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Binary Oppositions

  I am totally loving Oddly Influenced, Brian Marick's new podcast. The latest episoide covers ways in which schools of thought and practice can inhibit the cross-fertilisation of ideas.  It includes a case study in experimental physics from Peter Galison's book, Image and Logic , where two different approaches to the same particle analysis problem seem to run on separate, parallel tracks: In the 'head to world' tradition, you use your head to carefully construct situations that allow the world to express its subtle truths ... In the 'world to head' tradition, you make yourself ever more sensitive to the world’s self-expressed truths ... The first of these wants to theorise and then craft an experiment using statistics while the latter wants to gather data and try to understand it visually. Marick is pessimistic about the scope for crossover in this kind of situation: How do you bridge traditions that differ on aesthetics, on different standards of what counts
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AST Lean Coffee

I attended another Lean Coffee online with the Association for Software Testing this morning. Here's a few aggregated notes from the conversation. Teaching Developers About Testing There's a lot of debate in the community about this, with two extreme perspectives. Anybody can test and we don't need specialised testers. Nobody except specialists can test. There is huge value in teaching developers about testing. Anyone who is involved in building software should be involved in testing software. We've been experimenting with ensemble testing. We started with regular session every two weeks, bringing a task for testing from a customer perspective. The testers helped prepare for the session (areas to cover, environments, data, etc). The session included members of the quality group and the teams. It evolved into various parts of the organisation using this approach for exploratory testing. Is "teaching developers about testing" a good framing for the concern here

Navigate, Survey, and Explore

I've been working on my talk for the Testing, Diversity, AI conference run by the Software Testing interest group of the British Computer Society.  In it, I'm thinking about the tooling I built to help me explore a chatbot API. It exploits random choice to walk through the extremely large space of possible chats in a medical symptom checking application. As I reflected on the combination of tools and testing I found it convenient to label three activities that involve both. Navigat e Navigation is about finding a path to an endpoint. While navigating I am very interested to notice assumptions I'm making, workarounds that are required, and any questions that come to mind, but my main focus is on reaching the goal. In the first instance, on this project, I needed a basic framework that would enable my code to start a chat, walk through all of the interactions with the service, and stop. As I was writing code to create my initial

The Great Post Office Scandal

  The Great Post Office Scandal by Nick Wallis is a depressing, dispiriting, and disheartening read. For anyone that cares about fairness and ethics in the relationship that business and technology has with individuals and wider society, at least. As a software tester working in the healthcare sector who has signed up to the ACM code of ethics through my membership of the Association for Software Testing I put myself firmly in that camp. Wallis does extraordinarily well to weave a compelling and readable narrative out of a years-long story with a large and constantly-changing cast and depth across subjects ranging from the intensely personal to extremely technical, and through procedure, jurisprudence, politics, and corporate governance. I won't try to summarise that story here (although Wikipedia takes a couple of stabs at it ) but I'll pull out a handful of threads that I think testers might be interested in: The unbelievable naivety which lead to Horizon (the system at th

Truth or Dare

  In episode three of Oddly Influenced, jUnit and What Makes a Successful Tool , Brian Marick is speculating about the relative lack of adoption of test-driven development compared to the tooling that supported it.  After putting forward a particular theory he wonders whether it's "true" and says: That ... gives me an opportunity to state a theme that’s been in my work for decades. I read books ... about how people do their work. I’m not so concerned if the theories are true as if they are suggestive – that is, do they give me ideas about how software people should do our work. [The] next task is trying out whether those ideas have good results, in our work. Because everyone’s theory about people is somewhere between fully wrong and fully right, and is always incomplete. I like this perspective a lot. It puts me in mind of Paul Feyerabend's Against Method, a book I failed to finish because it was so dense and widely-read, bu

Strings Attached

  The Association for Software Testing is crowd-sourcing a book,  Navigating the World as a Context-Driven Tester , which aims to provide  responses to common questions and statements about testing from a  context-driven perspective . It's being edited by  Lee Hawkins  who is  posing questions on  Twitter ,   LinkedIn ,   Slack , and the AST  mailing list  and then collating the replies, focusing on practice over theory. I've decided to  contribute  by answering briefly, and without a lot of editing or crafting, by imagining that I'm speaking to someone in software development who's acting in good faith, cares about their work and mine, but doesn't have much visibility of what testing can be. Perhaps you'd like to join me?   --00-- "What’s the right ratio of developers to testers?" You're an intelligent person with a sense of humour, so I hope you won't mind when I start my answer with what's the right length for this string? As usual,

Agile Testing Questioned

Zenzi Ali has been running a book club on the Association for Software Testing Slack and over the last few weeks we've read Agile Testing Condensed by Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin. Each chapter was taken as a jumping off point for one or two discussion points and I really enjoyed the opportunity to think about the questions Zenzi posed and sometimes pop a question or two back into the conversation as well. This post reproduces the questions and my answers, lightly edited for formatting. --00-- Ten principles of agile testing are given in the book. Do you think there is a foundational principle that the others must be built upon? In your experience, do you find that some of these principles are less or more important than others?  The text says they are for a team wanting to deliver the highest-quality product they can. If we can regard a motivation as a foundational principle, perhaps that could be it: each of the ten pr

Testing Me in Production

  The Association for Software Testing is crowd-sourcing a book,  Navigating the World as a Context-Driven Tester , which aims to provide  responses to common questions and statements about testing from a  context-driven perspective . It's being edited by  Lee Hawkins  who is  posing questions on  Twitter ,   LinkedIn ,   Slack , and the AST  mailing list  and then collating the replies, focusing on practice over theory. I've decided to  contribute  by answering briefly, and without a lot of editing or crafting, by imagining that I'm speaking to someone in software development who's acting in good faith, cares about their work and mine, but doesn't have much visibility of what testing can be. Perhaps you'd like to join me?   --00-- "For your annual review, I’ll need to see evidence of what you produced this year." From the way you phrase that question I suspect you're after some kind of output of my work that you can use to judge whether I'm do

Leaps and Boundary Objects

Brian Marick  recently launched a new podcast, Oddly Influenced . I said this about it on Twitter: Boundary Objects, the first episode of @marick's podcast, is thought-provoking and densely-packed with some lovely turns of phrase. I played it twice in a row. Very roughly, boundary objects are things or concepts that help different interest groups to collaborate by being ambiguous enough to be meaningful and motivational to all parties. Wikipedia  elaborates, somewhat formally:  [boundary objects are] both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites ... The creation and management of boundary objects is key in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting social worlds. The podcast talks about boundary objects in general and then applies the idea to software development specifically, casting acceptance test

Enjoy Testing

  The testers at work had a lean coffee session this week. One of the questions was  "I like testing best because ..." I said that I find the combination of technical, intellectual, and social challenges endlessly enjoyable, fascinating, and stimulating. That's easy to say, and it sounds good too, but today I wondered whether my work actually reflects it. So I made a list of some of the things I did in the last working week: investigating a production problem and pairing to file an incident report finding problems in the incident reporting process feeding back in various ways to various people about the reporting process facilitating a cross-team retrospective on the Kubernetes issue that affected my team's service participating in several lengthy calibration workshops as my team merges with another trying to walk a line between presenting my perspective on things I find important and over-contributing providing feedback and advice on the process identifying a