Matt Heusser wrote an interesting post about “boutique testers.” I like the idea of boutique testers (boutique intellectuals of all kinds, actually, which is why I wrote my new book.) And I am an example of one. The testing I’ve done in recent years has been mostly on court cases or part of coaching testers, though. I want to do more ordinary testing. I need that in order to keep up my practice.
I live on an island, making travel expensive and annoying. But I have a great Internet connection.
There are important challenges to being a remote tester, though. The main technical problem, in my experience, is acquiring and configuring the product to test. Getting up to speed fast benefits from being onsite. The main social problem is trust. Hiring a remote tester, especially one who’s supposed to be high powered, is a little like hiring a therapist. In my experience, developers feel more sensitive about a well-paid, high status outsider poking at their work, than they do about an internal tester who probably will disappear in a few weeks.
Then there’s communication. Despite all the tools for modern communication, we haven’t yet developed a culture of remote interaction that lets us use those tools effectively. Even though I’m always on Skype, and people can see I’m on Skype, they still ask permission to call me on Skype! And I also feel nervous about calling other people on Skype. They might be annoyed with me. I do use GoToMeeting, and that helps a lot. Michael Bolton and I have been collaboratively writing, recently, using it. We like it.
Finally, there is one big logistical problem: availability. You can call me up and have me test for you. But, being a fully independent consultant, my time is chopped up. I have a week here and a few days there, usually. This is the main reason I go in for short-term consulting and coaching. Unless a rich client comes along and induces me to clear my schedule, I can’t afford to have only that one client.
Still, with the price of travel so high, I think this is the direction we need to go: each of us developing ourselves into unique thinkers with strong brands, and then remotely connecting (interesting oxymoron, eh?) with our clients.