Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Michael Bolton's Rapid Software Testing Course

Michael Bolton taught me, and others, Rapid Software Testing during the beginning of April 2011. It was three days of being presented with a huge range of thought provoking ideas about how to do testing better. Students were frequently given exercises to make them improve thinking and solve problems.

Testing goes further than seeing if a product works as it is expected or assumed to work. Questions come to mind are: What is a Tester and do they assure quality? What is the difference between a bug and an issue? When do you stop testing? What is the coverage of testing that has to be carried out? What is the significance of a Map? How much documentation do you need before testing starts? How can you start testing without knowing how the product is supposed to work? What is a test oracle? What is a heuristic and how do you use them in testing? What is the difference between a heuristic and an oracle? How do you use mnemonics? What is Exploratory testing and what is Session Based Test Management? Which strategy / test approach to doing software testing is best for me? Do I have all the information I need to start testing? What questions should I ask before testing and what if I don't get the answers I need? How do you keep testers interested in doing testing? What skills do I need to be a good tester? Do I need to have ISEB/ISTQB certification in Software Testing? What other resources are their available for me to learn more about testing? What testing books should I read? What are the common problems faced during testing and how can these be overcome? Should I be concerned about doing Agile testing? What is the Context-Driven School of Testing?

Testing is not simply about finding out if a product works. It's better for test teams to focus on how products work if we supply them with diverse test data beyond the sorts of data we assume it is supposed to handle. Try to find ways of producing a variety of test data in the quickest way possible. Look for common patterns and discover test data that does not fit a pattern. Use your mind more often and discover new tests during test execution instead of trying to come up with most of the tests before-hand. Don't put all your trust into requirements specifications and design documents and realize that testers are looking more for the unknown unknowns and trying to make all the risky unknowns known.

Michael supplied us with lots of slides, documents, example test applications for us to look through at our leisure. He gave us copies of slides that he skipped over quickly or never talked about during the three days of the course. There is just so much information available and the course just gave us information to use as a foundation of our learning. The learning is not meant to stop when the last day of the course is over. In fact Michael was also learning from his students, since people with new eyes also have new ideas and new ways of looking at things. Frequently you would see Michael right something down that a student said that he never though about before.

Something that I was really surprised about is how few people wanted to go for a drink or food at the end of each day. A course like this is not just about learning from the person standing at the front but also learning from each other and sharing thoughts about the course. Students were invited to go out in the evening but unfortunately most wanted to get back home as soon as each day ended. This was a disappointment for me since I like to network with other like minded people and find out how they do testing compared with me.

At the end of day one Michael, I and another student went to the London Tester Gathering to meet other testers who work in and around London. Michael gave an interesting talk about test estimation and then I chatted to people for the rest of the evening. At the end of day two I went for a meal with Michael and another tester, where Michael got us thinking again about testing and talked a lot more about his experiences.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the three day course and Michael is a wonderful tutor. I highly recommend it to all testers, new or experienced.

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