I’m a big fan of exploratory testing. I believe it can be a much more effective method of software testing than hard-coded automation or manual scripts, both of which suffer from both inattentional blindness and the minefield problem.
The problem is explaining it. People seem to fall into two camps –
1) Those who believe exploratory testing is undisciplined hacking and will result in sloppy, inconsisent – but generally low-value results and,
2) Those who know that Sally can bring an app to it’s knees in five seconds, but don’t know how. This leads to the belief that ET is an attribute that certain people are simply born with, that it can’t be taught, or that ET is some sort of black art that involves years of study and some sorts of secretive, back-room rituals.
I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle; that ET is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and you can get better with it over time.
About a week ago we had this discussion on ET on the Agile Testing Email List, and I suggested that we record a simple video and put it up on youtube.
The video would show a website, give it an exploratory tester, and show what he actually does. It would probably take a few takes. First we would record what he does, then he’d watch the tape, and do the exact same thing again – but explaining his thinking process along the way.
My goal was to de-mystify exploratory testing and demonstrate immediate value – not whining that the specs are incomplete, and inconsistent, or whining that QA should have been involved earlier.
In the mean time, I went out to Google Video and checked to see if anyone else had taken this idea. While I did not find demonstrations of ET per se, I did find a Jon Bach Google test talk on this exact subject – the happy medium that treats ET as a skill, and how to get better at it. (And yes, he does a little demonstration in the middle)
If you read Creative Chaos, you probably don’t need it – but your boss might. Or his boss might. Or your cubemate might. It doesn’t get much cooler than “Well, the staff at Google HQ in MountainView thought this guy was worth listening to …”
Heck, invite the team to a brown bag and just show the video. 🙂
As for the “what an exploratory tester actually does”, I think that would make a good video and am seriously considering purchasing a video camera to do it. Or, we may just record it at WOTD between sessions, I dunno.