When I was growing up in the 70’s I got an electric guitar for Christmas. I had dreams of becoming the next Eric Clapton or Jimmie Page. (For you youngsters that have no clue who I’m talking about – Google them). I took lessons and played until my fingers bled. But no matter how hard or how long I played – I was no Eric Clapton. Oh I could play the notes, but not the music. I still play to this day….some 35 years later, but it is still more mechanical than music. So here I am writing a software testing blog. :0)
I digress (as usual) – back to the question at hand. Is software testing an art or a science? The simple answer – Yes!
Testing – good testing – is both art & science. I’ve seen, read, and heard the arguments on both sides and I really can’t say one is any superior to the other.
From the scientific side, testing can include a number of proven techniques such as equivalency class testing, boundary value analysis, pair-wise testing, etc. These techniques, if used properly, can reduce test times and focus on finding the bugs where they tend to hang out – much like a porch light on a summer night. The scientific techniques are all easily learned and applied. They are also (or should be) well documented and easily repeatable with the next build to help validate defect resolutions. Personally, I can’t think of any testing situation where some level of scientific testing is not needed. If you are testing critical sytems or systems where life or death is a likely outcome (air traffic control systems, medical systems) – these tests are unavoidable. Does that mean there is no need for other, more cranial type tests? Absolutely not!
But there is an art to testing as well. The art side is not as easily learned. It comes from experience, from gut feelings, from all those areas that you can’t really document. It is typically those tests that start with thinking “I wonder what would happen if…..” Exploratory Testing is a great example of the “art” of testing. It involves poking around an application – with a purpose, trying to find those elusive bugs – guided only by gut instinct.
I can teach you how to play the notes, but I can’t make you a musician. That my friends is something inside you that you must cultivate yourselves. How do you get to Carnagy Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice!
To everyone in the US – Happy Thanksgiving!! To everyone else – Happy Thursday!! Keep those cards and letters (or emails and blog comments) coming. I love to hear from you!