James Bach visited Melbourne this week to teach his Rapid Software Testing course. While he was here, he took the time to talk to about 30 developers and testers from the Melbourne XP Enthusiasts Group (MXPEG) and the Melbourne Association of Software Testers (MAST).
James is an accomplished speaker and is passionate about testing. He spent the first few minutes railing against the traditional testing world that is “obsessed with techniquism and artifactism” – blindly following a testing process without thinking (which I guess I talked about a couple of weeks ago in my post on Cargo Cult Testing); and observed that thinking was a skill that could be taught and practiced.
As an example of a training exercise that could develop exploratory testing skills (and therefore thinking skills), James introduced the Art Show game. This game is similar to Mastermind, except played with cards and much more informal. It boils down to teams determining the the algorithm inside a black box (an art critic’s preferences) through iterative exploratory tests (art showings).
I won’t spoil the game for you by giving too many hints but, rather than simply getting the correct answer, the exploratory testing process is more important. It gives valuable practice in forming a hypothesis and validating or refuting the hypothesis though testing while optimising for speed, coverage and cost (because you may lose cards each time you run a test).
The highlight of the night was probably seeing James in vigorous debate with someone over ISEB’s definition of exploratory testing as “an ad-hoc technique”.
I am sure that I will not be the only attendee who will be dusting off my art critic’s beret to run this as a training exercise with my team sometime soon.