The following blog article is based upon a lightening talk I gave at the Software Testing Club Meet Up in Winchester on the 19th Oct 2011.
I have recently been on holiday touring the Yorkshire dales, moors – covering over 1000 miles in one week. The car is fitted with a sat nav which is great when we want to get from A to B but also I have in the car a large scale map of the UK. I started to think about how we use these two ‘tools’ and how this could be used within testing to show the difference between following a set of instructions (scripts) and exploring the countryside (ET)
An example is that both have the same goal (mission) I want to get from A to B. However we use Sat Navs to show us the most direct, quickest, fastest way (some Sat Navs do now have an option for scenic route)
So I set off into the Yorkshire moors using the large scale map (my wife being the navigator), we knew where we wanted to end up, but the route we took was through the back of beyond. (In fact one the roads we ended up on did not even appear on the Sat Nav map (saying we must return to a digitized area – bug?) We explored the areas and when we noticed things that appeared interesting we took a detour and explored these areas. It was wonderful experience and we found places of interest that were outstanding in natural beauty along with all the seasons in one day (sun, rain, hail). At the end of the journey we had discovered some great things but still ended up at the place we wanted to be, yes it took more time (slightly) but we found out more.
My point is that if you stick to using the sat nav you end up at the same place but you may miss so much that is interesting. Now can we compare this to testing? Yes a script ‘may’ be useful from getting you from A to B but how much will you discover, how many surprises will you find? Yes I could repeat the same journey again since we have the map and know the route I took. Would I want to repeat the exact same route? I am sure that if I went to that area again I would be tempted to go a slightly different way since there could be things around the corner that may interest me.
Rob Lambert pointed out the following to me:
“I find the sat nav is a safety and re assurance aid also in that i can explore but then turn the sat nav on, or refer to it, to then return to a known route.”
I would question this is the sense that it could lead to a false sense of security. What happens if the map gets corrupted, or the electronics fail? I would tend to think of the paper map as the safety, reassurance rather than the sat nav which may have a tendency to fail.
With regards to the meet up in Winchester - I wish more people would have come along they missed a great evening of testing discussions with Michael Bolton being on top form. There are plans to have a regualr bi-monthly meet up in Winchester in the near future - watch out for an announcement via the software testing club soon.