Exploratory Software Testing

exploratory software testingI’d been interested in reading this book for awhile, as a way to help describe and refine what exploratory testing was. Fortunately I found it from someone who was done with it and wanted to get rid of it.

Last Friday I saw it sitting on my desk, with the bookmark sticking out, taunting me to finish. So this weekend I bit the bullet, took it home, and finished it up. I’m glad I did.

Exploratory Software Testing by James A. Whittaker takes a deep look into what exploratory testing is, and also what it isn’t.

Some people believe that exploratory testing is just a lot of random activity, hoping to find a bug. I’ll admit, I kind of thought that way too until this book gave me focus.

It actually entails a structured approach to finding bugs that’s very tactical, deliberate and able to be explained to someone else. These methods (or “tours” as the book defines them) are explained with heavy analogy to help the ideas stick better.

You can employ each tour to find specific kinds of bugs much faster than just trying a bunch of random things.

Plus, being abstract ideas, you can more easily convey how you tested the software, so that there’s not a knowledge silo in the head of the tester.

There are a lot of great case studies from people working at various big name companies, who have used these tactics to find bugs that others couldn’t.

The point is also made, although indirectly, that automation will only get you so far. The greatest tool in your toolbox is your brain, so training it to find bugs efficiently is key.

Chapter 8 also has an interesting view on what the future of software testing will look like… definitely got the brain juice flowing. Very creative ideas in there.

So, if you get the chance, I highly recommend you give this book a read. It has tremendous potential to get a tester to the next level, by refining their approach to how they test, along with give them the go-ahead to pass this knowledge on to other testers.


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