Technical, Non-Technical Testers, and what does that even mean!

So it turns out that I get quite annoyed when the terms Technical, Non-Technical testers are used to describe what my team of testers should, and should not be doing! I was recently in a heated conversation about getting access to read some SQL based ETL’s and one of the reasons for us not to have visibility of this was my team are not technical testers, and as such shouldn’t, and by implication, can’t read such things.

So let’s explore for a minute what I think when I hear those words, I think more about someone who builds tools to use in testing vs someone who does not, what I’ve also heard called test engineers and test analysts. At no point does it cross my mind that you’d be talking about a code illiterate person or even someone incapable of looking up the bits used to get a general understanding.

So upon hearing it used in this way has caused an irrational response, one of annoyance. I can’t help think that maybe it’s down then to how I think they see a person they are describing as incapable of reading code, my insecurities rather than their intent? beware your own biases they can really colour a conversation.

Unfortunately, the knowledge that I’m annoyed because of my personal interpretation hasn’t reduced my annoyance at the whole situation, life’s a bummer.

I disagree with the test team not having access to the ETL’s as I personally feel the documentation of them isn’t as good as the ETL’s themselves, sadly it’s not my call to make at the end of the day, we work with what we have, and I have to put my frustration aside about this and get one with the many tasks I still have to do.

How do you deal with situations that have both  an emotive content for you, and you disagree with from a project/task perspective?



Long Chain Bugs

We’ve all seen them, your testing away, and something odd happens, application crash, unusual error message. you look back at what you were up to, retracing your steps waiting to see the same behaviour repeated, yet nothing shows, you end up digging around into system state, other applications that were running as well, other people who were in the environment as well, sometimes we can work it all out, a lot of the time, at least I, can’t. Well as I found out recently at a medical appointment I attended with my other half, it would seem that the medical community has long chain errors as well.

My partner has Lyme, she’s been very unwell with it for a number of years, and we recently had the chance to talk to a top-flight consultant about her condition. What they explained was Lyme Borreliosis Complex (LBC), as they have dubbed it, is a complex condition that has only in part to do with a single event. The system state also needs to have a variety of conditions meet for that bite to then cascade into the horrible condition that LBC is. They are not sure what the precise conditions need to be, they believe its a combination of genetics, familiar health, and environmental.

At, this point I had to try very hard not to hijack the appointment and start talking with them about how they are researching this and have they seen the very cool ted talk about a multi-disciplinary team that tackles big challenges that have eluded specialists.

It has made me think about how people who have practised testing, understand the mindset required to untangle these complex scenarios could have incredibly interesting and fulfilling jobs if we could convince other communities of the value and benefit we could bring.

Have any of you had the chance to bring your testing skill set to unexpected places?

Passion in your job

So as you may know from earlier posts I’m quite new to testing as a full-time job, it’s something I’ve been involved in for a while. As I’ve progressed in my new role as a software tester, rather than just doing some testing on the side I have come to the realisation that testing, as I now understand it, is something I really enjoy. It speaks to many parts of my mind, it’s a constant challenge, with a great deal to learn about, and a huge variety. It turns out that I am very passionate about testing being done well, and that passion is translating to work listening to what I have to say to them.
So what does this meaning for me?
Work are more willing to accept when I tell them something about testing.
They are willing to send me on courses and to conferences.
They are willing to review what I do, as defined by my job title.
But more importantly, they are willing to give me more responsibility, areas of the business that were out of my original reach, yet really needed to review how they test software are becoming places I can influence, they are falling within my remit as a software tester. This hasn’t taken long either, my passion for high-quality testing totally changed how we are approaching testing the ERP we are installing, as a knock on from that they are willing to listen to me about minor software changes. letting me help the new testers we have, in terms of coaching, and getting them on courses to help them, inviting me to meetings with the senior developers so I can input early on projects.
All of this is happening because of my highly visible passion for what I’m doing.

If you want to go further where you work, show the passion you have for your role, bring ideas to your boss, push your self-development, let people know how much doing what you do, well, means to you, and how it helps them. Passion for your job does translate to progress.


Testing mind set

I started writing this blog as a place to record my growth within software testing, as my understanding evolves I wanted somewhere I could go to to write about it, and a place to reflect back on where I have come from.
So a little recap, I work for a company that changes in-house software, and we need to make sure that it still works on its own and with the other software we have. I’ve been part of this for a number of years, to varying degrees of involvement. Recently I started full time in IT as a tester, my starting point was, if I’m getting paid to do this I’d better get good at it. And thus began my journey into real testing.
I recently finished the BBST foundation course, it was awesome, I’m now putting together a business case to get me on the others, that and the rapid software testing course. That might take a bit more doing.
All of this has been fantastic in helping me grow, it isn’t the epiphany, though. I’d recently read James Bach’s integration question and the many conversations that followed. Shortly after that, I was watching some lectures on youtube, and I watched one on the Socratic method as part of some work I’m doing on putting together a coaching/mentoring model. And there it was, I could see Jame’s use of the Socratic method in so much of what had been written, I can see how this can be applied to help me gain a much greater understanding in my own work. I can use this to challenge what I think I understand and grow from there.


Over the weekend I happened to read an article on assumptions and if we should be making them. The article talks about the writers progression from the assumptions are bad, to assumptions are okay if they are reasonable. It was interesting to read the progression of the writers thoughts over the use of assumptions. They went from, as a younger person following the adage about asses, to coming to realise that some assumptions are part and parcel of life. 
However, it struck me that  we could do with a better education when it comes to this type of reasoning within software testing. Too little time is spent talking about how you investigate something and the process that you go through to come up with theories to test, most sciences, both the more classical and social sciences spend time teaching how to investigate, and the use of assumptions.
It reads to me like the author is talking about beliefs, those things that drive our assumptions. If they had dug a little deeper and thought about these assumptions maybe they wouldn’t have held them in such low esteem.
We could rephrase the article, rather they are talking about justified beliefs, in the epistemological sense, or we are using them to form part of an ampliative argument. In either case, the negative connotations of the “assumptions” should be removed as you are no longer talking about the vague process of making a guess at something, but it is a considered idea that you believe is supported by the available evidence.
Both of these play a large part in the process of assessing a situation and forming a hypothesis that you are going to investigate further and are held in much higher regard than the simple assumption.
I think that if we could move to accepting that this is the normal process that is gone through, and start using the techniques that are available in other disciplines that rely on investigations we would be able to share in the developments in ways that you can investigate.

Integration Testing, what is it, and why does it require special attention?

So the other day James Bach posted on hi blog about what is Integration Testing. It’s a very interesting read, with some great comments, and its got me thinking, which I would guess is the idea behind such things.
Now I’m by no means an expert in testing, being relatively new, and almost entirely self taught. I thought about what James was asking, what is integration testing and attempted to break out what I needed to think about to attempt to answer this question.
My first thought was integration testing is, very basically:
Testing communication between two or more units?
but this leads to the following questions:
But still doesn’t answer why integration testing is needed, it lead to further questions:
What’s special now that couldn’t be seen before?
What is integrated, is it outside the system?
Can integration be within a system or only between different systems?
So far I have far more questions than I do answers, so let’s attempt to answer some of them.
The passing of information from one source to another
But this implies that we’d be testing is only intentional integration, and never unintentional integration. This tells me that the word communication needs to be changed in my overly simple starting statement.
A collection of functions or parts that operate as a whole. I know this is not quite right, and I can feel the itch in my mind that tells me i’m missing a key point here. I’m not referring to the Unit definition in Unit testing, more the concept of a completed whole, a thing that can exist and operate on its own. But can it? why integrate it, if it’s self contained, so it has dependences that are outside of itself. Again we go down the deliberate integration route. So we are talking about two or more self contained units that can in some way influence the state, or behaviour of one or more, Would the xbox’s notorious red ring of death fall under integration testing? Where heat is affecting the circuitry inside the console.
So I’m thinking that something, let’s call it energy, is passed from one of the units to another (or more), either deliberately or coincidentally.
So why can’t this be testing independently, why does the integration need to be present for the testing to uncover something. Shallowly, because the behaviour/impact can only been seen once the units are integrated, as it is triggered by the units being in the state? of integration
So what are we looking for in this? An alteration in the state of the unit once it is in a state of integration, as defined by changing data/speed/temperature/operation/function?
So what do I know so far, mainly that I don’t have a clear idea of this, I am not able define with any clarity, and thus explain precisely what I understand by integration testing, I could shallowly answer, with regurgitation of answers from texts or lectures, so if i look to bloom’s taxonomy
 I am only in the bottom box of remembering 
I’m able to describe what I have learnt, but nothing further, I am working towards understanding, I can begin to infer, and summarise, I can discuss
So I have begun the journey, I now understand that this is where I am, and can work towards progressing.
How about you, how well can you explain what Integration testing is?
I highly recommend reading both Jame’s initial post and all the comments with his responses, it makes for a real stimulation read.

Testing – What to know and how do I know if i’m on Track

So we testers generally end up on this path by “accident” , there are few of us who set out looking to be a software tester, most of us end up here through a progression of roles that orbit some of the skills needed to test, and finally fall into an actual testing role. Now I’m happy to admit that i’ve met few testers, and my generalisation is almost certainly more applicable to the older generations than the youngsters of today, however I think the same things will apply.
When I fell into an actual testing role, I was largely guided by what the dev guys wanted from me, Basically a squishy computer, lots on input output checking, very dull. But i’m one of those people who can focus and get on with stuff like that, so I did.
While doing this I thought I’d better have a read around testing and find out what the techniques were, good ways of doing stuff, anything I should know, you know that handy stuff that makes doing your job easier.
So I Googled testing and kept running across this ISTQB test qualifications and syllabus stuff. So I spoke to my boss, pointed it out, and we got access to the course content, I dutifully began studying it. It was dry, dull and seemed so much like those big litigious businesses that we so hate dealing with, all their pointless paperwork. Not a great sign, I got about halfway through the course before I ended up skim-reading the rest.
Time to use some real Google-Fu, I actually have a certificate in that you know, I dug around online looking at testing info, and started to find references to context driven testing. So I read what I could find with my initial searches, and boy did it make so much more sense.
But what’s all this got to do with the knowledge base needed to test?
Well for those of you who haven’t looked into context driven testing, you should, but you’ll find a name and blog crop up quite a bit, James Bach, and his blog.
What I have found, probably coming to the realisation over the last 6 months, is real testing is something I’m crazy passionate about. why? because it offers such a world of mental engagement and complexity. I took me a few time of looking at James’s Testers Syllabus to realise quite how much all of this draws me in.
Where am I going with this? Well after discovering this other land of testing, I have read a few blogs watch a lot of conferences, perused some books and generally been absorbing the atmosphere, It’s hard to quantify where I’ve got to, and where I should concentrate next, mainly because there is so much to know, so many topics that are worth learning. So I struck on a solution, on James’s blog there is this fantastic mind map for a testers Syllabus, so I plundered it for my own uses. Not only does it give me a framework of great topics, as estimated by someone who I think has a great deal of useful things to say about testing. But I allows me to track where I have focused my attention, and where i’m a bit light in knowledge.
So I’ve copied James’s mind map, and started to recorded on it details beyond where it stops, so specific points, concepts, books, classes etc.
What has this given me?
Well a great way of seeing what i’ve been neglecting, where I have focused, and what I currently think I know something about.
I’ve done this because testing is a passion of mine, I have found a place where I can mentally fit, a job that gives equal parts engagement and challenge. It is something I plan on doing for as long as i’m working, and I will be brilliant at it, but only if I keep learning, and pushing what I know, into all the areas that will make me a better tester, this mind map gives me a way of seeing how i’m doing.
There is a long way to go but all journeys begin with one step.

Now I just need to find this fabled community to match wits with, not that i’m ready to do so, but talking about testing really helps to understand it. And I plan on really understanding it.

So that Consultant Test Manager…..

Well he’s been in for a week today, we have bombarded him with info, he’s taken a fair chunk on board, not done much questioning though, not sure why. I am sure it’s not because we have covered all angles.
I should get a chance to see his strategy doc either today or monday, from what I have gathered so far it’s going to revolve around the factory school approach. So he’s looks like he’ll be suggesting a more longer time frame, or higher resource requirement.
So hopefully in the next couple of days i’ll get the time to talk through with him about an alternative approach, he does seem open to the ideas of exploratory testing, and context driven testing, he’s just nervous about it in a project as I don’t think he’s ever taken that leap.

We’ll see how that goes.

He is thankfully highlighting the risks for the business about what we are doing, and how much work is involved, so we should be viewing those more seriously now we have a paid for opinion on the matter, more on that another time.

What have i learnt from this week so far, just because they have years of experience, doesn’t make them a better tester than someone who has a better understanding of the context.
That experience has helpful insights but it can also carry over problems from their experiences.

we’ll see how the next week goes.


Starting BBST software testing course

Just a quick post to say that i’m on a Training course run by BBST and it’s very exciting, work have agreed to pay for the online BBST course foundations of software testing. And I must say I’m really looking forward to it. I will be posting up how it’s going after its started later this month. but from the intro in the textbook it’s looking to be a great course.

I’m very much hoping to improve my knowledge about testing, and my practical expertise, and given the course seems to have plenty of practical exercise as well as lectures it should do the job.


Dog Training and Testing

So my partner is big into dog training, and she spends quite a considerable amount of time learning good techniques and putting them into practice with our little puppy. Most recently she been teaching the dog to bring items to her hand and given them to her.

A complex string of behaviour for a dog, first they have to pick up the item, then hold it, then carry it to her, then release it to her waiting hand.
What’s the got to do with testing, you ask. Well the way our dog is learning this reminded me of exploratory testing, it’s a technique called shaping, your dog does something you like, so you mark it and reward, and reinforce as they continue to do this. However you raise the reward criteria as they get a better understanding of what you are looking for. So as the dog nudges the pick up toy, you reward, they put teeth on it, reward, and so on, until they are holding it, and moving it, and on it goes until finally the dog has worked out what you want.

It struck me that this is so like ET, you come across the edges of a issue, and get that endorphin release that you are on the right track, who doesn’t enjoy finding bugs, and you keep testing around it until you understand more about the issue, and you keep at it, honing in on what’s going on, until finally you get the complete picture.
I speculated that this would probably mean that much like shaping, the more a dog is trained using this the faster they get at working out what gets the the rewards, the offer all sorts of crazy combos of previously learnt behaviours just to see what results in a reward, it’s awesome to watch by the way. Then ET is almost certainly the same, the more you practice ET the better you get, the more techniques you’ve learnt, that you can try out in crazy combos until you run across that issue you’ve been hunting for.
I’m new to ET, but this gives me a good deal of reassurance that its a solid path to learning good skills through your run of the mill practice makes, well not perfect, but definitely better.

That was my thought for the day. Hope you enjoyed it.