Skip to main content

My Favourite Tool

Last week I did a presentation to a software testing course at EC Utbildning in Sweden titled Exploring with Automation where I demoed ways in which I use software tools to help me to test. Following up later, one of the students asked whether I had a favourite tool.

A favourite tool? Wow, so simple but sooo deep! 

Asking for a favourite tool could make a great interview question, to understand the breadth and depth of a candidate's knowledge about tools, how they think about an apparently basic request with deep complexity beneath (favourite for what task, on what basis, in what contexts, over what timescale?  what is a tool anyway?) and how they formulate a response to take all of that into account.

I could truthfully but unhelpfully answer this question with a curt Yes or No. Or I could try and give something more nuanced. I went for the latter.

At an extremely meta level I would echo Jerry Weinberg in Perfect Software:

The number one testing tool is not the computer, but the human brain — the brain in conjunction with eyes, ears, and other sense organs. No amount of computing power can compensate for brainless testing...

But in Testing Show I explained why I might also consider people as essential for testing.

At a slightly less meta level I would say that tools that help me to use my brain productively, pragmatically, and practically will have a chance of applying in any context, including those where we don't have acess to other tools. These include the scientific and engineering methods, comparison, and modelling. I talked about about some of them in How to Test Anything (blog, video).

Reducing the metaness again, my answer might be tools that can create tools — tool factories if you like. These are extremely valuable because of their flexibility. At a very base level, I can use shell scripts to simply stitch together other tools into a new tool (e.g. interacting with a search engine), I might exploit a third-party library that has capabilities that I need (e.g. publishing to Confluence), or I might write a test harness from scratch (which I did for the scenario in Testing Generally).

And bottoming out with something more atomic, I might say that in the moment the tool that solves my problem is my favouite. But, over the long term if you really pushed me and didn't give me a specific context, I'd go for three relatively generic tools: 

  • A text editor allows me to take notes without breaking flow while testing. I can also write and explore my ideas there, I can write scripts, and I can even use data manipulation functions such as search-and-replace. 
  • A spreadsheet gives me access to numerical data formatting, processing, and visualisation, all of which facilitate exploration.
  • A pen and paper gives me a graphical lens through which to think about whatever I'm testing, and to share my thoughts with others.

But what do you think?
Image: Discogs

Comments

  1. This article was curated as a part of #42nd Issue of Software Testing Notes Newsletter.
    https://softwaretestingnotes.substack.com/p/issue-42-software-testing-notes

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Meet Me Halfway?

  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 , Mastodon , 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-- "Stop answering my questions with questions." Sure, I can do that. In return, please stop asking me questions so open to interpretation that any answer would be almost meaningless and certa

Can Code, Can't Code, Is Useful

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 , Mastodon , 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-- "If testers can’t code, they’re of no use to us" My first reaction is to wonder what you expect from your testers. I am immediately interested in your working context and the way

Not Strictly for the Birds

  One of my chores takes me outside early in the morning and, if I time it right, I get to hear a charming chorus of birdsong from the trees in the gardens down our road, a relaxing layered soundscape of tuneful calls, chatter, and chirrupping. Interestingly, although I can tell from the number and variety of trills that there must be a large number of birds around, they are tricky to spot. I have found that by staring loosely at something, such as the silhouette of a tree's crown against the slowly brightening sky, I see more birds out of the corner of my eye than if I scan to look for them. The reason seems to be that my peripheral vision picks up movement against the wider background that direct inspection can miss. An optometrist I am not, but I do find myself staring at data a great deal, seeking relationships, patterns, or gaps. I idly wondered whether, if I filled my visual field with data, I might be able to exploit my peripheral vision in that quest. I have a wide monito

Postman Curlections

My team has been building a new service over the last few months. Until recently all the data it needs has been ingested at startup and our focus has been on the logic that processes the data, architecture, and infrastructure. This week we introduced a couple of new endpoints that enable the creation (through an HTTP POST) and update (PUT) of the fundamental data type (we call it a definition ) that the service operates on. I picked up the task of smoke testing the first implementations. I started out by asking the system under test to show me what it can do by using Postman to submit requests and inspecting the results. It was the kinds of things you'd imagine, including: submit some definitions (of various structure, size, intent, name, identifiers, etc) resubmit the same definitions (identical, sharing keys, with variations, etc) retrieve the submitted definitions (using whatever endpoints exist to show some view of them) compare definitions I submitted fro

ChatGPTesters

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 , Mastodon , 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--  "Why don’t we replace the testers with AI?" We have a good relationship so I feel safe telling you that my instinctive reaction, as a member of the Tester's Union, is to ask why we don&

Vanilla Flavour Testing

I have been pairing with a new developer colleague recently. In our last session he asked me "is this normal testing?" saying that he'd never seen anything like it anywhere else that he'd worked. We finished the task we were on and then chatted about his question for a few minutes. This is a short summary of what I said. I would describe myself as context-driven . I don't take the same approach to testing every time, except in a meta way. I try to understand the important questions, who they are important to, and what the constraints on the work are. With that knowledge I look for productive, pragmatic, ways to explore whatever we're looking at to uncover valuable information or find a way to move on. I write test notes as I work in a format that I have found to be useful to me, colleagues, and stakeholders. For me, the notes should clearly state the mission and give a tl;dr summary of the findings and I like them to be public while I'm working not just w

Make, Fix, and Test

A few weeks ago, in A Good Tester is All Over the Place , Joep Schuurkes described a model of testing work based on three axes: do testing yourself or support testing by others be embedded in a team or be part of a separate team do your job or improve the system It resonated with me and the other testers I shared it with at work, and it resurfaced in my mind while I was reflecting on some of the tasks I've picked up recently and what they have involved, at least in the way I've chosen to address them. Here's three examples: Documentation Generation We have an internal tool that generates documentation in Confluence by extracting and combining images and text from a handful of sources. Although useful, it ran very slowly or not at all so one of the developers performed major surgery on it. Up to that point, I had never taken much interest in the tool and I could have safely ignored this piece of work too because it would have been tested by

Build Quality

  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 , Mastodon , 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-- "When the build is green, the product is of sufficient quality to release" An interesting take, and one I wouldn't agree with in general. That surprises you? Well, ho

The Best Laid Test Plans

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 , Mastodon , 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 best format for a test plan?" I'll side-step the conversation about what a test plan is and just say that the format you should use is one that works for you, your coll

My Frame, Your Thing

I was talking with a colleague the other week and we got onto the topic of framing our work. This is one of my suggestions: I want to help whoever I'm working with build the best version of their thing, whatever 'best' means for them, given the constraints they have. That's it. Chef's kiss. I like it because it packs in, for example: exploration of ideas, software, process, business choices, and legal considerations conversations about budget, scope, resources, dreams, and priorities communicating findings, hypotheses, and suggestions helping to break down the work, organise the work, and facilitate the work making connections, pulling information from outside, and sharing information from inside It doesn't mean that I have no core expertise to bring, no scope for judgement, no agency, and no way to be creative or express myself, and it specifically does not mean that I'm going to pick up all the crap that no-one else wants to do.  Of course, I might pick up