Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The ‘Art’ of Software Testing

I was recently in Manchester, England when I came across the Manchester Art Gallery  and since I had some time spare I decided to visit and have a look around.  I have an appreciation for certain styles of art especially artists such as William Blake  and Constable.  During my visit I had a moment of epiphany.  Looking around the different collections, this appeared to be set out in a structured style, with different styles collated together.  Apart from an odd example of the famous “Flower Thrower" artwork by Banksy being placed in the seventeenth century art collection area.  I wondered if this was a deliberate action to cause debate.

What struck me when looking around was the fact that even though there were many similar painting techniques and methods being applied there was no standard size for any of the painting on display.  I looked around and could not find two paintings that appeared to have the same dimensions.  I even started to think if there was a common ratio being used and the so called golden ratio. Looking around quickly I could see some aspects of ratios being used but to my eyes it appeared that even though the artists used similar approaches and techniques they were ‘free’ to use these methods as a guide to producing their masterpieces.

This made me think about the debates in the field of software testing and how we should be taking on board engineering processes and practices.  If this is the case and we try to rein the imagination how are we supposed to hit upon moments of serendipity and be creative? I agree there needs to be structure and some discipline in the software testing world Session based testing takes account of this.

We have common methods and techniques that we can use in software testing but how we apply this should surely be driven by the context of the project.  I believe we need to stop or resist processes and best practices that hinder or suppress innovation and prevent those moments of enlightenment in which deeply hidden ‘bugs’ are discovered. Following pre planned and pre written test steps by rote can be useful but if we all follow the same path how many wonderful things are we going to miss.  I liken it to following a map or a GPS system and not looking around you at the amazing landscape that you are not noticing or appreciating.  In our field of software testing we must allow testers to explore, discover and sometimes find by accident.  We need to stop forcing processes, best practices and standards upon something which is uniquely human the skill of innovation and discovery.

The title of this article is homage to one of the first books I read about software testing by Glenford Myers – The Art of Software Testing

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, I like the scenario u mentioned in last paragraphs about Art of Thinking/Testing.