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Software testing: Test, clear your mind and then re-test

The way CAST 2010 speakers describe the act of testing seems more like they are preparing for deep meditation or the practice of martial arts than it does the dissecting of applications and software, searching for flaws.

This isn’t isolated to CAST. I can recall repeated murmurs of meditation — the clearing of one’s mind and looking inside one’s self — mentioned at previous tester conferences as well. Few could argue that the testing workforce is an elite group of thinkers. CAST just happens to be the elite tester epicenter of mid-western America. The testers here at CAST have some great ideas about what it means to be a tester. Hopefully their thinking is not provincial. This tester mentality is spreading and becoming common-place quickly.

Testers don’t like to be labeled as only being able to carry out certain tasks. Testers don’t like the idea that there is only one way to do things. They have a natural instinct to explore, and the testers at CAST strongly encourage one another to perpetuate on the exploratory itch. Many of them believe that testing software is only part of the job. Most believe that learning more about software is how we’ll learn how to make it better with fewer errors and re-writes.

Software test consultant Michael Bolton explained how he tests at a mid-afternoon CAST session, “I like to focus on one particular test, run it until I am satisfied and after I am able to repeat the result of that test many times over, I back away and rethink the test from a different perspective. I am always looking for ways to create more disposable time.”

Testers that are real standouts should take it upon themselves to become mentors and write blogs to improve the entire testing community, explained Matt Heusser at that same session. Become sensei-like in the traditional martial arts sense of the world, which means “Teacher, leader.” Good testers should feel almost obligated to be both.

Selena Delesie said at STAREast earlier this year that in paired programming, testers paired with developers will not only improve the quality of code but the organizations environment. Other teams will see how well that team works together and strive to achieve the same level of success. Manipulating your environment, or resourcefulness, is another key component preached in martial arts.

Knowing that there’s a problem means it can be solved when the right thinking is applied to the problem. Know thy enemy, think outside of the box.
“There is a reason why companies use people to perform tasks that machines could potentially do. People are adaptive and creative. Machines are limited in that regard,” said Bolton, in regards to why full automation in testing isn’t yet an option.

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