessons Learned in Software Testing

This concise and cogent book -- a gift to testers -- explodes myths about what testing can and can't do. We'll each want at least two copies -- one for our own bookshelves, and another to hand to our clients so that they can better understand precisely how we can help them. --Michael Bolton, tester, trainer, and consultant, DevelopSense

About the Author

Internationally respected for his innovative thinking on both human and technical issues, Gerald M. Weinberg focuses on ways to help people improve their productivity. A highly influential author, lecturer, and consultant, he draws on experiences gained in all three roles, as well as from a long technical career as a software developer and researcher. Jerry has written on topics ranging from computer systems and programming to education and problem solving -- and most recently, on writing, itself, and fiction. He is the author of more than forty books.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Dorset House (August 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0932633692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0932633699
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #805,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I write both non-fiction and fiction, in paper and for eReaders (such as Kindle). My fiction includes such novels as Mistress of Molecules; First Stringers: or eyes that do not see; Second Stringers: the sole advantage; The Hands of God; The Aremac Project; Aremac Power: Inventions at Risk; Earth's Endless Effort.

I am the author or co-author of many non-fiction articles and books, including a number on more effective thinking: The Psychology of Computer Programming; An Introduction to General Systems Thinking; Are Your Lights On?; What Did You Say?; and Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method.

My books on leadership include Becoming a Technical Leader, The Secrets of Consulting, More Secrets of Consulting, and the Quality Software Management four-volume series.

My books cover all phases of the software life-cycle, including Exploring Requirements; Rethinking Systems Analysis and Design; The Handbook of Walkthroughs, Inspections, and Technical Reviews; General Principles of System Design, Perfect Software and Other Illusions about Testing; How Software is Built; and Why Software Gets in Trouble.

I offer several blogs and workshops for writers and technical leaders including Problem Solving Leadership (PSL) and the Amplifying Your Effectiveness (AYE) Conference. They can be see on my personal website is at

You may read more about me in the Festschrift, The Gift of Time, edited by Fiona Charles and written by many of my students and readers.

I also assist my wife, Dani, in training dogs for service activities and as pets. Her work is described in her book, Teaching People, Teaching Dogs, which can also be purchased on Amazon.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - for the right audience May 11, 2009
If you've been in testing long, you've probably heard the standard impossible questions:

"Why didn't you find that?"
"Why would we hire a human to test when we can automate our testing?"
"This NEEDS TO WORK. And we need it next week. Period"

If you drank the deep draught of testing, if you've struggled with it, wrestled with it, and gotten good at it, I have only one thing to say:

This probably ain't the book for you.

This book is for the people who are asking you the impossible questions.

Seriously. This is a nice evening read and will provide an executive, manger, or developer with enough information about testing to (A) understand some of the challenges of the role, (B) set appropriate expectations, and (C) communicate those expectations clearly.

In other words, it can be the difference between a sane life and an insane one - if only you can get the right people to read it.

Now, the style of the book is plain prose and folsky story - it's the kind of thing you can read in an comfortable evening, or perhaps, two. It doesn't have fancy metrics and graphs, but we all know what Mark Twain said about that.

So if you are a seasoned tester, this book might not be for you - it's for your boss, your bosses boss, the customer, the CEO, and The New Guy. I wanted to get my management team the book as a Christmas present, but somehow all those folks had read it before Christmas ... I suspect a co-worker.

Absolutely great for it's niche. Top Flight. Buy two copies to give away today!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Things to consider March 12, 2009
I know Jerry Weinberg. I like him, treasure his advice, and have read and liked many of his books. This is another of his books that I like.

Jerry writes around testing software. I say "around" instead of "about" because this book isn't about the technical aspects of testing software. I find it to be about the personal and thoughtful aspects of testing software. More importantly, it is about information - communicating, considering, and applying information.

This all starts with Jerry's definition of Testing a System:

a process of gathering information about it with the intent that the information could be used for some purpose.

Aha! Gathering information that we can use. I agree. I have often pleaded with people on projects to understand this about testing.

I don't know how often I have heard screams of, "The test failed! The test failed!"

No, the test didn't fail. We learned something from the test, so it was a success. Perhaps you were disappointed by what you learned from the test, but the test didn't fail.

This is why I love Weinberg's book about testing. Its contents will last beyond the current and next three generations of test tools and techniques. It cuts to the heart of testing in a timeless manner.

Simple, right? Wrong. The second half of the testing definition is about using the information, and people use the information. Now we come to a huge hurdle. "Information is power." Some people crave information, and many people fear it, even to the point of hiding it or lying about it.

Weinberg discusses the fear at length, how to spot the fear, and how to work with the people who are afraid.

Yes, I recommend this book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful book October 14, 2008
A really useful book. Testing is the most misunderstood of software related activities. Even by software development professionals.

The book explains what we can expect from testing, what are the main challenges, and what is wrong with common practices and attitudes.

Short, well written (as always with Gerald Weinberg's books), easy to read, without technical details, this book is a good introduction to the realities of software testing, for every stakeholder of software projects and of software products.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The realities of software testing January 6, 2009
Exhaustive testing of software is generally impossible; in all but the most simple of cases the number of possible paths is effectively infinite. By that I mean that while the number is finite, it is so large that only a tiny percentage could ever be tested. So in practice the number is infinite. Since humans are prone to error and the number of possible paths where a bug can be introduced into a program is also very large, the bug-free (perfect) program is an unattainable goal. It is no fun, but that is just the way things are.
Being driven by optimism and necessity, humans still create millions of lines of code every year and many of these programs are released into the untamed wilderness known as the customer base. Therefore, conscientious developers have no choice but to develop a testing program that will have a reasonable chance of identifying the most significant and likely bugs in the software.
As Weinberg points out, some people do make the choice to do very little testing, sometimes relying on an approach like "If we get lucky, no one will experience that bug." Others simply redefine the bug as a feature and move on. Neither of these approaches is ethical nor will it provide you with legal cover. In a very witty yet understated style, Weinberg describes some of the circumstances he has encountered where people simply denied there was a problem and if that failed tried to hoist the problem onto someone else.
As is the case in most areas of software development, the solution lies more in the realm of group psychology rather than technical expertise. Having authored the classis "The Psychology of Computer Programming" Weinberg is an expert at finding what solutions are available to this seemingly impossible problem.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for managers, interesting for non-managers
As other reviews stated, this is a great book for anyone managing a QA team. However for a QA engineer, it's more of an interesting read than something required. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Lara Michelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Succinct masterpiece: reframes view of testing
This is a short, but amazing read! It addresses so many misconceptions and misunderstandings about software from all angles: from the software tester, to the developers, to the... Read more
Published 16 months ago by SGIL
3.0 out of 5 stars Thanks for supporting software testing, but your book was a little...
I am a software test engineer. I read this book because I was hoping to get some ideas for how to improve my testing, and also to help myself cope with the stresses of the job a... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Marla Cox
5.0 out of 5 stars a shocking look within
I bought this book on the advise of a colleague. Part way through the first chapter I was hooked. I didn't really learn a whole lot about testing, but I did learn a lot about... Read more
Published on February 11, 2011 by Lyndon Vrooman
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent on humanity, weak on what is perfectable
Like many who follow Jerry Weinberg's works, I love the humanity of this book. The ineraction and people seem like many I work with, facing these same challenges. Read more
Published on August 20, 2010 by J. Howard
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book for Testers and their Managers
As a software testing consultant, I have had the same mentoring session about one thousand times (or at least it seems) with different IT, development and testing managers. Read more
Published on January 6, 2010 by Randy Rice
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a "How To" Book - More of a "Why" or "Why Not" Book
Perfect Software is a high-level look at some of the "big picture questions" about testing, such as: Why do we have to bother testing? Do we have to test everything? Read more
Published on October 10, 2009 by Joseph S. Strazzere
3.0 out of 5 stars The quest for perfect software
Yes, generally software can't be considered perfect. But do we need to write a book about that? Isn't that common knowledge? Read more
Published on June 7, 2009 by Dmitry N.
1.0 out of 5 stars This is a terrible book.
This is the most ridiculous software test book on the market. It is full of poorly written 'real world' scenarios that go on for pages, which then end with the most superficial... Read more
Published on April 23, 2009 by Sally Foster
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for any head of a software development team
Humans aren't perfect, so why do we expect it of our software? "Perfect Software: and other Illusions about Testing" is a guide for software developers telling them that perfection... Read more
Published on December 12, 2008 by Midwest Book Review
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