Why Checking Is Not Enough

Here is a specific, real-world example of testing where the focus doesn’t include explicit checking, and does not result in yes-or-no answers to predetermined questions. This morning, I acted on a piece of email I received several days ago, offering a free upgrade to a PDF conversion package which I’ll call “PDFThing”. I’ll walk you through what happened, and parts of my thought process as it happened. Since the email … Read more

Scripts or No Scripts, Managers Might Have to Manage

A fellow named Oren Reshef writes in response to my post on Worthwhile Documentation. Let me be the devil’s advocate for a post. Not having fully detailed test steps may lead to insufficient data in bug reports. Yup, that could be a risk (although having fully detailed steps in a test script might also lead to insufficient data in bug reports; and insufficient to whom, exactly?). So what do you … Read more

What Exploratory Testing Is Not (Part 5): Undocumented Testing

This week I had the great misfortune of reading yet another article which makes the false and ridiculous claim that exploratory testing is “undocumented”. After years and years of plenty of people talking about and writing about and practicing excellent documentation as part of an exploratory testing approach, it’s depressing to see that there are still people shovelling fresh manure onto a pile that should have been carted off years … Read more

Worthwhile Documentation

In the Rapid Software Testing class, we focus on ways of doing the fastest, least expensive testing that still completely fulfills the mission. That involves doing some things more quickly, and it also involves doing other things less, or less wastefully. One of the prime candidates for radical waste reduction is documentation that’s incongruent with the testing mission. Medical device projects typically present a high degree of risk. Excellent testing … Read more

What Exploratory Testing Is Not (Part 4): Quick Tests

Quick testing is another approach to testing that can be done in a scripted way or an exploratory way. A tester using a highly exploratory approach is likely to perform many quick tests, and quick tests are often key elements in an exploratory approach. Nonetheless, quick testing and exploratory testing aren’t the same. Quick tests are inexpensive tests that require little time or effort to prepare or perform. They may … Read more

What Exploratory Testing Is Not (Part 3): Tool-Free Testing

People often make a distinction between “automated” and “exploratory” testing. This is like the distinction between “red” cars and “family” cars. That is, “red” (colour) and “family” (some notion of purpose) are in orthogonal categories. A car can be one colour or another irrespective of its purpose, and a car can be used for a particular purpose irrespective of its colour. Testing, whether exploratory or not, can make heavy or … Read more

What Exploratory Testing Is Not (Part 2): After-Everything-Else Testing

Exploratory testing is not “after-everything-else-is-done” testing. Exploratory testing can (and does) take place at any stage of testing or development. Indeed, TDD (test-driven development) is a form of exploratory development. TDD happens in loops, in which the programmer develops a check, then develops the code to make the check pass (along with all of the previous checks), then fixes any problems that she has discovered, and then loops back to … Read more

What Exploratory Testing Is Not (Part 1): Touring

Touring is one way of structuring exploratory testing, but exploratory testing is not necessarily touring, and touring is not necessarily exploratory. At one extreme, a tourist might parachute into a territory for which there is no detailed knowledge of the landscape, flora and fauna, or human culture, with the goal of identifying what’s there to be learned. Except in such cases, we wouldn’t call her a tourist; we’d call her … Read more

Shapes of Actions

In the spring of 2010, I was privileged to have a conversation with Simon Schaffer, who pointed me to the work of a sociologist and philosopher of science named Harry Collins. This year, I discovered and read Collins’ new book, Tacit and Explicit Knowledge, and a somewhat older book, The Shape of Actions (co-authored with Martin Kusch). My colleague James Bach and I believe that these books have great significance … Read more