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Adam Goucher, Mike Kelly look inside "Beautiful Testing"

A little over a month ago O’Reilly released the book Beautiful Testing: Leading Professionals Reveal How They Improve Software. The book offers 23 essays on software testing, with 27 different authors contributing. Those contributors include SearchSoftwareQuality’s own experts Karen N. Johnson and Matt Heusser, as well as some other testing noteworthys like Linda Wilkinson, Scott Barber, Rex Black, Alan Page and Lisa Crispin.

I recently sat down to talk with the book’s co-author/co-editor Adam Goucher to talk about the process of putting the book together. If you don’t know Adam Goucher, he has been testing software for the last 10 years. He has worked at both large corporations and start-ups, and is currently running the QA/Test department for Zerofootprint Software and he maintains a popular blog.

The book, Beautiful Testing, appeals to a wide audience. It has stories of start-ups, regulated projects, and open source. When asked how the focus became so broad, Goucher relayed some of the project history:

“We originally set out to write a book which showed how open source projects tested themselves with the idea that readers could get a copy of the application and directly apply the techniques they discussed. O’Reilly, rightfully, turned that down saying that it was too niche. We retooled the proposal to include people and projects that were not from the open source world and that is what got accepted.

One thing that was important in both proposals was the need for diversity. We wanted to get people who wouldn’t just say the same thing or parrot something from prominent Tester X. There were a few people we couldn’t arm twist into participating that would have upped that significantly, but I think we still have a wide range of views expressed.”

Pulling together a number of different authors and asking for their opinions on software testing has also created an interesting tone for the book – one that Goucher is quite happy with:

“Most [contributors] are active bloggers and not really what could be classified as being in research of academia. The blog medium is usually more conversational. Also, Beautiful Testing is at its heart a book of personal opinions and ideas about what is beauty and beautiful about testing.”

So how hard is it to get 27 people to write a 350-page book? You know, in case you’re thinking of starting a similar project? I asked Goucher:

“I have a mailbox just for Beautiful Testing emails. It currently sits at over 1500. Granted, that was over the period of a year, but writing something like this results in a flurry of emails around deadlines. It could have gone a lot worse than it did, but we were very open about deadlines and the ‘why’ behind them. I think that helped people focus and made them real. (Unlike some dates we encounter while testing.)

From an editing perspective, make sure that you can handle both the creative side of things and the administrative stuff. Tim Riley [Director of QA at Mozilla and co-editor] deserves a lot of credit for keeping track of contract statuses, feedback reviews and the other organizational things that a project like this demands.

As a tester, or someone who just cares about their career, contributing to something like this is a fantastic way to learn about the book creation process and quite frankly, it looks good on a resume. Start writing a blog and increase your visibility in the community of writers and you too could be asked to participate in something like this.”

One of the chapters in the book, “Beautiful testing is efficient testing,” was written by Goucher. I asked where his particular story came from:

“When I was a non-management tester, I firmly believed that the business wanted to know about the threats to customer value. When I started to become a team lead and later manager I learned that what they really want is to know are the threats to the release date. This means I need to get them information quickly and geared towards to the threats that could have the greatest impact to the schedule.

In my chapter, I outline three of the techniques I use for that.

a) SLIME – SLIME is a mnemonic which stands for Security, Languages (i18n, l10n), requIrements (for thing that is causing the testing event), Measurement (performance, stress, load, scale) and Existing (regressions)

b) Scripting – Scripting is a fantastic tool, not just for creating automation for the front-end. The sound bite I’ve been using recently is ‘automates checking and facilitates testing’. Unfortunately for the book, Michael Bolton’s Testing vs. Checking meme started after the manuscript was completed.

c) Mindmaps – Mindmaps are brilliant for concise, visual test documentation. And it is fast. None of this spending 2 weeks writing test documentation that no one will ever read, just get your ideas out quickly and start testing. It’s brainstorming origins are imply that it will change as we learn more.”

And if you’re looking for another reason to buy the book, or to make the book a gift for testers on your team, here’s another great reason to make Beautiful Testing the book of choice. None of the authors or contributors are receiving a single penny in revenue from the sale of Beautiful Testing. All profits from the book are being donated directly to Nothing But Nets to buy mosquito nets to help combat the spread of Malaria in Africa.

You can learn more about Adam Goucher on his website: adam.goucher.ca

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