Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Exploring the World

I have noticed that I have been a little remiss with my blog recently, this has been due to a combination of different things such as workload, home life and not having a great amount to say, which is fairly unusual for me. I don’t want to blog for the sake of blogging I want to blog when I feel I have something to say about the testing world.

I will soon be on my travels again to talk about exploratory testing and testing skills this time in Israel as part of an internal company workshop. I find it interesting that again I will adjust my material to match my audience on a cultural level, see my previous blog about training in India (http://steveo1967.blogspot.com/2010/06/training-in-india.html).

I wonder how many of us do this and how many of us just keep the same material and just recycle it regards of the audience?

This brings me to the point of this blog, if we treat software as different cultures and we try to explore and communicate with these cultures in the exact same way each time without making adjustments for the cultural differences.

Are we going to get to know anything about this culture?
What will we learn?
Will this culture give us any useful information back?

If we compare this the approach I use when presenting you can see that I learn about the culture. I am exploring by communicating with it and finding out about all the subtle differences there are. I try to avoid the traps and fopars that can cause offence by being ignorant of the culture. I consult oracles that have knowledge of the culture; I use heuristics when presenting to test the reaction of the audience.

Does it respond well to what I am saying?
Is it losing interest?

I then adapt my presentation on the fly to try to re-engage with the audience.
I am using the exploratory approach when presenting and I do this naturally. I very much doubt that most people who read this blog do not change their material, communication methods and approach when working with different cultures.

So why do we as a testing profession still insist that we can test software with scripts that do not change or adapt to the slight differences in culture? Yes there is an argument that says something’s do not change regardless of the culture and that is true. However if you go to a different culture and you are ignorant about their values and beliefs and you are unwilling to learn then you will leave that culture none the wise or richer in experience and understanding.

Do not be ignorant about exploring software, yes you can use the same techniques and methods you have gathered over the years to explore the software but do not fall in to the trap of following things by rote.

Hopefully there will be a few events coming up soon in which I can get some more topics to blog about.

If anyone is interested I will be at Eurostar (http://www.eurostarconferences.com/) this year in Copenhagen Denmark and it would be nice to meet up with like minded people and hopefully have some great discussions over beer of course.


  1. "So why do we as a testing profession still insist that we can test software with scripts that do not change or adapt to the slight differences in culture?"

    I think you largely answer the question when you say that there is an argument that some things don't change from culture to culture.

    Yes, /some/, but only some. Scripts, and traditional techniques focus on those things that don't change, and ignore those that do.

    I think the devotion of software developers to traditional, structured techniques was closely linked to the heavily scripted approach. Both focussed on the application as a machine, with the humans just another component.

    Structured techniques' "aim is to produce detailed functional or ‘logical’ descriptions of tasks and operations while focussing on the flow and processing of information. Functional or ‘logical’ indicates an abstraction from ‘accidental’ or ‘historical’ peculiarities."* I'd argue that cultural and human aspects were equally disposable.

    Humans were just walking system components. Cultural, and indeed usability, issues were just a distraction from that which was objective, rational, and capable of being reduced to a flow diagram or script.

    James Christie

    * Bansler, J., Bødker, K. (1993). "A reappraisal of structured analysis. Design in an organisational context", ACM Transactions on Information Systems, Vol. 11 No.2.

  2. Sorry about the delay in replying to your comment James - have a few issues in my 'normal' life to sort out!!!

    I like your thinking on this and you are correct in that there are certain aspects of different cultures that are the same.

    The problem I find is that it is the little differences between cultures (software programs) that cause the most disruption.

    What I think I am saying is that there is a need for some similar actions to be scripted but to really understand something you have to experience and explore it.

    To quote Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Indian Spiritual Leader):

    The only way to know something absolutely is to experience it for yourself; anything less is theory, speculation, and belief.