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3 minute read - Exploratory Testing Productivity

"Martial deals with surprise" - GTD related to testing

Jan 18, 2008

I made some notes when watching the Dave Allen’s Google Tech Talk on Getting Things Done. In order to help remember them I have mapped them on to Software Testing, with a few additional notes.

If you haven’t watched the Google Tech Talk by Dave Allen then this post may not make as much sense now, but I think it will after you come back from watching the talk. And if you have watched it, then this post may act as a small reminder for you to.

Dave Allen said a number of statements during the talk that I made a note of. By taking tiny snippet quotes, I get the benefit of applying them to whatever I want and take them out of context. So warning… I did that below.

Martial deals with surprise.

So does testing. Surprise heavily influences my testing. And I currently hold the belief that the more ‘surprised’ we get when testing, the more information we generated with our test. A ‘scripted’ test which passes generated no surprises, and no real information since it ‘confirmed’ our model. If a test ‘fails’ then it expands our model since we didn’t expect it to fail, we have to adjust our model to the reality of the situation and thereby generated new information that we have to report and incorporate into our model.

Dave Allen had a few quotes which I relate to ‘state’ or how we feel. I view personal ‘state’ as an underrated concept in Software Testing and Dave Allen actually describes a very effective state for conducting exploratory testing in.

You lose speed if you are not “present”

Perfectly appropriate response with and engagement with what is present

Available at present with full resources.

If you could generate a state that you can describe using the words above, what does it feel like. Now you may find be that you have to remember a state very close in form to that description and tweak it a little, or that you can instantly adopt that state. And when you test like that, and you extend your senses, and you observe keenly and you focus your on the system and the test at hand. Do you think you can act more effectively?

So one application for GTD would involve using it, to avoid the distractions that remove us from that state. The GTD system aims to help you create a trusted system so that we do not get distracted and we can stay on focus.

The exploratory testing literature talks about session based testing. One tool of session based testing, the ‘Charter’, can act as one of the techniques to remove the ‘clutter’ from your mind before you start testing.

Dave’s “working hypothesis” - as soon as it in your brain and managed by your brain - it keeps getting popped back - until you put it in some trusted system that you trust you will look at at the important time in the future.

So as an exploratory tester my ’trusted system’ involves a charter and a notebook for making notes as I go along. I make notes of observations. I make notes of new ideas - I don’t want to forget them, but I don’t want them detracting from my focus, so I write them down, knowing that I review them after the completed testing session.

Pay attention to where your mind is going - there is a message there - handle that otherwise you get stress

I consider this good advice and I apply it not just to me, but also to the system under test.