Category: Rapid Testing (page 1 of 2)

Let’s stop talking about testing, let’s start thinking about value

This year Alex Schladebeck and I did two keynotes titled “Let’s stop talking about testing, let’s start thinking about value” at QA Expo in Spain and TestNet in the Netherlands. This blogpost has the most important points we made in our talk.

The keynote was inspired by some of our frustrations: “Testing is under appreciated” (Alex) and “Most testers are unable to explain what we do” (Huib). I wrote about my frustration back in 2016 already. This blogpost is about my frustration that most testers cannot come up with a decent definition of testing. And even worse: a big majority of the people who call themselves professional testers are not able to explain what testing is and how it works! They have trouble explaining what they are testing and why they are doing specifically the thing they are doing! How can anybody take a tester seriously who cannot explain what he is doing all day?

Alex’s frustration is that testing is not valued by others. Developers are seen as the rockstars of the project because they create the software that adds value. But why are testers often not valued?

  • Lowered expectations for testing expertise by stuff like ISO standards and ISTQB: I wrote about certification and standards before. ISTQB and standards put too much emphasis on process and documentation, rather than the real testing. By assuming there can be a standard, you say that there is one best way to organize and document your testing. But isn’t your test strategy heavily dependent on its context? When using standards we tend to focus on complying with the standard, and lose sight of the real goal. This sort of goal displacement is a familiar problem in many situations. Also, the idea that you can learn how to test is a couple of days of training is dangerous. Remember lesson 272: if you can get a black belt in only two weeks, avoid fights (Lessons Learned in Software Testing: A Context-Driven Approach by Bach, Kaner and Pettichord).
  • Avoiding controversy: nowadays more and more people advocate to be nice! I think that we confuse being nice, with being kind! An interesting article about this phenomenon is written by Marcia Sirota. Of course we need to respect other people, but to push the testing craft forward, we need to have firm discussions and disagree with others way more often. Being nice doesn’t help. Serious feedback does!
  • We devalue our own work by becoming tool jockeys: unfortunately there are too many testers (and teams) out there who focus too much on automation as much as possible. Why? Because they can! The testers in those teams are often so busy doing automation that they do not have the time to test anything…
  • We do not stand up for our craft: we do not fight back enough when other people say they do not need testers, or if they tell us how to do our jobs to name a few examples. We have to learn “testers self-defence: to stand up to people who try to dictate how do our jobs. We have to learn how to organize effective (and efficient) testing. And we need to learn how to talk about our work in a way others understand. This requires practice!
  • We do not learn or practice enough: testing is difficult! We have to deal with complexity, ambiguity, change and people. Testing is a craft, not something you do as a hobby. To become a craftsperson, you have to practice (also see my blogpost: a road to awesomeness).
  • We don’t know how to talk about testing: as said before: how can anybody take a tester seriously who cannot explain what he is doing all day? To be really valuable, testers need to learn to talk about their testing in a way others understand and find valuable.

So looking at these things, are we okay with this? I don’t think so. But what can we do about it? We are trapped in this vicious circle: we need to talk about testing! It is good for our soul to explain what I did and why, but we don’t know how to talk about our testing in a way that others understand.

Alex and I listed some traps:

  • Stories decay into Numbers: testing is about providing information to enable others to make informed decisions. The number of test cases or the number of bugs do not really matter. It is the story about the product and the risks involved. Those numbers might back up your story, but they do not tell the story!
  • A performance decays into Deliverables: testing is about finding problems, collecting information, exploring and experimenting to discover new information. Sure, documents and stuff sometimes help us, but testing is a performance. (James Bach talks about that here: a test is a performance and here: Test cases are not testing: towards a culture of test performance).
  • Test strategy decays into Test execution: when was the last time you saw a really good test strategy? In many cases I find master test plans where everything is described except the strategy. It is hard to create a test strategy and it is even harder to write it down or visualise it. Many testers I meet focus on test execution: creating test cases and scenarios and calling that the strategy.
  • Tool supported testing decays into Automation: testing using tools is a great idea. It gives us more opportunities to test and improves testability. But as said earlier: it becomes a problem when we focus too much on automation or even try to automate all our work. We cannot automate testing.
  • Many kinds of coverage decays into One kind of coverage: testing benefits from diversity! You find a certain type of bug with a certain test technique or approach. By using lots of different views, approaches and techniques, we find more problems.
  • Learning activity decays into Formalized static tasks: testing is learning about the product for our stakeholders. It’s not about verification and validation, there is much more to it. I like to replace such words with challenge the belief that (verify) and investigate (validate). Those activities provide the valuable information we need.
  • Balance risk and uncertainty decays into Certainty: people like to be comfortable and we like to give other comfort as well. But as testers we need to stay unsure, when others are sure. It is our job to keep asking critical questions. We are not here to give confidence or comfort, we are here to demolish unwarranted confidence! Also keep in mind that to find new unexpected problems, we have to go where nobody has thought of and nobody went before us. That will cause confusion which feels uncomfortable for many. I learned to be okay with confusion, since this is essential for learning new things.
  • Business Impact decays into Bugs: some testers are frustrated when bugs aren’t fixed. But that is part of the deal: some things that bug us, are just not important enough.
  • Product story decays into Testing jargon: I think this is the main problem for people not listening to testers. We talk jargon and about what we do in detail too much. We say stuff like: “We’ve executed 17 test cases in the system test, we’ve automated 50% of the test cases for area C and now have 30% code coverage. We found three major and five medium bugs”. And we are surprised that nobody will listen. We need to talk about the product! So you have found 8 bugs? Who cares? Talk about the risks involved, about the threats to the value of the product.

So maybe testers need to stop talking about testing?
Well, not exactly. We need to remember that the information from testing enables other people to do better work! So the testing itself isn’t always interesting, but the story about the results and the impact on the business is!

Just imagine a conversation between a tester and the PO.
Tester: The testing is going well!
PO: Okay, great. How is the product?
Testers: It sucks!

The role of testers

What is the role of testers? Testers see things for what they are. Testers help others make informed decisions about quality, because we think critically about software. This means creating awareness about the state of the product by staying sceptical when everybody else is sure. So we have to know what our clients want from testing. What information do they need to take these decisions? Project managers have one big question to be answered: are there problems that threaten the on-time, successful completion of the product?

Product Risk Knowledge Gap

I like to explain testing using the “Product Risk Knowledge Gap” like we teach in RST. Knowledge Gaps are the things that we need to learn in order to make good decisions. We need to learn about the product to close the knowledge gap. The more we know, the less risky our decisions will be. Testers should focus on questions like: what does the client need to know right now? What might hinder the successful completion of the product? What role do I need to take on in this situation to ensure we achieve our aims? Does this information matter? To whom?

But there is a way to avoid talking about testing. Just find enough questions and problems so that your stakeholders simply won’t have time to ask you questions back! Also, if you tell a credible story and give them the information they need, nobody cares how you got the information in the first place. In this case you need to stand your ground: tell people what they need to hear despite what they want to hear. Again: it’s your job to see things for what they are. If you give people the chance to doubt what you are doing, because you do not deliver the information they need, they will start asking questions about how you do your job. And if you have to talk about how you do your testing, then prepare to be able to tell a damned good story about your testing. Something they can understand and relate to.

The testing story

The testing story by Rapid Software Testing can help you tell that story. Tell a story about the product, what you saw, what you did to gather that information and how valuable that information is. (See “Braiding The Stories” by Michael Bolton). The testing story contains three stories that feed into each other:

  1. The product story: a qualitative report on how the product can work, how it fails, and how it might fail in ways that matter to our clients.
  2. The testing story: to make the product story credible, the testing story is about how we configured, operated, observed, and evaluated the product; what we actually did and what we actually saw.
  3. The quality of testing story: to make the testing story credible, tell a story about the quality of the testing. Describe why the testing we’ve done has been good enough. It includes details on what made testing harder or slower and what we might need or recommend in order to provide better, more accurate, more timely information.

Modern testing
As testers we do way more than only testing. We are enablers of testing by doing all kind of other things to be a service to the team and our clients. Researching this, Alex and I found the Modern testing principles by Alan Page and Brent Jensen. There is a lot of good stuff in there, and yet we feel that there is not enough focus on the actual testing in their principles. Furthermore, we think that the seventh principle “We expand testing abilities and knowhow across the team; understanding that this may reduce (or eliminate) the need for a dedicated testing specialist.” is formulated too negatively. We do not talk about dedicated test specialist as a function. But we like to talk about testing skills. And although we think there should not be a need for a dedicated testing specialist, we see too many people in teams who do not like testing. Passion (or at least motivation) for what you do, is conditional to become good at anything. So we created our own testing principles (inspired by the modern testing principles of course):

  1. Deliver insight into status of the product
  2. Practice (and enact) critical thinking
  3. Enable testing: lead, coach, teach, support
  4. Discuss testability
  5. Explore & experiment
  6. Promote waste removal / avoidance
  7. Help to accelerate the team
  8. Advocate continuous improvement
  9. Foster quality culture
  10. Keep critical distance and close social distance

Stop talking about testing?

So do we need to stop talking about testing? Not really. But we need to talk about the product, risks and value more. We can talk about actual testing only to back our story up or if they ask questions. And even then, we need to make our story understandable and relatable to others. Make sure you are a service to the team. We created our own testing principles to explain what value we add. We also have a pretty clear story on what testing is and how it adds value. We did this by practicing our stories many times. But we also figured out our own testing paradigm. That makes is easier to talk about what we do and how we add value.

Software Development is research & development: a series of experiments that ultimately lead to a suitable solution. We are dealing with customers who do not know exactly what they want. Furthermore, we are dealing with the complexity, confusion, changes, new insights and half answers. That requires research. As we team we are looking for what works and what doesn’t. Testing is of great importance for this! Testing provides insight and overview. Testing shines a light on the actual status of product and project. These insights enable others to make better decisions and eventually make better products.

The slide are here.

Note: this is an Alex Schladebeck and Huib Schoots co-production and this blogpost was co-authored by Alex. So where you read I, you could read Alex and I.

Creating a Test Strategy

At EuroStar 2017 I did a experiential workshop with Pekka Marjamaki and Carsten Feilberg called “The Magic of Sherlock Holmes – Test Strategy in a blink of an eye”. The goal of this full day workshop was to teach to create a Test Strategy rapidly so you can start testing as soon as possible. This blog post describes the summary of what we taught and publishes the example I made for the participants.

What is a Test Strategy?

In the workshop we defined Test Strategy as a solution to a complex problem: how do we meet the information needs of the testers & stakeholders in the most efficient way possible. In Rapid Software Testing we define Test Strategy as “the set of ideas that guide your test design or choice of tests to be performed”. We also talk about logistics and test plan. Logistics is the set of ideas that guide your application of resources to fulfilling the test strategy and test plan is the set of ideas that guide your test project. A Test Plan is the sum of logistics and the strategy. 

Rikard Edgren did an excellent workshop on Test Strategy at EuroStar 2014. In his workshop he says: Test strategy contains the ideas that guide your testing effort; and deals with what to test, and how to do it. (Some people mean test plan or test process, which is unfortunate…). It is in the combination of WHAT and HOW you find the real strategy. If you separate the WHAT and the HOW, it becomes general and quite useless.

What influences the Test Strategy?

Your Test Strategy is influenced by many factors.

  • Context:  your testing is influenced by the details of the specific situation like information available, the tester(s) doing the testing, what has been tested before, what tools and environments are available, how much time you have, etc.
  • Missions: what do your stakeholders need to know about the product? 
  • Risks: testing is mostly motivated by problems that might happen (risks). We want to find the important problems in the product. 
  • Product: products have many dimensions. By modelling the product we find important and unique aspects of the product.
  • Quality Criteria: various criteria or requirements that define what the product should be for the stakeholders.
  • Testing: your testing changes the Strategy constantly. Each experiment learns you more about the product and the risks involved.

How to create a Test Strategy?

To create a Test Strategy, you have to examine the factors mentioned above. This can be done in several activities (which do not need to be done specifically in this order). Most likely you will do this in a iterative way, building your Test Strategy as you go.

  1. Missions for your testing
  2. Product analysis
  3. Oracles & information sources
  4. Quality characteristics
  5. Context: project environment
  6. Test strategies

I like to use to Heuristic Test Strategy Model (HTSM). It reminds me what to think about when if am creating my Test Strategy and tests.

The HTSM is a model which consists of several sets of heuristics (more about heuristics here and here).  The full model can be found here.

  • Project Environment helps to understand our context and missons: MIDTESTD (mission, information, developer relations, test team, equipment & tools, schedule, test items, deliverables).
  • Product Elements helps to identify dimensions and factors of the product that could be examined in a test: SFDIPOT (structure, function, data, interfaces, platform, operations, time).
  • Quality Criteria helps to identify value and threats to various criteria of the product: CRISP DUCCS (capability, reliability, installability, security, performance, development, usability, charisma, compatibility, scalability). In this case you could also use the software quality characteristics by the Test Eye.
  • Risk analysis reveals potential problem. Risks motivate your testing. But the testing itself is risk analysis in itself: after analysing potential risks your testing informs you about the actual problems and learn new aspects of the product which helps you identify new risks. Each test has its own strategy: FDSFSCURA​ (function testing, domain testing, stress testing, flow testing, scenario testing, claims testing, user testing, risk testing, automatic checking​). To come up with good Test Ideas is an important skill. Erik Brickarp has an excellent blog post called How to come up with test ideas.
  • Identifying Oracles and Information sources helps learning about the product and identify potential problems. To design a good test strategy we need to know what’s important.

Examples of Test Strategy

Before giving you my example, I like to link the Screen Pluck Test Analysis by Rikard Edgren. A great example of how to create a thorough Test Strategy: Test Analysis example by Rikard Edgren.

The exercise in the workshop was defined as follows:

Product: tinyurl.com/SherlockES

Approach used to create my Test Strategy below:

  1. Look at mission and things we know (from the class) [1 min]
  2. Explore wix platform website [1 min]
  3. Explore wix casies website and create SFDIPOT mindmap while learning about the product [5-10 min]
  4. Risk analysis [5-10 min]
  5. Think of test ideas / approaches to deal with risks [5-10 min]
  6. Wrap-up. Create testing story about what I know already. List next steps [5 min]
  7. Tidy document and add some comments to make it readable for students

Total time used: 50-60 min

1. What do we know (and what important questions do I still have):

  • No developers available –> No access to code
  • Target customers? Who are they?

(Considering the short time period, I choose not to do a thorough context analysis using MIDTESTD, if I had more time, I would do so).

Mission:

Casies is web shop build with the Wix platform where customers can buy a case for their mobile phone. Your mission is to find problems we want to fix before release. The owner of the website needs information to decide if this web shop can be released.

Most important quality criteria:

  • Usability & charisma
  • Reliability and security of the purchase process
  • Functionality
    • Find, sort & filter
    • Purchase, cart, payment
    • Bestsellers
    • Contact
  • Performance

2. Look at Wix platform site

(url: https://www.wix.com/features/main)

Product exploration: look at website about Wix platform

Claims about the product:

  • Easy Drag and Drop
  • Free & Reliable Hosting
  • App market –> what else is there?
  • Mobile Friendly
  • loads of templates
  • SEO

3. Explore Wix casies

Start using the product

Product exploration: play with casies website using SFDIPOT

Download Xmind mind map (created in Xmind Zen beta4)

4. Risks

The risk mentioned here are probably too vague in some cases. Since risk analysis is a continuous process I will update risks later, making them more concrete and actionable. Also I will add more risks while testing.

  • Web shop not available
  • Web shop not easy to use
  • Target customers do not like the web shop
  • Web shop is not secure: customer data accessible by 3rd party
  • Customer cannot add items to cart
  • Customer cannot buy items in cart
  • Customer cannot find the items wanted
  • Web shop is not easy to find

5. Risks – Testing

Test ideas

Used document Software Quality Characteristics by Testeye

(More info on session based testing: here)

6. Testing Story & Next Steps

Looking at the website I found that the web shop doesn’t look complete to me: there is no possibility to check out and pay. Is this okay? To be able to do thorough testing to fulfil the mission “Your mission is to find problems we want to fix before release. The owner of the website needs information to decide if this web shop can be released” the website needs to be completed and payment functionality needs to be added. I am also interested in the maintenance model: how can I add cases? This would be very handy to create more test data and play with parameters in there to see how that comes out in the shop. Does this need to be part of my testing?

The results of my short initial exploration are captured in the SFDIPOT mind map I made while playing & interacting with the product. After that I made an initial risk analysis. I haven’t gone deep on anything yet.

Next steps will be talking to the product owner with my initial test strategy. If the payment module isn’t available soon, I will start with testing the first three charters, although I will not be able to fully do the purchase process charter, so I have to split this charter and focus on the cart part only.

  • Purchase process: cart & payment including investigation of fields
    (using the Test heuristic cheat sheet)
  • Finding cases – sorting & filtering cases
  • GUI tour: check all links and info

Used heuristics

Below an abstract of the “Software Quality Characteristics” by Testeye used as heuristics for creating this Test Strategy

Usability

  • Affordance: product invites to discover possibilities of the product.
  • Intuitiveness: it is easy to understand and explain what the product can do.
  • Minimalism: there is nothing redundant about the product’s content or appearance.
  • Learnability: it is fast and easy to learn how to use the product.
  • Memorability: once you have learnt how to do something you don’t forget it.
  • Discoverability: the product’s information and capabilities can be discovered by exploration of the user interface.
  • Operability: an experienced user can perform common actions very fast.
  • Interactivity: the product has easy-to-understand states and possibilities of interacting with the application (via GUI or API).
  • Control: the user should feel in control over the proceedings of the software.
  • Clarity: is everything stated explicitly and in detail, with a language that can be understood, leaving no room for doubt?
  • Errors: there are informative error messages, difficult to make mistakes and easy to repair after making them.
  • Consistency: behavior is the same throughout the product, and there is one look & feel.
  • Tailorability: default settings and behavior can be specified for flexibility.
  • Accessibility: the product is possible to use for as many people as possible, and meets applicable accessibility standards.
  • Documentation: there is a Help that helps, and matches the functionality.

Charisma

  • Uniqueness: the product is distinguishable and has something no one else has.
  • Satisfaction: how do you feel after using the product?
  • Professionalism: does the product have the appropriate flair of professionalism and feel fit for purpose?
  • Attractiveness: are all types of aspects of the product appealing to eyes and other senses?
  • Curiosity: will users get interested and try out what they can do with the product?
  • Entrancement: do users get hooked, have fun, in a flow, and fully engaged when using the product?
  • Hype: should the product use the latest and greatest technologies/ideas?
  • Expectancy: the product exceeds expectations and meets the needs you didn’t know you had.
  • Attitude: do the product and its information have the right attitude and speak to you with the right language and style?
  • Directness: are (first) impressions impressive?
  • Story: are there compelling stories about the product’s inception, construction or usage?

Reliability

  • Stability: the product shouldn’t cause crashes, unhandled exceptions or script errors.
  • Robustness: the product handles foreseen and unforeseen errors gracefully.
  • Stress handling: how does the system cope when exceeding various limits?
  • Recoverability: it is possible to recover and continue using the product after a fatal error.
  • Data Integrity: all types of data remain intact throughout the product.
  • Safety: the product will not be part of damaging people or possessions.
  • Disaster Recovery: what if something really, really bad happens?
  • Trustworthiness: is the product’s behavior consistent, predictable, and trustworthy?

Security

  • Authentication: the product’s identifications of the users.
  • Authorization: the product’s handling of what an authenticated user can see and do.
  • Privacy: ability to not disclose data that is protected to unauthorized users.
  • Security holes: product should not invite to social engineering vulnerabilities.
  • Secrecy: the product should under no circumstances disclose information about the underlying systems.
  • Invulnerability: ability to withstand penetration attempts.
  • Virus-free: product will not transport virus, or appear as one.
  • Piracy Resistance: no possibility to illegally copy and distribute the software or code.
  • Compliance: security standards the product adheres to.

Performance

  • Capacity: the many limits of the product, for different circumstances (e.g. slow network.)
  • Resource Utilization: appropriate usage of memory, storage and other resources.
  • Responsiveness: the speed of which an action is (perceived as) performed.
  • Availability: the system is available for use when it should be.
  • Throughput: the products ability to process many, many things.
  • Endurance: can the product handle load for a long time?
  • Feedback: is the feedback from the system on user actions app
  • Scalability: how well does the product scale up, out or down?

 

Final thoughts

As my example shows: you can create a Test Strategy in an hour. Of course this Test Strategy is not complete. But after the first tests (3 sessions) we learn and discover more about the product, so we can identify new risks, which inform new missions and will help us come up with new Test Ideas. Our Test Strategy will grow over time!

Extra info:

  • The slides are here.
  • The pictures and flipcharts from the workshop are here.

References:

Must read: A Context-Driven Approach to Automation in Testing

Test Automation is a hot item in our industry. Many people talk about it and much has been written on this topic. Sadly there is still a lot of misconception about test automation. Also, some people say context-driven testing is anti test automation. I think that is not true. Context-driven testers use different names for it and they are more careful when they speak about automation and tooling to aid their testing. Also, context-driven testers have been fighting the myths that testing can be automated for years. In 2009 Michael Bolton wrote his famous blog post “Testing vs. checking“. Later flowed up by “Testing and checking refined” and “Exploratory testing 3.0“. These tremendous important blog post learn us about how context-driven testers define testing and that testing is a sapient process. A process that relies on skilled humans. Recently Michael Bolton and James Bach have published a white paper to share their view on automation in testing. A vision of test automation that puts the tester at the center of testing. This is a must read for everyone involved in software development.

The follow text is taken from the “A Context-Driven Approach to Automation in Testing” white paper written by James Bach and Michael Bolton.

We can summarize the dominant view of test automation as “automate testing by automating the user.” We are not claiming that people literally say this, merely that they try to do it. We see at least three big problems here that trivialize testing:

  1. The word “automation” is misleading. We cannot automate users. We automate some actions they perform, but users do so much more than that.
  2. Output checking can be automated, but testers do so much more than that.
  3. Automated output checking is interesting, but tools do so much more than that.

robotAutomation comes with a tasty and digestible story: replace messy, complex humanity with reliable, fast, efficient robots! Consider the robot picture. It perfectly summarizes the impressive vision: “Automate the Boring Stuff.” Okay. What does the picture show us?

It shows us a machine that is intended to function as a human. The robot is constructed as a humanoid. It is using a tool normally operated by humans, in exactly the way that humans would operate it, rather than through an interface more suited to robots. There is no depiction of the process of programming the robot or controlling it, or correcting it when it errs. There are no broken down robots in the background. The human role in this scene is not depicted. No human appears even in the background. The message is: robots replace humans in uninteresting tasks without changing the nature of the process, and without any trace of human presence, guidance, or purpose. Is that what automation is? Is that how it works? No!

The problem is, in our travels all over the industry, we see clients thinking about real testing, real automation, and real people in just this cartoonish way. The trouble that comes from that is serious…

Read more in the fabulous white paper “A Context-Driven Approach to Automation in Testing” by James Bach and Michael Bolton.

Why testers are not taken seriously…

5784a3e8c82ffdc1da395f1ded31eab6Some time ago I was invited to talk to a group of testers at a big consultancy firm in the Netherlands. They wanted to learn more about context-driven testing. I do these kind of talks on a regular basis. During these events, I always ask the audience what they think testing is. It surprises me each time that they cannot come up with a decent definition of testing. But it gets worse when I ask them to describe testing. The stuff most people come up with is embarrassingly bad! And it is not only them, a big majority of the people who call themselves professional testers are not able to explain what testing is and how it works…

How can anybody take a tester serious who cannot explain what he is doing all day? Imagine a doctor who tells you he has to operate your knee.

Doctor: “I see there is something wrong there
Patient: “Really? What is wrong doctor?
Doctor: “Your knee needs surgery!
Patient: “Damn, that is bad news. What are you going to do doctor?
Doctor: “I am going to operate your knee! You know cut you with a scalpel and make it better on the inside!
Patient: “Okay… but what are you going to do exactly?
Doctor: “Euh… well… you see… I am going to fix the thingy and the whatchamacallit by doing thingumabob to the thingamajig. And if possible I will attach the doomaflodgit to the doohickey, I think. Get it?
Patient: “Thank you, but no thanks doctor. I think I’ll pass

But it is much worse… Many testers by profession have trouble explaining what they   are testing and why. Try it! Walk up to one of your tester colleagues and ask what he or she is doing and why. 9 out of 10 testers I have asked this simple question begin to stutter.

How can testers be taken seriously and how they learn a profession when they cannot explain what they do all day?

albert-einstein-if-you-cant-explain-it-simply-you-dont-understand-it-well-enoughOnly a few testers I know can come up with a decent story about their testing. They can name activities and come up with a sound list of real skills they use. They are able to explain what they do and why. At any given time they are able to report progress, risks and coverage. They will be happy to explain what oracles and heuristics they are using, know what the product is all about and practice deliberate continuous learning. In the Rapid Testing class (in NL) we train testers to think and talk about testing with confidence.

How about you? Can you explain your testing?

How I became a Rapid Software Testing trainer

TestingTrapeze2015OctoberIn the October edition of Testing Trapeze my experience report “How I became a rapid software testing trainer” is published. It has been an amazing journey! When I started this journey, I thought it would be much easier. It was a lot of hard work, a struggle sometimes, but it was totally worth it! A journey in which I learned a lot about myself and the testing craft. I am looking forward teaching the next class in December in the Netherlands this year! See you there?

Testing Trapeze is a free high quality testing magazine from Australia and New Zealand, advocating good testing practices.

 

 

Stop hugging, start working … on excellence!

Some context: this blogpost is my topic for a new peer conference called “Board of Agile Testers (BAT)” on Saturday December 19 2014 in Hotel Bergse Bossen in Driebergen.

I love agile and I love hugging… For me an agile way of working is a, not THE, solution to many irritating problems I suffered from in the 90’s and 00’s. Of course people are the determining factor in software development. It is all about people developing (as in research and development) software for people. So people are mighty important! We need to empower people to do awesome work. People work better if they have fun and feel empowered.

Vineet Nayar talks about people, who want to excel, need two important things: a challenge and passion. These factors resemble the ones described by Daniel Pink: autonomy makes room to excel, passion feeds mastery and a challenge gives purpose. I wrote an article about this subject for agile record called “Software development is all about people“. I see agile teams focus on this people stuff like collaboration, working together, social skills… But why do they often forget Mastery in testing?

Rapid Software Testing teaches serious testing skills by empowering testers in a martial art approach to testing. Not by being nice and hug others. By teaching testers serious skills to talk about their work, say what they mean, stand up for excellence. RST teaches that excellent testing starts with the skill set and the mindset of the individual tester. Other things might help, but excellence in testing must centre on the tester.

One of the many examples is in the new “More agile testing” book by Lisa & Janet in chapter 12 Exploratory testing there is a story by Lisa: “Lisa’s story – Spread the testing love: group hugs!” My review comment was and I quote: “I like the activity but do not like the name… I fear some people will not take it too serious… It might get considered too informal or childish. Consider a name like bug hunts.”

Really? Hugs? The whole hugging ethos in agile makes me CRAZY. Again, I love hugging and in my twitter profile it says I am a people lover. But a fluffy approach to agile in general and testing in particular makes me want to SCREAM! It makes me mad! Stop diminishing skills. If people are doing good work, sure hug them, but if they don’t: give them some serious feedback! Work with them to get better and grow. Mentor them, coach them, teach them. But what if they do not improve? Or do not want to improve? Well… maybe then it is time to say goodbye? It is time to start working on some serious skills!

Testing is serious business, already suffering from misunderstanding and underestimation by many who think they can automate all testing and everybody can test. In agile we are all developers and t-shaped people will rule the world. In 15 years there will be only developers doing everything: writing documentation, coding and testing… Yeah right! I wish I could believe that. Testing is HARD and needs a lot of study. As long as I see a vast majority of people not willing to study testing, I know I will have a job as a testing expert for the rest of my life!

This blogpost reflects some “rough ideas”. After the peer conference I will update this post with the ideas discussed in the room.

What testing can learn from social science – Part 5

What can testing learn from social science?
Why is this important to testers? My conclusion is that testing and the social sciences are very much interconnected and there are many lessons that we could learn from this area. We should see what we can apply to our daily testing jobs. We should be more aware of what we do in testing: for example social research, making observations, doing critical thinking and most importantly continuing to learn. We should start learning from what people have done and are still doing in the social sciences. Testers should not only focus on quantitative analysis like bug counts or test case pass or fail, but also do qualitative research. Test reports should be stories about the product and the testing we did (see Michael Bolton’s article on test reporting and the telling of the story). We should use the numbers to support or backup our story. I often see it the wrong way around: lots of tables full of counts that do not tell us anything without the context. Managers do tend to draw their own conclusions and make decisions based upon this data, if we do not help them by telling the story. Again, testing is about collecting information for people who matter to enable them to make informed decisions.

Coverage?
If a manager comes up to you and asks you:

“So what is the coverage?”
or
“How many test cases do you have?“

What do you say? It is really hard to talk to managers who are obsessed by numbers and think that testing is about the number of test cases, right and wrong, green and red.

Consider this next time you talk to them. Make a simple calculation of all the possible tests you could do for the project you are working on regardless of how simple or complex it is. Think of all the possible combination both positive and negative.

What number have you ended up with?

  • 1 thousand?
  • 1 million?
  • 1 billion?
  • More?

The number of possible things that you can test are endless, exhaustive testing is futile. Even a simple requirement has infinite possibilities to test.

So what is the coverage if we do 1,000,000 test cases?

  • Coverage: 1,000,000 divided by infinite is very close to zero!
  • Coverage: 10,000.000 divided by infinite is still very close to zero!

So no matter how many test cases you have the coverage of all possible test cases you could have done is close to zero. This is why risk, priority and making choices become important for testing but that is a different topic.

Be a scientist
Science is important. It gave us critical thinking and that helps us proving the theories we have about the product. Try to prove yourself wrong instead of proving yourself right.

Ask critical questions:

  • Could it be something else?
  • Is this what I expected?
  • What did I do differently?
  • What else can I do?
  • How can I explain what I did?

While testing we should practice critical thinking: question things we encounter, make sure that what we see, is true (or not). While thinking we should be aware of fast conclusions, biases and fallacies. We often do it the wrong way around. If we focus too much on the numbers and the averages we miss the outliers: the unique random events that can do the most damage.

Qualitative research
The grounded theory method is a research method that operates almost in a reverse fashion from traditional social science research. You start with a view, theory or expectation before you start. However as you gather more data when testing, your theory/expectation becomes more ‘grounded’ upon the information you uncover or discover. Basically as you experience and gather more and more data you change your perspective and viewpoint. This is what social scientist do when they go and live with social groups. They have something they want to find out – an assumption or otherwise – and find out if it is right or not by taking part (compare missions in Exploratory testing).

In qualitative research done by anthropologists for example the context of the research is very important. Here they accept and deal with ambiguity, situational specific results and partial answers. Qualitative data deals with meanings. Use it when you want to understand the underlying thoughts and intentions.

Observation
Testers should not observe from the side-line. We should act like anthropologists do: become part of the group you are observing. Let me give you an example from my own experience.

A couple of years ago I worked as a test coordinator for a Media Company selling newspapers and magazines. We were implementing a new CRM system and my assignment was to organize the user acceptance testing. For some days I worked with the people selling the newspapers to learn how they were selling subscriptions and while doing that I learned what was important to them. First I was observing, but after a day I was selling newspapers myself and really learned how the users were working and what it took to make the department successful. We had requirements and designs, but the stuff I found out on processes and user sentiments was also very valuable to do testing. There were important steps not documented. I saw the people use the software in ways I didn’t expect and that wasn’t written down anywhere. I asked them what they did and why and they answered me “that is normally how we do this”. I learned that these people took short cuts to do their work. The team who were designing and building the software had no idea what I was talking about when I told them about my observations.

Humans will always take the shortest quickest route and the one that requires the least amount of thinking. This made clear how important it is to find out what people are thinking. And more important: the reasoning why they do the things they do. The product is a solution. If the problem isn’t solved, the product doesn’t work (5th basic principle of context-driven testing).

Now I know it is called qualitative research and I think every team developing software should do something similar. Try to really understand the users and the environment in which the product will be used. IT is often way to focussed on technical stuff. Testers go out there and meet the people who are using the product. Be part of their world for a while and start asking those critical questions.

Humans
Software is build by humans for humans. Social science is about people. Software should solve problems and help humans. To really solve a problem, we need to know more about how the users work, what they think, how they feel, their emptions, their desires. Too often I hear development teams say things like: “The user should not do that”. Or the all time classic: “no real user would ever do that!”. IT is way too technical focussed.

Read John’s blog titled “The Human Element”. It is an awesome story about his wife, a nurse, who explains why the human element is very important in her work. You see the parallel with our work?

Now it is your turn!?
Use the reading list to learn more about what social sciences, biases and other relevant topics. I am curious and I want to learn from you too. So please share your thoughts and experiences with social science.

“Great software is not produced or tested in factories, but in studios
and rehearsal halls.” (Michael Bolton)

I owe John Stevenson and Michael Bolton many thanks for their inspiration, great discussions and reviewing these blogs.

Reading List

What testing can learn from social science – Part 4

Social science: three presentations
Social science is about society, human nature and human interaction. It is an umbrella term to refer to sciences like anthropology, economics, education, linguistics, communication studies, sociology and psychology.

Anthropology teaches us about how people life, interact and something about culture. Education and didactic helps acquire new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, or preferences. It helps us understand how we learn and how we can teach others. Sociology teaches us empirical investigation and critical analysis and gives insight in human social activity. Psychology is the study of the mind and behaviour and helps testers understand individuals and groups. Now how is this useful in testing? I’ll try to answer that question later. Let me first tell you about three awesome presentations on the subject of social science and testing.

Testing as a social science
Cem Kaner did a talk titled “Testing as a social science first” time in 2006 (slides are here). I haven’t had the pleasure to see the talk myself but the slides drew my interest. Cem made me aware that to test effectively, our theories of error have to be theories about the mistakes people make and when and why they make them. We design and run tests in order to gain useful information about the product’s quality.

Testing is always a search for information. Cem talks about measurement and metrics and the dangers of using metrics wrongly to measure test completeness (new updated article on this can be found here). He argues that bad models are counter productive. Cem also touched the topic of inattentional blindness in which humans often don’t see what they don’t pay attention to. He reminded us that programs never see what they haven’t been told to pay attention to. This is especially valuable when thinking about test automation. When testing we can’t pay attention to all the conditions. The systems under test are simply to complex and there are to many factors that are variable (and uncontrollable). He concludes that thinking in terms of human issues leads us into interesting questions:

  • What tests we are running and why?
  • What risks are we anticipating and how?
  • Why are these risks important?
  • What we can do to help our clients gather the information they need?

At EuroStar 2012 in Amsterdam I track chaired two excellent talks, which inspired me to study the subject of social science and qualitative research more.

Curing Our Binary Disease
Rikard Edgren talked about the getting cured from the Binary Disease (slides are here, video is here). The binary disease is when testers don’t provide useful information, because they aren’t allowed by (project) managers. They demand counting passes & fails and insist everything must be verifiable. The binary disease limits our thinking. Testers are addicted to counting passes and fails and don‘t communicate what is most important. When addicted there is no attention to serendipity moments. A model can help testers find important things, but a percentage number might not include things that are important. Therefore a coverage model is useful to get ideas but is not useful as a metric of completion. In his talk he introduces the testing potato to show that there are more things important besides written requirements. More about the potato can be found in his fabulous must read free eBook “The Little Black Book on Test Design”.

Testing Through The Qualitative Lens
Michael Bolton’s (slides of the StarEast version are here) talk elaborated differences between physical and social sciences. In physics, humans are ideally irrelevant and mostly get in the way of the experiment. Use quantitative and qualitative research methods and accept high tolerance for ambiguity, context-specific results and be aware of biases while doing research. We should value “partial answers that might be useful”. You do qualitative research when you want to understand something. You do quantitative research to inform that understanding. Quantitative research put human values first; use participant observation and practice storytelling and narration. Software testing is the investigation of systems composed of people, computer programs, products, and the relationships between them. Excellent testing is more like anthropology: interdisciplinary, systems-focused, investigative, and uses storytelling.

To be continued… part 5: So what can we learn from social science?

What testing can learn from social science – Part 3

People are predictably irrational
You think you are rational, but you are not. People fail to realize the irrationality of their actions and believe they are acting perfectly rational, possibly due to flaws in their reasoning. People’s actual interests differ from what they believe to be their interests. We have mechanisms that have evolved to give optimal behaviour in normal conditions lead to irrational behaviour in abnormal conditions. Many people put on one “mask” for one group of people and another for a different group of people. Many will become confused as to which they really are or which they wish to become (source: wikipedia). The subject of irrational behaviour is huge. I recommend you to read more about it. We can predict irrational behaviour to a degree due to lots of studies and work done in this field.

John gave me two book tips by Dan Ariel on this topic that I haven’t checked myself yet:

Or check this website also by Dan Ariel: Predictably Irrational – Investigating the Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions

You are not so smart
A great collection of examples that show people are easily fooled can be found in the book called “You are not so smart” by David McRaney. This book is a dose of psychology research served in tasty anecdotes that will make you better understand both yourself and others. The author describes cognitive biases, logical fallacies and heuristics. For example there is the well known “confirmation bias” where you tend to look for information that confirms your beliefs and ignore the information that challenges them. Another interesting phenomenon is the availability heuristic: a mental short cut that occurs when people make judgements about the probability of events by how easy it is to think of examples. The availability heuristic operates on the notion that, “if you can think of it, it must be important.” Examples are lotteries where you only see the winners so you might think it is easy to win. Or school shootings in the USA. People believe that since Columbine there are more and more school shootings but the opposite is true! Before Columbine there where more, but we don’t know about them. After reading this book an interesting thinking exercise can be to recognize the biases and fallacies in your thinking and testing.

Thinking fast and slow
Daniel Kahneman wrote a fascinating book about how our brain works “Thinking, fast and slow” which has been a bestseller for some time now. This book changed the way I think about thinking. Although it was sometimes hard to read for my as a non native English speaker, I almost read the book in one go. The book is about two different ways our brain works: System 1 is fast, instinctive and emotional. System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. I encourage testers to read the book and watch this video. In the video the author explains the main points from his book. You also might want to have a look at this shorter video where the same stuff is made more visual. The book will help you understand how your brain works and it will also make you aware how people make judgements and come to conclusions. Read what software tester Andy Patterson writes about on his thoughts of the book here.

There is a great video with Daniel Kahneman and Nassim Taleb (The Black Swan) in which they talk at the New York Public library about how individuals and humans make decisions – a fascinating video to watch – details and access to video can be found here.

Dancing gorillas
An interesting source the read to learn more about inattentional blindness and other illusions of memory and knowledge is the book “the invisible Gorilla” by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. It makes you aware of how you can be fooled by your illusions and perception. More reading on gorillas and inattentional blindness is this article. Alan Page loves the gorilla! Especially the video. Check what he has to say about the gorilla here.

To be continued… part 4: social science

What testing can learn from social science – Part 2

Testers need to do a lot of thinking. To me testing is an investigation, gathering and providing information about things that are important. I like the definition by Jerry Weinberg: “testing is gathering information with the intention of informing a decision”. Rikard Edgren recently wrote an excellent “open letter” to define testing. Testing is much more than finding bugs or checking if requirements are met.

Systems thinking
We should not only investigate the “system under test” but also take related products in mind. What about the people using all these products or the organisations and processes in which the products are used? Testers should know more about systems thinking: the process of understanding how things, regarded as systems, influence one another within a whole (source: wikipedia).

A system is not just a collection of things. A system is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something. It must consist of three things; elements, interconnection and a function or purpose (source: “thinking in systems: a primer – Donnella Meadows”). If you want to learn more about systems thinking, you might want to watch this youtube movie by Russel Ackhoff and read this post by Aleksis Tulonen about what you can learn form Ackhoff.

In one of my projects my client was moving a hospital from several old locations to a huge new building. It was logical that the location codes changed since it was a new building with a very different layout. But initially they forgot to oversee that this location code was actually used as department code in several information systems. And these systems used the codes to book costs (finance), plan staff (HR) and distribution of food and medicine (logistics). Moving to the new building without overseeing the full impact would have paralysed the whole information landscape. Defining a temporary coding and making minor changes to several systems solved the problem.

Critical thinking
Testing can be seen as a form of research: investigating the system and finding information about it. In research critical thinking is important. Collecting, analysing and interpreting information requires critical thinking skills. Critical thinking to me is about thinking (critically) about your own personal thinking. Framing your own assumptions and using this to try to remove bias and hopefully clarifying your thoughts with reasoning.

In this video James Bach helps to gain quick understanding of critical thinking by asking three simple questions:

  • Huh? What does this mean? What is the point?
  • Really? Are you absolutely certain? How can I know?
  • So? Where does this lead? So what?

These questions are very helpful for understanding and to think critical about anything. This picture (click to enlarge) is taken from the book “Critical Thinking: a user’s manual” by Debra Jackson and Paul Newberry. This book is a helpful source to learn about critical thinking.

Rule of Three
“If I can’t think of at least three different interpretations of what
I received, I haven’t thought enough about what it might mean.”
(Jerry Weinberg)

Creative thinking
At EuroStar in Amsterdam I met John Stevenson who has an excellent blog with the intriguing title: “The expected result was 42. Now what was the test?”. We talked about what testing can learn from social sciences and early this year we had some fantastic conversations via skype. John pointed me to some very interesting readings about qualitative research: “Qualitative Data Analysis: a user-friendly guide for social scientists“ by Ian Dey. On his blog he wrote some very interesting posts related to testing and social science you might want to read:

John is currently writing an awesome series of articles about creative and critical thinking. Part 1 of “Creative and Critical Thinking and Testing” can be found here. From there you can find the other parts about the different styles of thinking.

So why is this important?
Systems thinking reminds us to look at the big picture and see systems as a whole. What is the purpose of the organisation we work for? And is the project we are doing contributing to that? Creative thinking helps us to solve problems in a creative way or come up with more things to test and how to do it effectively. Critical thinking helps you to really understand what you are doing. Like in research we have to process large amounts of data and make sense of it. But we also have to recognize, analyse and evaluate (see critical thinking diagram above) information, arguments and problems.

Thinking is an under appreciated subject. Thinking is very important for testers and we should learn from science: doing research, learn to design and perform experiments, collect, organize and analyse data and use the results to decide on the next steps in our work. Critical thinking helps us ask better questions in our projects and identify problems faster. It also helps avoid traps: biases and assumptions. More about that in my next post.

To be continued… part 3: irrationality and biases

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