Converting Non-Testers: The Golden Hour

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Converting non-testers is tough, mainly for one reason: There is no substitute for EXPERIENCING unit tests.

You can extol the virtues of unit-tests until your lips go numb, show a non-tester as many tutorials as you like, but there is no substitute for them actually writing the tests and feeling the benefits.

Writing unit tests feels like extra work. When you say “Hey, you should write tests”, you’re telling a person “Trust me. It takes more time and effort now, but in four months you’re gonna LOVE it!”. Not an easy sale.

One think I have found is that it takes a single positive testing experience to totally convert someone. The remission rate is almost zero. That experience boils down to the Golden Hour.

The Golden Hour goes down like this:

  1. Non-believer decides they’ve heard enough about this unit-testing, and are ready to try it. They’re skeptical.
  2. They try to write a test. 
  3. The non-believer hits a wall. Because they aren’t especially motivated to get their tests to work, they conclude that unit-testing stinks, and stop.
This can be repeated many times by the same person. They’re going to get the same results each time unless you help them see the light.

Here’s where you as evangelist come in. Do whatever it takes in that hour. Help them refactor their code to make it testable. Explain different ways a trivial-looking test will help. WRITE A TEST FOR THEM. That’s right, do something that isn’t your job, and help a fellow human.

It’s intense therapy. It should feel intense. You are breaking someone out of their comfort zone and exposing them to something blindingly great. It should be hard.

A single example that applies to exactly what they’re doing is all it takes to create the A-HA moment for the non-believer. You’ll know it when you see it. They will flip from skeptic to convert. After that, you can walk away.  The Golden Hour is over. They’ve swallowed the Kool-aid. They’re testers now.

That’s all it takes. Sixty minutes to make the difference between doing things the Painful Bad Way, or doing them the Fun Good Way. So don’t waste time being all strategic with info sessions and tutorials.Watch for the Golden Hour and strike when you see it. Convert the non-believers.

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