Exploratory Testing with James Bach (or what every competent engineer should do too)

Today I attended the pre-conference for the ACCU 2010, a full day workshop on Exploratory Testing.  I didn’t realize when I signed up for the workshop that I`d previously heard of James Bach in two completely unrelated instances.  The first time it was during the Microsoft anti-trust, where his anticipate appearance and evidence for the trial was covered on Slashdot.  The second time was last year while he was a guest on the hanselminutes podcast to promote his book Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar.

Directed primarily at professional testers I perhaps wasn’t the intended audience for this workshop but I’m really glad I went along.  Just from the discussions I learned a lot about what it is like to be a software tester and the technical and organizational problems that they face.  I’m not going to go through the day in fine detail, but there were some key insights I’d like to jot down just so I can give them a permalink.

  • Automated Tests can be compared to Cruise Control: you can’t ignore the road just because you have some guidance.
  • Testing is an open-ended search in an ill defined space.
  • When people say that there are Diminishing Returns in testing they really mean to say there are Diminishing Ideas or Diminishing Patience.  Eureka moments that discover new bugs or situations can occur at any point.
  • “Any process that doesn’t include learning is a sick fantasy”.  Waterfall, V-Model, etc are all directed acyclic graphs.  Couldn’t agree more.

Take-aways

There was a lot crammed into the day but it never felt particularly rushed or haphazard.  James has an great presentation style and he really challenged the group to discover the learning points under our own steam.  There were lots of opportunities for interaction and the use of magic tricks to highlight testing strategies was a lot of fun.  Recommended!



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