Cambridge Lean Coffee (Hiccupps)

On January 26, 2017, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing

This month’s Lean Coffee was hosted by Redgate. Here’s some brief, aggregated comments and questions  on topics covered by the group I was in.

Why ‘test’ rather than ‘prove’?

  • The questioner had been asked by a developer why he wasn’t proving that the software worked.
  • What is meant by proof? (The developer wanted to know that “it worked as expected”)
  • What is meant by works?
  • What would constitute proof for the developer in this situation?
  • Do we tend to think of proof in an absolutist, mathematical sense, where axioms, assumptions, deductions and so on are deployed to make a general statement?
  • … remember that a different set of axioms and assumptions can lead to different conclusions.
  • In this view, is proof 100% confidence?
  • There is formal research in proving correctness of software.
  • In the court system, we might have proof beyond reasonable doubt 
  • … which seems to admit less than 100% confidence. 
  • Are we happier with that?
  • But still the question is proof of what?
  • We will prioritise testing 
  • … and so not everything will be covered (if it even could be)
  • … and so there can’t be emprical evidence for those parts.
  • How long is enough when trying to prove that a program never crashes?

What would you be if not a tester? What skills cross over?

  • One of us started as a scientist and then went into teaching. Crossover skills: experimentalism, feedback, reading people, communicating with people, getting the best out of people.
  • One of us is a career tester who nearly went into forensic computing. Crossover skills: exploration, detail, analysis, presentation.
  • One of us was a developer and feels (he thinks) more sympathetic to developers as a result.
  • One of us is not a tester (Boo!) and is in fact a developer (Boo! Hiss! etc)
  • I am a test manager. For me, the testing mindset crosses over entirely. In interactions with people, projects, software, tools, and myself I set up hypothesis, act, observe the results, interpret, reflect.
  • … is there an ethical question around effectively experimenting “on” others e.g. when trying some approach to coaching?
  • … I think so, yes, but I try to be open about it – and I experiment with how open, when I say what I’m doing etc.

Pair Testing. Good or Bad?

  • The question starts from Katrina Clokie’s pairing experiment.
  • The questioner’s company are using pairing within the Test team and find it gives efficiency, better procedures, skill transfer.
  • It’s good not to feel bad about asking for help or to work with someone.
  • It helps to create and strengthen bonds with colleagues.
  • It breaks out of the monotony of the day.
  • It forces you to be explain your thinking.
  • It allows you to question things.
  • It can quickly surface issues, and shallow agreements.
  • It can help you to deal with rejection of your ideas.
  • Could you get similar benefits without formal pairing?
  • Yes, to some extent.
  • What do we mean by pairing anyway?
  • … Be at the same machine, working on something.
  • … Not simply a demonstration.
  • … Change who is driving during the session.
  • We have arranged pairing of new hires with everyone else in the test team.
  • … and we want to keep those communication channels open.
  • We are just embarking on a pairing experiment based on Katrina’s.

Reading Recommendations.

  • Edward Tufte, Beautiful Evidence, Envisioning Information: data analysis is about comparison so find ways to make comparisons easier, more productive etc on your data.
  • Michael Lopp, Managing Humans: we all have to deal with other people much of the time.
  • Amir Alexandar, Inifinitesimal: experimental vs theoretical (perhaps related to the idea of proof we discussed earlier).
Edit: Karo Stoltzenburg has blogged about the same session and Sneha Bhat wrote up notes from her group too.

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