Category Archives: Branding software testing

Explaining exploratory testing with a table

Tables loaded with food and a class of kids playing on a lawn.

Another dad and I picked an all favourite Dutch subject: work.

“What makes a good tester?” the other parent informed.
“A good tester knows about exploratory testing.”

I saw wrinkles on his forehead. This was a bad start for this subject. I had to switch to his context. He was a police agent. Okay, second try.

“Suppose you ask for a driving license.”
I opened my imaginary jacket and pulled out an imaginary object.
“I place a gun on the table and”
I noticed a sudden sharpness.
“then I show you my driving license.”
This time I retrieved a thin imaginary object between my thumb and index finger.

“Would you be interested in the gun?”
“Yes, of course.”
He was constantly switching attention between my hands and the invisible gun on the table.
I continued with
“I would ask questions like
“Do you not feel safe?” or
“Is this your gun?””
He nodded.

Then I explained that a tester adjusts her or his activities based on observations during exploratory testing.

The focus would be on the gun instead of the driving license.

Test Twilight Zone

When I grew up, there was a TV program called The Twilight Zone. It was about people getting in really strange situations. Logic and laws of nature did not seem to apply.

The reason it appealed to me was that it could happen to me, the writer. Ordinary situations became unordinary situations.

This TV program had a tune. There are 3 notes which I still remember, to create a gloomy atmosphere. Those 3 notes became the tradenark of this zone.

Then the voice over would start like:
“This is a story of a woman. Let’s call her A. A is a very good UX designer or User Experience designer. She takes care, that people can use a program on first sight.

If she would design a kitchen tool, she could easily skip the manual. The product is so intuitive the moment you see and touch it.

She thinks that this is normal for her and not for other people. But she is about to enter the Twilight Zone.”


A looked to me and asked me:
“How many bugs did you find?”
I mentioned a number above 40.
She swallowed.

I had no specs and not enough domain knowledge. Only a briefing from my PO or Product Owner. Still I had found some strange things.

She said that she had found about 20 bugs.
“What did you find?” she asked.
I described some bugs I had found. There was a bug with an input validation. I had just enough domain knowledge to point this one out.
I told about the details of the elements, which had confused me as a user. And …
“You are doing UX.”, she exclaimed.
“I am only testing.”

Then the voice over would come back: telling about the UX designer’s meeting. Mentioning the morale and The Twilight Zone.

“Next story.”
“There you read” => PM

Then the voice over would start with:
“Mister X has more than 10 year of experience in “.

Let’s skip the scary part.
Okay with you?
Works on my web site.

Mister X and I were sitting at a table. We were talking about business on Sunday. That is typical Dutch by the way. Somehow the word migration was dropped and I could not stop myself to tell my deployment plan story.

My telling triggered the attention of Mister X. I told how I merged 3 plans and how I set up a meeting to discuss the result. X asked familiar questions which I had already covered in 2 piece Q and A.

“What was your role?”
“I was a tester. I wanted this project succeed, so I became the chairman.”
[Actually I made a mistake: I was a test coordinator. But still …]
Ten minutes in my story I heard:
“You were doing project management!”

At that moment I made contact. The next time he would remember my story about the migration. I would not be another faceless tester, which is to be avoided according to James.


During a meeting last week I spoke up:
“I do not have a clue, but I have a weird idea.”

I almost forget the tune.

Finding courage

After more than 10 minutes of discussion the work item was clear to the developers and the product owner. Then the standard question was posed: “Are there any more questions?”

As a tester I had digested the information. I was not sure about the solution, so I raised my hand. Everyone looked at me.

What’s Up, Doc?

Currently I am the only tester in my team. If something has impact on testing or a quality related attribute, then I talk about it. It is something some people take for granted.

In the past people started rolling their eyes, if I questioned something. Until the main stakeholder supported me. Look who’s talking?

A few years ago I heard about a demo for a certain project. I tried to invite myself. My project leader objected with: “There is nothing to test.”

I persisted and attended the demo. Every now and then I posed a question. After the demo I heard no more objections about my presence.

Invitations for the remaining demos were even sent to me. The stakeholders obviously valued my input. Look who’s listening?

No harm intended

Last month the Skype rehearsal was not that successful. I had one month left to improve the exercises. They were crucial for my workshop at TestBash NL.

During the session I zoomed in on some exercises. In hindsight they were too big to handle in 1 go. Agile people might call them epic.

By breaking them down I got digestible mini exercises. I liked the idea.

Fast feedback for me and you.
[On the melody of Tea for two]

Some exercises had the complexity of my daily work. Using simple tests I might overlook edge cases. So let me complicate things please.

At the beginning of this section I wrote that the exercises were not that successful. I expected that the exercises went more smoothly than experienced.

Luckily there was useful feedback to improve the exercises. I had something to act upon. Things could only improve now. Also by writing down my thoughts and actions in this post.

During the preparation of every talk or workshop of mine there is a moment I think: “I cannot tell this.” And then the presentation is getting better. These experiences form my word of comfort.

The Skype rehearsal reminded me of #30daysoftesting: Lisa Crispin had doodled about experimenting. She was struggling, how to fit it in.

I tweeted her:
“There is no failure. There can’t be, if your only mission was to “see what happens”. ”