Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What I learned from Skype coaching with James Bach

I was lucky and had another opportunity for Skype coaching with James Bach. I was interested in learning something more regarding Exploratory Testing (ET).

Basic definitions

James started the session from asking questions, to understand what ET means for me comparing to non-ET. I knew the ET definition, that learning, test design, and test execution are happening in parallel and are mutually supportive, but I had a problem trying to explain it with my own words which simply revealed that I really didn't understand it well.

So we started from beginning, what is testing for me, what is the difference between exploratory and non-exploratory testing ?. James used examples :

If I stand behind you and tell you what to type and what to look at - is it ET ?

If I tell you that I'm doing ET, and you see me type on the keyboard and move the mouse, and I appear to be testing, and you see no script, and I insist that I'm doing ET-- is that ET or not?

So what is exploratory testing ?

All testing that seems free is actually guided by unconscious impulses and we cannot be fully aware of where our ideas come from. ET is also self-managing process and acts upon itself. To sum up all good testing is to some degree exploratory.

How to be better at ET ?

I asked James how to prove thart what we do is somehow exploratory. It appeared to be a silly question. James replied that there is no need for proving that we should rather focus on:

* developing our skills
* learning how to spot biases and ruts
* using variety of methods
* using random testing
* learning from experiences

"The reason we talk about ET is because we want to learn how to manage ourselves well"
Which I see as key concept in improving our testing skill.

How to spot exploratory testing ?

We should start from asking questions:
1. Where do the test procedures come from?
2. Who controls the testing?
3. Is there a feedback loop that modifies testing from within the testing process?

The 2nd part of the session was a challenge. Key question was how many tests you can spot on presented image. It was a trap, no image can be called "test". Of course test is human activity and we can not consciously say that any image consist of "tests". Image can facilitate "tests" only.

It was tough session but I think I did better on it comparing to the previous one. I still see problem however in applying my knowledge. Even though I didn't fall into any obvious traps I couldn’t explain my reasoning well.


PS. If you want learn more about testing in exploratory way, check Micheal Bolton's resource page


  1. I have no words for this great post such a awe-some information i got gathered. Thanks to Author.
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  2. Have you done more research/reading on ET since then?

    1. From my point of view reading/researching is crucial part of being the tester and I am the student of Context-Driven school everyday.