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3 minute read - Exploratory Testing

Notes on the evolution of my exploratory testing documentation style

Jan 16, 2009

Some notes on how I evolved my exploratory testing documentation approach.

Looking back at ETA I can see that my current approach to documenting exploratory testing has changed since I last worked on ETA.

Back then I remember my style as:

  • what did I just do?
  • what did I just observe?
  • scribbled thoughts on paper

I kind of scribbled future thoughts on bits of paper off to the side as they occurred to me. Since various people have derogatively described my handwriting as “a scrawl”, “unreadable” and “teeny tiny random lines” on a page. And since my handwriting seems to self destruct and become unreadable, even to me, after a day or two - keeping too much in handwriting on paper forced an evolution.

ETA supported that ‘post documentation’ process. So it lets you add notes about things you did and saw. But not so much about what you think you will do next (except in the form of notes).

My current ET style requires me to document my thoughts about the future too, in some circles we might even call that planning.

So I now write down:

  • what I think I might do
  • my aims and intents for what I plan to do next
  • thoughts of the future
  • possible bugs to look out for
  • the intent behind my current investigations
  • etc.

And I still write down:

  • what did I just do?
  • what did I just observe?

I can see parallels between this approach and my current time management approach.

My current time management approach involves:

  • write down task before doing
  • write down what done on task
  • retrospectives on what done (at different level: immediate, daily, weekly)
  • reviews of what else needs doing (at different level: immediate, daily, weekly)

(excuse my primitive Tarzan speak, I over indulged in ERB this week)

I also engage in retrospective when I construct my test report from my notes to summarise my findings and plan for future sessions.

So both my time management approach and ET approach mirror each other. The more I learn about one, the more I learn about the other. And I continue to change and refine both.

This may not surprise you given that you can view the Session Based Management approach as a Time/Task Management approach.

As such ETA in its current form does not really support everything I do.

I use a few consistent and nameable tools at the moment for the majority of my ET documentation:

How does everyone else document their ETA and what do you use?