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Risk-Based Testing Averse

 
Joep Schuurkes started a thread on Twitter last week.
What are the alternatives to risk-based testing?
I listed a few activities that I thought we might agree were testing but not explicitly driven by a risk evaluation (with a light edit to take later discussion into account):
  • Directed. Someone asks for something to be explored.
  • Unthinking. Run the same scripted test cases we always do, regardless of the context.
  • Sympathetic. Looking at something to understand it, before thinking about risks explicitly.
In the thread, Stu Crook challenged these, suggesting that there must be some concern behind the activities. To Stu, the writing's on the wall for risk-based testing as a term because ...
Everything is risk based, the question is, what risks are you going to optimise for?

And I see this perspective but it reminds me that, as so often, there is a granularity tax in conversation around definitions. 

We could zoom all the way out and say that wherever we perceive an unknown then there is a risk that some aspect of it might be important for some reason to somebody at some time. 

Of course, we don't know what we don't know so there is always an unknown and hence always this "background risk." Further, all discovery activity — including testing — can be seen as mitigating it.

I enjoy this kind of semantic slicing. Thinking about how I think about my work can help me in my work.  I spent an inordinate amount of time working out what testing means to me, for example.

However, I also enjoy finding ways to make terminology practical. If risk is endemic then it loses any explanatory value.

So, day-to-day when I talk about risk in relation to my work I want to be more precise. I want conversations about the risk of what, to who, and when. If I'm doing (what I would call) risk-based testing I'm operating at this lower level.

That's not to say that lacking knowledge can never be a risk. In some projects that is the biggest risk, but I'll want to call it out in that case, to be specific about how it differs from the background level.

Interestingly, a couple of days later I saw that  Maaret Pyhäjärvi was saying something that I think is expressing the same kind of sentiment:

When I say I do "risk-based testing", I mean I have a very specific idea of what I want to try that might be broken in a relevant way. All testing is risk-based already, so to add the qualifier, I do something extra.

Thanks to everyone sharing their questions, perspectives, and challenges. This stuff energises me.

Edit: Joep wrote a follow-up post too.
Image: https://flic.kr/p/bVVaSW

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