21 Philosophical Answers

In his blog, Colin Cherry posted 21 philosophical questions about software testing. When reading the questions, I immediately came up with some answers. So at the end of the list I thought, why not answer them in my blog. So here we are.

Software Testing: 21 Philosophical Questions

1) When you get an unexpected outcome, do you assume it’s a Bug?
That depends of course on the outcome. But my first answer would be NO. If the outcome is unexpected, I think about, why did I not expect this. What is wrong, my expectation or the outcome? Are there more possible answers than just one?
I would say, even in case of a check, not all unexpected outcomes might bugs.

2) % Production data (extracts), % manufactured data?
I really like production data. I like to have a big chunk of production data in my systems. Gives good examples on how the customer is using the system.
When it comes to new features or areas like reporting, then I would prefer also good manufactured data. If the system allows it, separated from the production data.
If you really want to know a percentage, I would say about 80/20. And it does not have to be a complete production dump.

3) Controlled analysis or independent thinking?
I like independent thinking. Most important for me is, that my co-workers can explain to me why they are thinking that way. At the end I want to know what went through their mind when testing, how does that fit to my model of the system. What am I missing and what are they missing? If they cannot come up with their own model, I try to assist with explaining my model, to help them build up their own.

4) Software Testing: Science or Art?
I would say both. It’s like an artisan. You need good or even excellent craft skills and you need to be an artist to produce something, that not everybody is able to reproduce.
There is room both for testers like craftsmen and also for artisans, if the environment allows such characters. Artists, like bug magnets without skills, not so much of need.

5) When you find a Bug do you consider it a positive or a negative?
That depends on the where and when. In general bugs are positive. Learning about the system what works and what does not. Often bugs tell me more about the dependencies and relations inside a system than the working processes. In those cases, a-ha effect, awesome.
On the other hand, like on one of my current projects. When the overall quality of a project is deep in the valley, and you think now dev got the turn, and the system gets better build by build, and then you find bugs again or you find bugs that are so easy to spot (like on log-in) and you realize, that they did not even properly test the implementations. When you realize the context of the bug, and it is disappointing, then it’s negative.

6) Is your Testing 50% done or 50% outstanding?
We are 50% done, when we saw big portions of the system and did not find many problems. If we’re halfway through the planned activities and found a lot of problems, then 50% are outstanding, with way more to come.

7) Do you look forward to discussions with Developers regarding their work?
Yes, always. Talking with the developers is always interesting. It gives an insight on the system. You see the different characters of developers. You learn what language they speak and can use their words for a better understanding. You can always ask them what areas of their code, they would test more intense. Ask them for test ideas. So much to talk.

8) How much Testing is enough?
Until some stakeholder is able to make an informed decision, where I’m sure, that he has the biggest part of decision-relevant information at hand. Too vague, of course.

9) Context-Driven or Factory-fed?
I was a context-driven tester in a factory environment for 10 years. Didn’t even know about context-driven testing during all those years, I was always disappointed with the factory-approach to the project. So, definitely context-driven.

10) Automation speeds up or slows down your Testing initiatives?
It helps a lot. But not everywhere. Bring in automation where it makes sense, bring in a good approach to automation, something that is easy to adapt, and it helps.
Try to automate everything, or a bad approach, not good.

11) Vendor, Open-Source or Bespoke tools?

12) Certification or Accreditation?
Proof! Certificates are ok. Accreditation by whom? Most value to me it to see people test, and ask questions along the way.

13) % Prevention, % Cure?
That depends from project to project.

14) Do you get concerned if you don’t find enough Bugs?
Usually, yes. Lately the software tends to break easy. So finding not many bugs makes me skeptical. But what it enough anyway. Looking into the crystal ball, rolling dice, reading tea leaves, asking dev how many bugs they have hidden. All methods are as exact as any other. So it’s only a gut feeling at the end.

15) Should the Testing Team have a say in the release of software?
I like the way my company handles it. Test is providing the information for a Go/NoGo-meeting. There the test department suggests a go or no go based on the open risks. This is not binding the stakeholders. But they have to argue to their bosses when they overrule a no go.

16) What is an acceptable pass/fail ratio for System Test?
Depends on the fail. One epic fail maybe a showstopper, hence 20 small bugs might only be a reason to deliver an update a couple of days after UAT or GoLive.

17) Triage: AM or PM?
Tried different times and approaches. No clear favorite.

18) UAT: Should non-professional Testers (i.e. Users) perform Test execution tasks?
Of course. Non-professional testers will be the users of the system.

19) Testing effort: Onshore or offshore?
Depends on the approach of testing. I tried my first SBTM project and I would not want to do it with offshore.
I like to have my team onsite communicating with each other, learning and improving.
I’m working with offshore now and I have worked both successful and unsuccessful with offshore before. It always depends on the approach, the people involved and the energy needed to keep it rolling.

20) Confidence or scepticism?
Always confident to learn more, always sceptical that PM, BA and Dev really did a good job.

21) Is your Testing completed or finished?
Only on hold for a certain time.

Thanks Colin for your philosophical questions. That brought me the chance to make up my mind a bit in some of those areas.


The Bowl of Communication

I started with my new company this year. And when I came here, the test team had a bad reputation. Managing from trans-Atlantic, bringing in offshore, being a bit offshore at the same time, even if dev is sitting also here, and having someone on the team, most people try to avoid due to bad communication skills. The team members here in Munich were not talking to each other, areas in the system were split between people, even if nearly all parts of the system interact some how.

To break the ice, I tried to communicate as much as possible with development and project management. But nobody came to my desk.

So I brought in the “Bowl of Communication”. Being a hobby woodturner helps. I put that nice thick bowl of beech on my desk and filled it up with sweets. I positioned it near the door, so that everybody coming along would see it. And it soon started to work. People came in, to grab some sweets, have some small talk, used the chance to discuss something technical.

During summer the bowl was empty. Could have brought gummi bears, but chocolates are always good, and our room was tooooo hot. Yes sir, south side, and no air-condition. Visitors came more scarcely.

In September the weather got better again. The project was a bit frustrating, so bring in the sweets again. And it helped again. People were stopping by again, sometimes several times a day. Bringing in news from the project, adding information on where to look more intensively, letting of steam, discussing bug reports, philosophizing about the specification. And all supported by a small bag of gummi bears or chocolates.

What one small bowl of sweets can change…


And yes, that’s “Explore it!” by Elisabeth Hendrickson (@testobsessed)
Always good to have some interesting looking books on the desk. Sometimes also a good way to start communication!!!

I am a man of strong convictions…

“I am a man of strong convictions, but I hold them very lightly”
by James Bach

What does that mean? It means that James will fight tooth and nail for the things he believes, the things he holds dar, the convictions he has, but he reserves the right to be convinced otherwise, and if he can be convinced, he is perfectly willing to drop the previous conviction.

comment by Mike Larsen

Why “why” makes a tester’s life easier…

A good story tells not only what has been done/achieved, but it also tells you WHY. How could you rate the solution (what), if you don’t know the problem (why)?

I have some examples where a short explanation of why saves time and adds so much more.

Writing test cases
Have you ever followed test cases step by step, not thinking what you do, just checking if the system meets the expected result to the letter? Were you happy with that? If yes, please stop reading.

Have you ever tried to learn something from a detailed pre-scripted test set, that explains only what to do in every detail?

“Change the string Test1234_-%$ to Test1234 _-%$”. OK, what? Let’s check the expected result. “An error message should occur.” or better “Saving should not be possible.” Now that explains everything.
A short explanation that spaces are not allowed in that string, but alphanumeric and some special characters are, would have helped to understand the what. And in this special, but real, case you create one set of test data with the same string per every execution of that step. If someone tells you, what you have to do and why you do that, you can easily come up with your own examples of test data. And maybe even find new bugs.

With one good why, you can save so many test steps and make the test case insensible to changes which would lead to a lot of non-testing time going through piles of old test cases and test steps and finding all the little adaptions that need to be made. Or having some trained monkey come to you every other minute telling you that this button is either not there anymore or the label has changed, and if that’s a bug? If you then ask, “Why me?”, because you/someone should have added a “why”.

In my experience it is much easier to write a test case, that can also be executed from someone else, when you explain more detailed why you do the following steps. OK, that someone has to have a brain and be able to use it. Rare, but possible… (sorry, it’s Friday night, I’m in the mood)
Imagine, a year from now, you have long left the project, someone tries to follow your detailed steps, but there have been some minor changes to the system, not much really. A button was added, a string has changed, there are now three options instead of two. What would you hope for? That someone explained why this test case or step has to be done. In case some changes were made the chances are high that the tester knows what to do.

Note Taking
When taking notes, what do you put down? I am a lazy note taker. I tend to write down IDs of test data sets, maybe changes I made and some results. Maybe some hints, more a kind of insider. Same for you?
I don’t know about you, but a short why would help me understand that note in a couple of weeks, without much thinking and trying to reconstruct.
More important when you fill your notes of a test session, that will be reviewed or debriefed. A short “why you did that” shows quick what you were thinking about and gives the debriefer a fast idea if that meets his expectations or if you might have missed something. In case of the test notes it might even help others to learn from your written thoughts, when they read them in a couple of month.
Shmuel Gershon said in his EuroStar webinar about note-taking, always add the why. And I have to agree, really it helps. No, I have to admit, it would help, if I would not be too lazy taking good notes.

Daily Doing
Someone has given you a task, what to do. Do you always ask “why”? Just think a bit about using “why” in your daily doing. You do so many things without asking. A short thinking about “why” might help you better understand the task. Here we come back to, understanding the problem first, then create the solution.
If you are the one giving out tasks, do you add the problem to be solved, the “why” someone has to do “something”. Of course not, you’re the boss, everybody has to do what you say.

If you want someone to learn from your test cases or you want to remember next year what brought you to write it in this or that way, always add the WHY. If you want to know if the time you will spend to fulfill a task is spend right, ask “why” first. If you want a solution to your problem from someone else, add the “why”.