TESTING TRAPEZEAPRIL 2014
ANNE-MARIE CHARRETT • MIKE TALKS • ALESSANDRA MOREIRA
DEAN MACKENZIE • MICHAEL TRENGROVE
02 • EDITORIAL
" KATRINA CLOKIE
03 • HOW DID YOU MISS
" THAT? BLIND SPOTS
" THAT SIDE SWIPE
" DEAN MACKENZIE
10 • TESTING GRAVITY
" MIKE TALKS
17 • ENCOURAGING " " "
" ALESSANDRA MOREIRA
23 • WHERE TO FOR THE "
" FUTURE OF SOFTWARE
" MICHAEL TRENGROVE
31 • TEACHING CRITICAL "
" ANNE-MARIE CHARRETT
Thank you for the wonderful response to our ﬁrst issue of Testing Trapeze. It was exciting to see the
magazine being distributed throughout testing networks internationally, to have our efforts seen by so
many, and to receive plenty of positive comments about what we had assembled.
We learned a lot from the ﬁrst issue and hope to resolve some of the problems people experienced
with our PDF format. Please let us know if you spot something funny as you read, we would like to
offer the same reading experience to everyone.
In the following pages we have some amazing articles from another talented batch of testers; Anne-
Marie Charrett, Mike Talks, Dean Mackenzie, Michael Trengrove and
Alessandra Moreira. It’s a privilege to have contributors of such high caliber;
their words make our magazine.
2" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
Katrina Clokie is a tester from Wellington, New Zealand. She is co-founder
and organiser of WeTest Workshops, a regular participant of KWST, and the
editor of Testing Trapeze. She blogs and tweets about testing.
IN A RECENT PROJECT FOR A MOBILE
application, I was testing a newly-added piece of
payment-related functionality. I explored the
feature, guided by a list of test ideas gathered
from earlier investigation, and duly noted bugs
where I found them. Satisﬁed, I moved on to
other work, assigning a few ﬁnal checks to a less
experienced associate. To my surprise and
dismay, he soon returned to report he’d found a
bug in the functionality I had looked at. It turned
out that accessing the payments page from a
certain other page triggered a problem. I had
been well aware of the other page, but had
simply failed to account for it in my testing.
My ﬁrst thoughts in the irritated swirl that
bubbled up contained a prominent question –
How did I miss that? It wasn’t a long sequence
bug or a particularly complex problem, yet had
eluded my seemingly careful investigation and
When exploring an application, the numbers of
tests we can perform are almost inﬁnite (though
the number of more useful tests is somewhat
lower). In such circumstances, the scope to
make mistakes, omissions and oversights is
correspondingly high, impacting testing in a
number of different ways:
• Different quality criteria for the product,
such as performance or reliability, might be
completely ignored (for a list of potential criteria,
see Bach’s heuristic test strategy model or
Edgren’s Little Black Book of Test Design).
• The quality of the tests conducted may be
compromised, insofar as their effectiveness in
exploring or evaluating the product and ﬁnding
problems is concerned.
• The information gathered from testing, such
as bugs, questions and new test ideas, may
prove to be misleading and ultimately useless.
HOW DID YOU MISS
BLIND SPOTS THAT SIDE
3" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
There is an almost endless list of factors that can negatively inﬂuence
our testing. The following are some of the traps I’ve encountered
throughout my testing journey.
Obsession with Function
In my days as an enthusiastic but uneducated acceptance tester,
testing began and ﬁnished with uninspired inspections of the UI. This
ﬂawed outlook of testing stayed with me until my ﬁrst “real” testing
position, where the fundamental ﬂaws in this attitude were soon
apparent as new and unrealised types of bugs slipped into production.
Since that time, I’ve seen a lot of other testers fall into the same narrow
view of testing – and many don’t seem to realise it.
A “fascination with functional correctness”, as Michael Bolton puts it,
presents a major pitfall that many testers fall head-long into.
Function is the easiest and most apparent aspect of most software
products, and so provides testers with an obvious focus. Unfortunately,
that focus can lead to a myopic attitude to the exclusion of other
(equally important) aspects of the software, leaving entire categories of
test ideas and quality criteria unexamined or important problems
This monomania is often exaggerated by requirements that ﬁxate solely
on the functional aspects of the software, and only implicitly touch on
other areas that require investigation. While astute testers may pick up
on these clues (and there are a growing number who actively work on
discovering software needs beyond the requirements), most simply fail
to notice the many missed opportunities in their focus on functionality.
Not Stopping to Think
Early in my career, I was an advocate of the “get in there and test!”
approach. The bigger the test effort required, the more light-weight I
went with planning, such was my eagerness to get started. Planning
was largely a waste of time, or so I thought (though in the case of
“planning is simply completing a template” views, I still do). It took a
year, a few set-backs with my test projects and an awkward
conversation or two with a manager before I started to spend the time
on planning and preparation. I still occasionally have to ﬁght the urge to
“just get going”.
most simply fail to
notice the many missed
opportunities in their
focus on functionality
4" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
In her book Blindspots, Madeleine Hecke points out that that we often
fail to recognise “thinking opportunities” – that is, we simply don’t
realise that we should be spending a moment to think about what we’re
about to do.
She continues to state several reasons that can cause our minds shut
down, among them being:
• Emotional Stress: when deadlines or a crisis looms (and testing
is a prime candidate for such events), thinking often ﬂies out the
window in the panic of an immediate response.
• Information Overload: when we receive too much information,
our minds become limited by what we can process, and so we miss
some of the thinking outcomes that accompany them.
• Everyday Life: routine can immerse us in our activities to the
point where we’re doing without thinking.
Each reason is distinct, but can lead to the same result – unfocused
testing that relies on ad hoc decisions to drive it. Without thinking, our
testing efforts are compromised before we begin, and no amount of
enthusiasm or can-do attitude can compensate for that handicap.
Not Noticing Something
Ever missed something obvious when testing? I have. The most recent
occasion was when I compared the UI layout between an application
and a mock screenshot. I completely failed to notice the absence of
some text at the bottom of a particular screen – important disclaimer
text, at that.
In testing, failing to notice things can be very simple to do. It could
even be argued that it’s not a tester’s job to notice every minute change
that occurs in software throughout development, but rather to notice
changes that can potentially be (or actually pose) a problem. In that
sense, training our observation skills or using automation may help
improve the ability to detect differences or problems.
However, our ability to “ignore the familiar” extends beyond external
observation. We can also fail to notice what we are thinking about. And
in software testing, that’s a more serious problem.
Without thinking, our
testing efforts are
5" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Not noticing our thinking isn’t necessarily the same as not stopping to
think. We can be thinking without realising what we’re thinking. Yet our
routine use of well-established thinking patterns, inﬂuenced by various
beliefs and attitudes, can tick along without us ever noticing them, let
alone stopping to critique them. That’s not necessarily a problem –
unless those beliefs are ineffectual, out-dated or ﬂat-out wrong.
Using test scripts can accentuate this particular blind spot, in both the
external and internal senses. Focused entirely on the test steps, testers
become more interested in verifying the software meets whatever
narrow prescription has been codiﬁed in the test case, rather than
observing the software as an entire system (and the resulting
behaviours). And their adherence to following the test script “rail-roads”
their mind into thinking that the test case represents “testing” a feature
in its entirety, sapping creative options and the potential for much
higher quality work.
The ﬁrst time I didn’t have requirements to test software, it felt like a
minor disaster! How could we possibly test this effectively? The client
was being unreasonable! A handful of screenshots and a couple of
meetings to discuss the application, and that’s all we were going to
Requirements make testing straight-forward. Or so it seems. They
provide an apparently authoritative list of things a tester must cover in
their activities. Work your way through each requirement, conﬁrm the
software meets each one and your testing appears reasonably
But beyond the functional focus this approach encourages, only
verifying that requirements have been met can lead to a passive,
conﬁrmatory attitude in the testing – in other words, a conﬁrmation bias.
In turn, testers often end up looking to conﬁrm this implied bias laid out
in requirements with a weak array of positive tests. And while proving
that the happy path works has some value, it is only a single spanner in
the toolbox of methods a tester should evaluate software with.
Negative tests, critical thinking (on both the requirements and the
software) and an exploratory attitude can all potentially yield far more
information than the simple validation exercises many testers employ.
Or so it seems.
6" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Using an arsenal of testing techniques on software can push past the
boundaries implicitly set by requirements, exposing new and
unexpected problems in the software.
Conﬁrmation bias is just one of many cognitive biases, many of which
can have a signiﬁcant effect on how a tester performs.
Like most testers, I’ve worked with many developers – some have been
error/bug-prone, others have consistently produced ﬁrst-class work. I’ll
listen to their explanations and advice respectfully. I’ll ask questions. I’ll
usually jot down notes. And I’ll also remain a sceptic, determined to
ﬁnd the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth through
investigation of the product itself.
Of course, trust isn’t necessarily a trap, pitfall or blind spot. It’s a critical
ingredient in building relationships within a development or project
team. But in the realm of testing, where critical questioning and
evaluating is a core component, placing unswerving trust in
requirements documentation or the words of a fellow team member
may pose a signiﬁcant hazard.
The speciﬁcation or requirements document is not the product under
test. Similarly, the developer’s explanation of a feature or expected
behaviour is not the product. In fact, the apparent behaviour or
performance of the product may not indicate “what lies beneath”. Yet,
I’ve seen testers refer to requirements as if they were an
unquestionable oracle, or take a developer’s word as an unbreakable
oath. In many cases, they were sorely disappointed when things they
read or heard turned out to be less than 100% reliable.
At best, to not ask questions can limit your testing’s effectiveness,
increasing the risk of missing potential problems or other noteworthy
discoveries. At worst, it can completely misguide your testing efforts,
raising false ﬂags or communicating incorrect information (and a host
of related assumptions) that disrupt the development.
Use every information source you can as potentially useful. But don’t
believe everything you read, see or hear.
7" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
The specification or
is not the product under
test. Similarly, the
explanation of a
feature or expected
behaviour is not the
Testing without Context
In my early days as a tester, I was an ardent
collector of generic test ideas, techniques and
thoughts, all neatly arranged in a series of lists. It
seemed an excellent way of capturing a host of
various tips, tricks and so on that I could apply at
a moment’s glance. But I soon found that it was
merely a bunch of words, completely free of
context and as a result, of limited usefulness
whenever I turned to them with a speciﬁc
situation in mind.
Applying a raft of cookie-cutter methods without
ﬁrst thinking about the nuances of the situation
can be a potentially ineffective and dangerous
short-cut. Few testing scenarios are the same,
and those that are similar will still possess
characteristics that prevent thoughtless
application of any particular technique.
This isn’t to say that every single aspect of every
different test project is context-speciﬁc. Michael
Bolton’s post on context-free test questions is an
excellent reference of re-usable resources, as
are the earlier mentioned quality categories. Nor
is it a bad idea to build up a testing toolkit of
techniques, ideas and heuristics that are
available to you. However, knowing WHEN to
utilise these tools is as much of a skill and
equally important as the HOW they are used. As
the paraphrased cliché goes, context is king.
THESE ARE ONLY A SMALL SAMPLE OF THE
myriad mental traps awaiting unsuspecting
software testers. There are many more out there
ready to pounce and I encourage you to actively
look for them as you go about your work.
On a ﬁnal note, these are only intended as
potential causes, and while they may help
explain poor testing should not should be used
to excuse it. By categorising some of these blind
spots, I hope it may help anyone involved in
software development (testers or otherwise) to
be on their guard against them. Awareness of
the pitfalls that may derail testing won’t
necessarily win the war against them, but as a
certain children’s toy from the 1980s and 90s so
sagely quoted, “knowing is half the battle”.
8" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Dean Mackenzie is a software tester living in overly sunny Brisbane, Australia. Having fallen into
testing around seven years ago, he subsequently discovered the context-driven school several years
later. Dean aims to play an increasing part in the context-driven testing community in Australia,
especially in encouraging others to re-examine traditional attitudes towards software testing.
He enjoys studying new ideas (especially those around testing or learning) and ﬁnds there just isn’t
enough time to look at all of the good ones. Dean blogs intermittently at Yes, Broken... and can be
found under @deanamackenzie on Twitter.
9" TESTING TRAPEZE | FEBRUARY 2014
Testing Circus is one of the world’s leading
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Published regularly since September 2010, it
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Testing Circus is read by thousands of
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JOIN THE CIRCUS ONLINE:
AS PART OF THE WELLINGTON WETEST
Weekend Workshop back in November, myself
and Dave Robinson ran an exercise called
‘Testing Gravity’, the idea for which traced its
roots back to when I used to work as a teacher of
science in the 90s.
Most people think back to learning science as an
accumulation of facts – the Earth moves around
the Sun (although that one is a relatively new
fact), the Earth is round, etc. But being good in
science is more than an accumulation of
knowledge, and being able to churn those things
back. As a science teacher, along with a guide
for the levels of knowledge we were to instill in
our students, there was also a guide for
developing their experimentation skills.
This, as you can imagine, was much more
difﬁcult to instill than just the retention of facts;
there is no “right” way to do it. Included within
this skill set is developing students’ intuition:
• Given a query about nature, how can I
develop an experimentation that will help to
investigate that question?
• How can I collect data on my experiment?
• Given the results I collect, how can I use
them to either enhance and modify my
experimentation techniques, or else ask new
queries (and hence try new experiments)?
The heart of a scientiﬁc method then, is very
close to that of good testing. ‘Testing Gravity’
was designed to take a group of testers back to
the classroom, look at how they approached
problems there, and ask if they could take this
approach from the science classroom back to
the testing ofﬁce...
10" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
“I’m actually a bit older than I seem. I was one of the architects of the
Big Bang, which I can assure you was the original startup! Originally
we started the Universe with a single uniﬁed force, but almost
immediately we realized it wasn’t good enough.
So I was in charge of designing and delivering a special force we
called “object attraction 2.0”, but you probably know under the brand
name it was given in the 17th Century of “gravity”.
To be honest we didn’t document what we were doing, we just ﬁxed
things on the ﬂy. And obviously some time has gone through. If
pressed, I would sum up and describe “object attraction 2.0” as “how
From what I do remember about the project though is this:
• An object will always fall downwards, never upwards to a large
object like the Earth.
• The more heavy an object is, the more force it feels from the
• So heavier objects must fall faster than lighter ones.
• Two objects of the same weight will always fall at the same speed.
Obviously some time has passed, and the Universe is a lot bigger
and a different shape than it used to be.
I need you over the next 30 minutes to show me what you can ﬁnd out
about gravity, what it does, and anything surprising according to my
deﬁnition that I need to be aware of.”
At the beginning of the workshop, the attendees were given this brief
by myself, acting as the business owner:
At this point my partner in crime, Dave (who was acting as manager of
the testing project) reminded everyone that they weren’t after theory or
conjecture, we were after proof of what they could ﬁnd about gravity.
11" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Are these the tools you
would choose to test
We put them into teams, and asked them to start their test planning,
putting before them the equipment they had to use which included:
• Balls of different densities, weights, materials, size
• Sheets of paper
• Army men with parachutes
• Measuring tape
• Kitchen scales
The workshop was actually ﬁlled with a number of subtle traps, which
were a major point of the exercise. Sure enough, when we moved from
our “planning stage” to our “testing phase” most people had a plan of
using the scales to measure the weight of the object; using the
measuring tape to ensure you were dropping from a consistent height;
and using the stopwatch to measure the time to fall.
Most of the teams also deduced it would be more scientiﬁc if they
added an element of repeatability to their tests, and hence measure
each object three times. Bravo!
As soon as testing began though, some of the traps started to snap...
12" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Trap 1: The Scales
The kitchen scales were designed to measure weights for baking. The
objects in front of the teams were signiﬁcantly lighter than a 100g
portion of ﬂour for a cake. The needle barely budged. This is a trap
many scientists and testers fall into – if a piece of equipment is put in
front of you, you feel obliged to use it as part of your solution. Its very
presence makes people feel it has to be part of their plan.
Trap 2: The Stopwatch
When you drop an object from shoulder height, it takes so little time to
fall that the stopwatch user barely had time to click start and stop.
Collecting data for the same object, the results were all over the place
because the human error in reaction was signiﬁcant next to the time it
took to fall. So it was useless, unless you tried to increase the height
you dropped from (but the ceiling would indeed put a ceiling on that).
What’s going on?
Measuring the weight, the height, and the time of an object to fall were
brilliant ideas. It’s just the tools provided weren’t up to the job. At this
point, the careful test plans of our participants were in shreds, in the
ﬁrst few minutes all that pre-work had gone up in smoke, as one
problem after another invalidated that planning.
So did anyone shrink back to their desk in a sulk? Or even try to keep
making their plan work in spite of the results they encountered? I’m
pleased to say we didn’t have anyone give up... the failures of
experimentation led to people trying new things.
A common approach was quite simple: take two different objects, and
drop them both at the same time from the same height, then see which
one lands ﬁrst, and use this method of comparison to draw up a
hierarchy of which objects fall fastest.
Many teams brought me over to repeat experiments they’d run. Some
savvy teams had ﬁlmed with a smartphone, and were able to show me
any experiment I wanted onscreen.
Things people had worked out included:
• An object falling was not affected by its colour - two similar
objects but different colour fell in the same time (this is one of the great
things about exercises like this - I’m educated to University level in
13" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
the failures of
experimentation led to
people trying new
physics, and have run this as a teacher a dozen times, but it never
occurred to me to test colour - and it was a great observation to make).
• The shape of an object affected “gravity” - a piece of paper
scrunched up fell differently to a piece of paper that fell as a sheet. And
this was important. I - the business owner - had deﬁned “gravity” to me
to be “how something fell”, so it was worth bringing to my attention.
• Despite my insistence at the start (this was Trap 3) and the proof
of a hundred Road Runner cartoons, heavier objects did not fall faster.
This was brought up by many, but WeTest regular Joshua Raine put it
most eloquently when he summed: “I have two objects. One is many
times the weight of the other, which means the effect of gravity on the
heavier object should be many factors greater, and yet I’m seeing no
noticeable difference in time to fall”.
More than once I threw a mock-tantrum with a team, as I’d watch an
object hit the ground, and then see a defect kick in as the ball stopped
moving down and started moving up, screaming “defect!”. One team
advised me that the ball did eventually settle on the ground, and the
effect was seen when you threw the ball at a wall horizontally, so it
wasn’t a sole property of when it moved due to gravity (which,
remember, we deﬁned as falling).
The workshop (indeed the whole WeTest event beyond this one
exercise) was a huge success. Testing, like science, is something we
can read a lot of material on, and yet we learn the most from doing, and
trying things out.
A key part of our session was learning to make mistakes in planning,
and to then revise the plan. Both Context-Driven and Agile schools
embrace this. Context-Driven Testers will quote, “Projects unfold over
time in ways that are often not predictable” and in a similar vein
Agilistas will talk about “Responding to change over following a plan”.
Learning to adapt is a key part of being a tester; to look at the
challenge in front of you, and if your methods and tools aren’t working,
learn to adapt, discard and make new ones as you need to. The testers
in the workshop had to explain to me why they changed their approach
– I was playing a somewhat surly individual, and as someone who’s
been to drama school, I hate to break character – but they did well, and
14" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Learning to adapt is a
key part of being a
they each found their own voice in explaining - again part of the object of the exercise.
Let’s go back to my teacher training - the following describes one of the higher achievement levels in
“an understanding of scientiﬁc thinking”.
By replacing just a couple of words - “pupils” become “testers”, and “teacher” changes to “peers” - it
becomes a great and powerful statement, and one that I feel we should be challenging ourselves
with every day of our testing lives:
15" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Mike Talks grew up with a love and passion for science and experimentation, which included an
interest in taking his toys apart to see how they worked. So it’s kind of natural he’s ended up in a
career as a software tester. He works at Datacom as a test manager.
“[Testers] recognise that different strategies are required to
investigate different kinds of questions, and use knowledge and
understanding to select an appropriate strategy.
In consultation with their [peers] they adapt their approach to
practical work to control risk.
They record data that are relevant and sufﬁciently detailed, and
choose methods that will obtain these data with the precision and
They analyse data and begin to explain, and allow for, anomalies.
They carry out multi-step calculations and use compound measures
They communicate ﬁndings and arguments, showing awareness of a
range of views.
They evaluate evidence critically and suggest how inadequacies can
16" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
14TH & 15TH JUNE 2014
OZWST (Australian Workshop on Software Testing) is happening again for the third time in 2014!
James Bach will be joining us in Brisbane as Content Owner, along with Richard Robinson as
OZWST was started in 2012 by David Greenlees in Adelaide, with Anne-Marie Charrett as Content
Owner and Scott Barber as Facilitator. 2013 saw the location change to Sydney and Rob Sabourin as
Content Owner with David Greenlees as Facilitator. This year, we go to Brisbane on the 14th and 15th
of June with the theme of ‘Experiences in Acquiring a Sense of Risk’.
OZWST is an invite-only peer conference styled on the Los Altos Workshop on Software Testing
format. For more information on this style of peer conference, and on OZWST itself, please visit
CURIOSITY IS A NORMAL EMOTION AND
behaviour in humans. As adults, how we react to
our inquisitive nature differs greatly in degree
and can be inﬂuenced by a number of factors.
Our upbringing, the culture we are raised in, the
type of education system we are put through, our
personal experiences and exposure, can all
have an impact in how we react to curiosity.
In his book Flow and the Psychology of
Discovery and Invention, the psychologist Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi explains that we are born with
two contradictory sets of instructions: a
conservative tendency, which includes instincts
for self-preservation and saving energy, and a
comprehensive tendency made up of instincts
for exploring, for enjoying novelty and risk—the
curiosity that leads to creativity belongs to this
set. The conservative tendency requires little
encouragement or support from outside to
motivate behaviour, but instincts such as
curiosity can wilt if not cultivated.
As testers we should actively nurture curiosity
and our thirst for knowledge. This is not a new
idea. In 1961 Jerry Weinberg said that to be able
to test better "we must struggle to develop a
suspicious nature as well as a lively imagination.”
(Computer Programming Fundamentals).
17" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Have you ever wondered about how many people saw an apple fall
before Newton, and why he was the ﬁrst who asked that very question:
why? One of the many roles of a tester is to join the dots, to ask the
questions that no one else thinks of asking, to explore the unknown, to
bring to light the dark areas that have fallen through the cracks of
documentation and communication.
Testers are constantly learning new systems, gathering information
about them and reporting what they ﬁnd. Curiosity can be one of the
guides and inspirations to exploration, and has the potential to make a
great tester out of an average one. Since from one curious thought a
number of other insights can develop.
We can stimulate our curiosity in systematic ways and we can learn to
trust it to guide us towards new knowledge. “How can we get better at
being curious?” I hear you asking. Here are some ways that have
worked for me.
Focus Attentional Resources
Often times the more we know about something, the more we want to
know, it is just our nature. By directing our attention to objects, systems
or something of interest we can become more curious about it.
For example, think of rocks, they don't seem too interesting until you
develop an interest and start collecting them. Soon you will ﬁnd out
about different types of rocks, classes of minerals, where to ﬁnd them,
and so on. If there are a lot of things to be curious about when it comes
to rocks, imagine how much more you could discover about the system
you are testing.
Test charters are a great way to focus attentional resources. A good
test charter provides inspiration and focus areas without dictating
speciﬁc steps, leaving room for curiosity to lead without being too
As soon as we ﬁnd something interesting and start directing attention
and interest towards it, our curious nature kicks in and wants to know
more. The Rule of Three is another way to direct attentional resources
to any given subject.
Millions saw the apple
fall, but Newton was
the one who asked
- Bernard Baruch
18" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
The Rule of Three
Jerry Weinberg’s Rule of Three: "If you can't think of at least three
different meanings for what you observed, you haven't thought enough
The beauty of the Rule of Three is that it can be used almost
everywhere. It forces us to think harder, to direct more attentional
resources to a problem, instead of stopping at one explanation. It
Next time you ﬁnd a bug, think of at least three possible ways it can be
recreated. If you use test charters, ask yourself how you can approach
the area under test in at least three different ways. If you pair test with
developers, try asking what are at least three paths data can take. If it
seems like stakeholders don’t seem to understand why testing takes so
long, ask yourself what could be at least three possible reasons.
Getting to at least three options or solutions is important because one
solution is a trap, two is a dilemma and three solutions breaks logjam
thinking. When you make the rule of three a habit you will ﬁnd yourself
inspired to ask more questions. It is not always easy to come up with
three solutions, but often when I do, other ideas start ﬂooding in.
Keep Asking Questions
Becoming a tester is easy, the hard thing is to be good at it. Some bugs
don't require much mental effort to be discovered. But to ﬁnd more
complex bugs, those that are difﬁcult to discover and reproduce, is a
much more difﬁcult task.
In his book Exploratory Software Testing, James Whittaker explains that
almost anyone can learn to be a decent tester. Apply even a little
common sense to input selection and you will ﬁnd bugs. Testing at this
level is a real ﬁshing-in-a-barrel activity, enough to make anyone feel
To become an exceptional tester takes a professional that treats testing
as a craft that can be mastered, that is constantly learning from each
test executed, from other testers, from literature, from the world around
them, and from the community. That is true exploratory testing:
gathering information, analyzing it, reporting it and making better
decisions each time the cycle goes around. Curiosity is vital to keep
this cycle going.
19" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
When you make the
rule of three a habit
you will find yourself
inspired to ask more
Asking questions and seeking answers leads to new information, and in
turn new information triggers curiosity and inspires us to ask more
questions. Although there is such a thing as a stupid question, good
information can come as much from intelligent questions as from stupid
ones. Questions deemed stupid by some can lead to very insightful
As Kaner, Bach and Pettichord describe in the classic book Lessons
Learned in Software Testing, "The value of questions is not limited to
those that are asked out loud. Any questions that occur to you may
help provoke your own thoughts in directions that lead to vital insights.
If you ever ﬁnd yourself testing and realise that you have no questions
about the product, take a break." During that break check out Michael
Bolton's blog about Context-Free Questioning for Testing – there are
enough questions there to trigger even the most bored mind!
Yet another reason we should keep asking questions is that it helps us
to better understand context. Our brain is a ﬁne tuned machine that
uses very little energy to process large amounts of input. Hence it is
really proﬁcient at coming up with contexts of its own. To save energy, it
will try to make sense of data, circumstances or anything by creating
If you don't ask questions about the context of your testing, chances
are you will interpret what you see within your own context. Creating
your own context could be correct or not - but most likely not.
Questions such as 'why am I testing this?' or 'who is my audience?' or
'what is the purpose of this test?' can help clarify context for people
THE SAYING “CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT” SUGGESTS THAT
curiosity can get people in trouble. As with many good things in life,
curiosity can have its drawbacks. Despite the fact that curiosity is an
indispensable behaviour for testers, in our quest for knowledge we can
be perceived as intrusive and make others uncomfortable.
We can ﬁnd issues that can rub people the wrong way, or no one wants
to consider. We may uncover problems which require others to make
decisions they were not prepared to make. There are teams and work
environments that do not foster the type of freedom a truly curious mind
20" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
in our quest for
knowledge we can be
perceived as intrusive
and make others
Testers are hired to do a job and when they do it well they can face predicaments. Yet an ethical
tester investigates and reports back, in spite of the potential danger of being seeing as nosy,
intrusive, or inconvenient.
In the words of Arnold Edinborough: “Curiosity is the very basis of education, and if you tell me that
curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.”
21" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Ale is a student of and advocate for the context-driven school of testing. She spent part of her career
following test scripts day in and day out, so appreciates the effectiveness and power of CDT. She
started testing in 2000 in Sydney, Australia and has since worked in diverse industries and a variety of
Her experience working as a context-driven tester in highly scripted environments has given her a
passion to ‘waken’ factory testers and to work on projects such as Weekend Testing Australia and New
Zealand where, as the organizer and facilitator, she has the opportunity to help and empower other
testers in their own journeys. Ale is @testchick on Twitter and blogs at Road Less Tested.
roles, from technical tester to test manager.
22" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
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WHERE IS OUR PROFESSION OF SOFTWARE
testing heading? Are we destined to create and
follow test cases forever in organisations that
would rather slap a Band-Aid on problems rather
than tackle the root causes?
Sadly there seems to be a growing divide
between companies that have managed to
empower highly productive teams and those that
seem to buckle under the weight of complexity
and technical debt. All too often the latter
companies never conduct a meaningful
retrospective on the root issues and we see
testers being asked to pick up the pieces.
On the other hand, in highly productive teams,
the role of a software tester isn’t considered
inferior to that of a developer or any other key
role. On the contrary, testers are empowered and
encouraged to bring their mindset and skills to
the rest of the team and engage constructively
from the outset.
What does it take to bring change and elevate
the concept of test ﬁrst within a development
organisation? I wanted to ﬁnd out so I keyed up
meetings with two senior leaders in the
Canterbury software sector.
WALKING INTO THE ADSCALE OFFICE, I’M
surprised to see a crowd of developers huddled
around what looks to be a full bar and kitchen in
the middle of the ofﬁce. The smell of fried bacon,
eggs and fresh coffee signals breakfast is in full
swing. The scene is amazingly informal -
everyone’s in jeans and t-shirts and someone
has brought their pet dog to work.
Adscale CEO Scott Noakes greets me and takes
me to his ‘ofﬁce’, a small desk in the middle of
the large open-plan workspace. “It’s my last day”
he says, “all I have to do is clean my desk off
and then I’m out of here.”
Scott Noakes has 20 years experience in the
tech industry and has been involved in
everything from software development to product
management and company leadership. For the
past two years he’s been CEO of Adscale
Laboratories, a development house in
23" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
WHERE TO FOR THE
FUTURE OF SOFTWARE
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND
Christchurch that serves more than 300 million ads a day to German
internet users. Scott’s also CEO of a start-up company called Linewize
and has recently resigned from his job at Adscale to focus more
completely on the start-up.
I start by asking Scott how he has seen testing evolve over the years.
He says he’s always been in start-up companies where dedicated
testers haven't been a luxury they could always afford. Developers had
to write good code because if it broke they were the ones getting
woken up in the middle of the night to deal with the problem.
“And I really strongly believe that is the right way to do it,” Scott says.
“Testing in a lot of its current forms is kind of a Band-Aid on a problem
that has some fundamental causes behind it.”
I ask Scott to explain what some of those causes are and he quickly
replies that lack of good processes and educational knowledge are the
most common causes of Band-Aid testing.
“Often the process is completely rubbish - bad process produces
consistently bad results."
Bad practices are another fundamental cause, Scott says. Testers are
often brought in to put plasters on a development problem. They
quantify it, measure it and try to stop defects making their way to the
ﬁnal customer. Scott believes the idea behind the traditional form of
testing has approached the problem from the wrong direction, “If you
really focus on getting your practices right, getting your processes right
and getting that common agreement around what it is we’re building,
and do that in a very agile and granular way, then the need for testing,
in my opinion, can actually almost disappear - at least the need for
traditional testing. I still believe there is a need for testing, but it’s in a
very different form.”
This totally resonates with me as I’ve been part of both forms of testing
in my career so far. In my ﬁrst job I was tasked with manual testing and
was challenged daily by the question of what value I was actually
bringing to the project by clicking through screens following a test
script. Coming from a farming background and with a rather practical
bent to the way I like to do things, I couldn’t believe I was being paid so
well to do such a menial task with little perceived value coming of it.
Developers had to write
good code because if it
broke they were the
ones getting woken up
in the middle of the
night to deal with the
24" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
My second job was the complete opposite - test automation enabling
near instant feedback of code changes. The test automation work
enabled me to use my skill set to help shorten the feedback loop for the
team when committing code changes. It helped break down the wall
between developer and tester and assisted the company to deliver a
quality product in a shorter time: win win.
Scott nods in agreement. He’s seen it all before.
“Typical testing, to me, is developers develop something as fast as they
can, they’re under way too much pressure, they don’t actually have the
leeway to do a good job based on some arbitrary promise by a
salesperson to the customer and if we don’t deliver it by this date we
lose this many million dollars.” The result is a kind of ping-pong game
between the two siloed camps of developers and testers, with each
blaming the other while the project drags beyond deadlines.
“Even in a scrum team?” I ask.
That all depends whether Scrum is being done properly, Scott answers.
A lot of organisations who claim to be Agile are still stuck in the old
waterfall mentality. In truly Agile organisations testers are a part of the
development team and have a valued position within the team because
of the perspective they bring.
“The perfect tester is someone who is part product owner,” Scott says.
“They really understand the problem we’re trying to solve, they have a
greater end-to-end view of the world than some of the others in the
team, and they have a wide understanding of the product. They’re
there at the outset debating what is this functionality, really getting clear
on what the satisfaction criteria is with the product owner or customer.”
Testers could spend years testing a product, Scott says, but the market
demands quick development so testers need to prioritise their work in
order of importance and make a call about how much risk they’re
willing to live with. If the system fails, at least let it fail elegantly, he says.
Engineer things so that each piece of functionality can be turned off
without pulling down the whole system.
A lot of organisations
who claim to be Agile
are still stuck in the old
25" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
“This has been a really key learning of Adscale, it is actually impossible
to test on a production equivalent test framework; we can’t recreate the
Looking forward, Scott sees a different future for software testing.
Speaking with a strong sense of conviction, he tells me something I
never expected to hear from a tech CEO.
“I have a very strong opinion that there is no place for manual testing in
the industry whatsoever - manual being testers who are told to spend
days following test scripts.”
Scott goes on to say testers have historically come from a customer
service background and often don’t have the technical skills to foot it
with the development team. If a tester is unable to automate their tests
and give advice to the development team on architecture and design
issues at an early stage, then they shouldn’t be there, Scott says.
“It has to be automated. How on earth can you wait four days for
someone to run through a manual test procedure? It’s a waste of time.”
Scott believes there remains a place for exploratory testing but the
tester’s time needs to be used wisely. Furthermore, if a tester is part of
a development team, the whole team generally picks up on the testing
perspective and incorporates their learning at the design stage. So-
called “hero programmers” are a major obstacle to this type of
integrated teamwork, Scott says, and are as detrimental to a scrum
team as non-technical testers.
“You need your testers helping the hero. A lot of what they’re writing
can actually be destructive to the organisation because they’re
producing stuff that no one else understands, maybe it’s obtuse,
maybe it’s unmaintainable. This interaction with pair programming and
test driven development is all designed to pull back towards a state
where you have maintainable code that is understood by everyone in a
domain that is understood by everyone.”
Before I leave I ask Scott if he thinks the role of test manager is still
The old school test manager role is dead, Scott says, however there
exists a role for a test strategist who can provide overall direction and
It has to be automated.
How on earth can you
wait four days for
someone to run through
a manual test
procedure? It’s a waste
26" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
continually push for faster regression tests. Scott walks me to the door
and leaves me with a parting thought that seems to summarise his
“If developers were really craftsman all the time, you’d get very few
ACROSS TOWN I MEET WITH ORION HEALTH’S PRODUCT
Development Director, Jan Behrens. Orion Health is one of New
Zealand's fastest growing software companies and has aggressively
expanded around the globe in recent years. With key development
ofﬁces in Christchurch, Auckland, Canberra, Bangkok and Arizona
there is a lot at stake if a practical pragmatic approach to software
development isn’t taken.
Jan is a forthright German expat now helping lead over 100 staff in the
Christchurch and Bangkok development centres. Before shifting to
Orion Health, Jan was the CTO for PayGlobal, a privately held
company offering payroll and HR software for businesses.
I ask him how he’s seen the role of testing change since he started in
Until the past three to ﬁve years, Jan says, testers were thought of as
“gloriﬁed monkeys” who would go through a system clicking buttons
and following a test script. “Essentially testers were just an executor of
the system. It wasn’t perceived as a true profession. I think it was quite
often - and still is in many places - just seen as an entry level position
into an IT company.”
The biggest change for testing over the past few years is that the role is
now being seen as a professional one, on a par with that of software
developers, Jan says. Whereas ten years ago you would never see a
tester as part of a development team, now there has been this shift to
cross-functional teams who take responsibility for delivering a product.
“Today the biggest beneﬁt of having test professionals embedded in
cross-functional development teams is not that they are the ones doing
all the testing but, similar to an architect or a business analyst or a UX
designer, they have a particular set of skills that they help the whole
team to apply.” The tester brings a certain mindset to the team - call it a
rainy day mindset - which understands how things are broken and
The biggest change for
testing over the past
few years is that the
role is now being seen
as a professional one
27" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
pushes to mitigate against these possibilities. The tester’s role is to
continually remind the team about the importance to test early and the
concept of holistic testing, Jan says.
Looking forward, Jan says he sees the cross-functional trends
continuing until the roles of developer and tester are blended into one.
Testers writing code, and programmers further developing a tester’s
mindset. The different job descriptions of testers and developers will
become less relevant as the focus shifts towards delivering something
of value with the right kind of functional attributes, Jan says.
“The individual roles are much less important to a company with this
viewpoint, it’s much more about the sum of a team’s parts.”
With this in mind, I repeat my question of whether the role of test
manager is now dead.
“In my personal opinion, yes it is,” Jan says. He goes on to say that the
role of test manager as someone who organises and manages the
process of testing is completely at odds with where the industry is
going in terms of cross-functional teams. Having someone outside the
team organise the process is just an oxymoron, he says.
“What I do believe is that people who have the skills to coach and
mentor others in the art of testing, they deﬁnitely have a future in this
industry. I personally think that this idea of a test manager who
manages a team of testers who are then distributed across other teams
or work as a siloed unit, I think that's dead.”
As I leave Jan at Orion Health I feel somewhat overwhelmed by the
level the company is going to to invest in its staff, and the process
around the art of creating a quality software product. There was a great
working atmosphere and it seemed like everyone was pretty stoked to
be there - and who wouldn’t be? The ofﬁce is incredible: full kitchen
stocked with food, sofas, bean bags everywhere, an Xbox and ping
pong table, and lots of big open spaces to brainstorm ideas. There are
even brightly coloured pods that you can crawl inside and take a nap
or make a private phone call.
Testers are treated as equals; they’re paid on par with developers and
have the same career progression road map available to them.
Testers are treated as
28" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
REFLECTING LATER ON MY TWO INTERVIEWS I’M EXCITED FOR
what the future holds. However, as with everything in technology, unless
we continually adapt as test professionals we’ll become less and less
relevant as teams look to improve their process and practices.
As professional testers we are moving away from being the ones
responsible for ﬁnding defects to becoming more like guardians of the
business and it’s development processes - looking constantly at ways
to prevent bugs right at the beginning of the software development
lifecycle when design decisions are being made.
If you’re a recent graduate or someone looking at moving into
professional software testing it’s important to understand that all
companies are on a journey and teams are continually ﬁnding better
ways of doing things.
Newcomers may not have the most exciting, progressive roles open to
them immediately, but by continually learning and progressing your
own individual test techniques and understanding, you assist the
companies you’re working within to move forward.
As software testers we have a powerful role to play in progressing
software development practices and it can be one of the most
rewarding things: being part of a team that’s tackling change.
Looking forward, I believe software companies will continue to peel
back the Band-Aid testing mentality. It might be painful initially as
transparency becomes the norm, but the future of our industry
depends on it. For some testers who need to up-skill it will be
uncomfortable and some will transition out, but the ones who are
prepared to roll up their sleeves and embrace the new realities of
software testing have a great career ahead of them.
As professional testers
we are moving away
from being the ones
responsible for finding
defects to becoming
more like guardians of
the business and it’s
29" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Michael Trengrove is a Test Consultant, Snowboard Instructor and ex Sheep Farmer. You can ﬁnd him
on twitter @mdtrengrove.
NEXT TIME IN
AVAILABLE JUNE 15TH 2014
30" TESTING TRAPEZE | FEBRUARY 2014
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
NICOLA OWEN & ALICE CHU
AUCKLAND & WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
CRITICAL THINKING IS INTEGRAL TO
software testing. It can change our testing from
weak exercises in conﬁrmatory bias to
powerhouses of scientiﬁc investigation.
We all think, but our thinking is often ﬂawed.
We're inherently biased; we make dangerous
assumptions and jump to conclusions about the
information we receive. As Marius in Anne Rice’s
The Vampire Lestat says:
“Very few beings really seek knowledge in this
world. Mortal or immortal, few really ask. On the
contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the
answers they have already shaped in their own
minds -- justiﬁcations, conﬁrmations, forms of
consolation without which they can't go on. To
really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind.
The answer may annihilate the question and
- Peter A. Facione, Critical Thinking: What It Is
and Why It Counts
Michael Bolton describes critical thinking as
"thinking about thinking with the aim of not
getting fooled". It’s not hard to see how we can
get fooled in software testing. For example:
• Developers tell us there are no bugs;
• Product Owners tell us requirements are
complete and as a tester we take that on face
• Test managers tells us their process is best
practice and we accept that without question;
• A product works in one environment and
we assume it works in all environments;
• A product works with one set of data and
we think it works for all sets of data;
• A product works as described in the
speciﬁcation and we assume it works in all
31" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
We need to become more adept at challenging assumptions,
questioning our premises, being deliberate in our reasoning, and
understanding our biases.
Critical thinking is “self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and
self-corrective thinking” (The Critical Thinking Community). Critical
thinking is tacit knowledge making it hard to describe and hard to
teach, so how do we teach our testers to think more critically?
The coaching model that James Bach & I have developed is an
exercise in critical thinking. A tester is given a task to perform. This task
may be to test something, it may be a dilemma posed to the student, or
it may be a speciﬁc task such as creating a bug report. The coach then
works with the tester to explore in a Socratic way the thinking behind
the task. Selecting the task is important. It needs to be sufﬁciently
challenging and energizing for the tester.
A fundamental part of a coaching session is to 'discover' where a
student's energy lies (inspired by Jerry Weinberg’s idea of ‘follow the
energy’). Through understanding and following a student's energy, a
coaching session is more likely to leave a student inspired, self-
motivated and encouraged to discover more. It’s part of a coach’s role
to discover where a student’s energy is.
We've performed hundreds of these coaching sessions and through
doing so have identiﬁed patterns in both student and coaching
behavior. We think these patterns may be useful in coaching. As a
coach it can be hard to know how to navigate through a coaching
session. What sort of questions should I be asking? How much should I
push the tester in their task? How do I know where their energy is?
WHAT FOLLOWS IS AN EXAMPLE OF PART OF A COACHING
transcript with Simon. Simon is a ‘lone’ tester among 35 developers and
has two years testing experience. English is not his ﬁrst language.
Simon wants to be a ‘professional tester’ but is not sure what that is.
To begin the following extract, I ask Simon “What is Software Testing?”
This is a typical diagnostic task that I might offer a student I’m coaching
for the ﬁrst time. You can see I’m employing Socratic questioning in the
coaching session and its clear who is the coach and who is being
32" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
We need to become
more adept at
deliberate in our
Simon: In my point of view testing is trying out a system and his
functions to see if it works as expected by somebody
There’s a lot to look at here. I chose to use a pattern I often employ and
that’s ‘drive to detail’. Driving to detail allows me to examine the testers
thinking in close detail.
Anne-Marie: what do you mean by "see if it works as expected"?
Simon: checking against somebodies requirements: that can be a
speciﬁcation, User Stories, Acceptance criteria, prototype.....
This is a typical answer where a tester refers to ‘requirements’ to know
what’s expected. But what exactly does that mean? There’s lots of ways
to interpret this (something I have to keep reminding myself). For
instance, it could be he’s got a shallow understanding of oracles or
maybe, as English isn’t his ﬁrst language, it’s a vocabulary problem.
Simon: I just read today the "Testing without a map" by MB [Michael
Bolton] - so there he explains the ORACLE
Interesting. He’s made a point of indicating he has read this article.
Why? Perhaps he found the article really interesting and wants to
discuss it. Perhaps he sees this as related to what we are talking about.
I like that he brought it up though. I am impressed.
Anne-Marie: how does that ﬁt into to what we are discussing?
I press further. I’m curious to see how he thinks this is related to my
question about testing. At the time of coaching I didn’t place much
signiﬁcance on this sentence, but with retrospection, it’s quite a mature
answer for a tester with two years experience.
Simon: checking against an oracle....which provides the right
answer of a requirement from somebody would that be correct? in
Note the change of tone. It’s become more questioning, but also there’s
a possible hint of uncertainty. What might that say about the tester?
What might that say about me as a coach?
I’m not really sure what this means. I have many options here. One
would be to get him to explain further, e.g “I don’t understand, can you
33" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
explain this more?” Or I could again drive to detail. I could also have
chosen to go back to the deﬁnition of software testing, and then get him
to test something.
Anne-Marie: what is an oracle?
I decide to drive to detail: driving to detail is a pressuring technique as
well as an investigative technique. Pressuring when someone is
uncertain may not be a wise approach; it might have been better for
me to ask him to explain more.
Simon: source of THE right answer
This answer is incomplete (do you know why?).
From a coaching perspective, its interesting to note he chose to
capitalize “THE”, I wonder why? What can be inferred from that? Does
that mean he thinks there is only one deﬁnitive answer to a test? Also,
what about the word “source”? Why did he choose that? Is an oracle
the source of the right answer, or is it more? Look at the word “answer”;
I think I would have said ‘information’ instead of “answer”. ‘Answer’
sounds like you have already evaluated - a conclusion has been made.
As you can see, there’s a lot to think about in one small sentence.
There’s a risk of the coaching session becoming too abstract. I decide
to give him a task to perform. I ask him to test the Escapa Website.
34" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
I give him 10 minutes to test and ask him to describe a test.
Simon: I tested if touching the walls or get hit by the square blue
rocks by moving around the red square, quits the game and yes it
does. So I was testing the description of the game.
Is he testing the description of the game or the actual game? It’s a
potential coaching topic, but I leave it.
Anne-Marie: is your test an important test?
Simon: main functionality in my point of view - hit the wall or get hit
by the blue squares - quits the game
That’s a fair answer – key functionality is important. And I pursue this
avenue no further. I could have looked at what makes a test important,
but I want to pursue the oracles topic. This is one of the more
challenging aspects of coaching. Being able to let go of potential
coaching opportunities and to remain focused on the goal of the
Anne-Marie: who says it quits the game - how do you know its not a
I’m being a little provocative here. I’m pushing to see how he reacts to
the pressure. The reason why I’m doing this is to help Simon go beyond
the boundaries of his knowledge. I want him to recognize how his
thinking can go deeper by logically reasoning through this example.
Simon: you are right, could be a bug...
He could be showing uncertainty here, but it also could be skepticism,
maybe he’s just being polite, or maybe he’s confused and is buying for
Anne-Marie: what do you think? Is it a bug?
I’m adding quite a bit of pressure here, but I want to see how he reacts
to the pressure.
35" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Simon: I don't know - missing speciﬁcation ;)
It’s good to see he has a sense of humour! And I like his honesty here.
He could have responded in many ways. For instance, he could have
said, “Of course it’s a bug”, or “Of course it’s not a bug”, in which case
I would have asked him why it’s not a bug.
I pursue this a little further. Simon concedes it’s a bug and I ask him
why. He ﬁnds he’s unable to answer this question.
Anne-Marie: what we are looking at here is an example of an
I’ve gone into ‘lecture mode’ here to try and help shed some light on
I have to confess, getting the ‘ahh’ in a coaching session is a real thrill
for me, and it’s a possible indicator that the student has some insight.
Anne-Marie: you think it’s a bug, but you're unable to explain why
you think its a bug because you don't know the oracle you are using
This is quite common. Often we recognize bugs but ﬁnd it hard to know
why we think it’s a bug. Knowing the oracle you are using helps to give
a bug report credibility.
Anne-Marie: you mentioned that an oracle was a source of the right
answer. It is the source but also it’s how you apply that source in
An oracle is a principle or mechanism used to *recognise* a
Requirements on their own are just that - they are a source of
knowledge. its only when you compare and evaluate your product
against the requirements that they become an oracle. You *use*
them to recognise a problem
36" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
I offer some insights into oracles and give a deﬁnition of an oracle. Often I give additional research to
do at this point, either pointing to useful blogs and articles on oracles.
Being asked to explain deﬁnitions of concepts we use in software testing can give a coach a real
insight into the knowledge of a tester. But it also helps the student to realize the extent of their
COACHING SESSIONS LIKE THE ABOVE EXAMPLE HELP A TESTER GO BEYOND A SUPERFICIAL,
conceptual knowledge of testing, to being immersed in the topic in a deep and meaningful way. It
takes a tester from “I know what an oracle is” to “I understand and know how to apply oracles”.
Thinking critically through the topic - such as oracles - can help a tester appreciate the complexities
and nuances at play in software testing. Understanding how our testing can fool us encourages us to
be cautious, to be wary of the assumptions in testing and to approach our testing in a scientiﬁc way.
James Bach will be giving a class in coaching testers at Lets Test Oz on 15th September 2014, in
Sydney. Go to the Let’s Test website for details.
37" TESTING TRAPEZE | APRIL 2014
Anne-Marie is a software tester, trainer and coach with a reputation of excellence and passion for the
An electronic engineer by trade, software testing chose her when she started conformance testing
against European standards. She now consults through Testing Times where she trains and coaches
Anne-Marie currently lectures at the University of Technology, Sydney on software testing. She blogs
at Maverick Tester and offers the occasional tweet at @charrett.
craft of software testing.
teams to become powerhouses of testing skill.
38" TESTING TRAPEZE | FEBRUARY 2014
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