Wednesday, June 16, 2021

All Testing is not Context-Driven

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 TwitterLinkedInSlack, 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?


"Isn't all testing context-driven?"

As we exist in a context, it's impossible to do anything that isn't influenced by that context to some extent. Some people take this to mean that all testing is driven by context.

But driven is the key term here. Existing in a context is not the same as consciously choosing how to take account of it, watch for changes, and adapt accordingly.

What does this mean in practice? On a project, a context-driven tester might seek to understand what the project aims are, who needs to benefit, in what ways, and why the approach proposed is thought to be appropriate. They could wonder whether the personnel, timeframe, and tooling are likely to deliver the desired outcome, and if not why not. They will look for ways that they can contribute to the project's success under whatever constraints it has and with whatever skills they have.

Testers who are taking a context-driven approach will recognise that every participant's perspective will differ to some extent, not least because we are each an integral part of our own contexts. They will try account for that by, for instance, repeated observation, applying heuristics, finding similar examples from their experience, calling on their expertise, looking for collaboration, making regular attempts to synchronise with the people who matter on the project, and aligning work with current goals and restrictions.

Do you think all testers take this kind of intentional, empathic, approach to their testing? No? Then I think you know the answer to your question.

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