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Articles : Exploratory Testing: Finding the Music of Software Investigation
on 2008/3/18 1:03:16 (3191 reads)

Developing exploratory testing skill puts you in charge of your testing approach. Skilled software testing, like skilled musicianship, is often referred to as “magic”, simply because it is misunderstood. Music follows a set of patterns, heuristics and techniques. If you know a handful, you can make music quite readily. Getting there by trial and error takes a lot longer, and you’ll have a hard time explaining how you got there once you arrive. Testing using pure observation and trial and error can be effective, but can be effective much more quickly if there is a system to frame it.

Skilled exploratory testing can be a powerful way of thinking about testing. However, it is often misunderstood, feared and discouraged. When we dictate that all tests must be scripted, we discourage the wonderful tension and resolution in testing, driven by a curious thinker. We limit the possibilities of our software testing leading to new, important discoveries. We also hamper our ability to identify and adapt to emerging project risks. In environments that are dominated by technology, it shouldn’t be surprising that we constantly look to tools and processes for solutions. But tools and processes on their own are stupid things. They still require human intelligence behind them. In the right hands, software tools and processes, much like musical instruments, enable us to realize the results we seek. There are many ways to perform music, and there are many ways to test software. Skilled exploratory testing is another effective thinking tool to add to the testing repertoire.


1. Bach, James. (2003) Exploratory Testing Explained
2. Kaner, Cem. (2004). The Ongoing Revolution in Software Testing. Presented at Software Test & Performance Conference, December, 2004, Baltimore, MD
3. Bach, James. (1999, November) Heuristic Risk-Based Testing. Software Testing and Quality Engineering Magazine http://www.satisfice.com/articles/hrbt.pdf

Jonathan Kohl, Kohl Concepts Inc. © 2007 First published by Kohl Concepts Inc. in July 2007

Originally published in the Winter 2007 issue of Methods & Tools

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