I attended the first independent TED event in Waterloo (TEDxWaterloo) yesterday, 25 February 2010. The theme was "Tomorrow StarTED Yesterday." The web site and twitter account page have lots of great info if you're interested to know more about the event and speakers. There's even a nice photo blog of the event at http://www.longexposure.ca/2010/02/tedx-waterloo/

So what can I add that hasn't already been said? Well, I can tell you what the event meant to me.

Now with minty-fresh visitor counter

Someone suggested to me this past weekend that I add a visitor counter to this blog. It's one of the most common suggestions made to me over the years and I don't know why.

Back in the mid-90's I had a web site with a counter. It was novel then. I played around with different fonts and features and watched it go up over time. I don't have that site anymore. I set up a new web site about 7 years ago, but adding a counter wasn't one of the important things on my to-do list. Foolish? Dunno. Maybe. Maybe not.

Is Quality measured in numbers?

Anyhoo, I won't go there today. ;-) I'm not going to think philosophically about it right now. I'll reserve thinking and judgment about the visitor counter for a later date.

This is just a placeholder note to indicate that the counter started today.

Cheers! Paul.

SBTM is not ET

There's a subtle but important distinction that I'd like to talk about. Session-Based Testing is *not* Exploratory Testing. Please stop using those terms interchangeably because they're not.

Exploratory Testing (ET) is a testing approach that puts the emphasis on real-time learning, test design and test execution, as opposed to a more "scripted" approach that puts the emphasis on the separation of these activities - separated in time, space, and usually with copious amounts of documented artifacts.

When I first started in I.T. over 20 years ago, any testing I did as part of my programming contracts were exploratory in nature. I didn't call it 'ET' at the time and I certainly didn't approach it with the same discipline and formality that I do today. Back then, Programming was my main focus and testing was just something I did as required along the way. Ten years later (or about 12 years ago depending on your perspective), I took a workshop class on "Test Case Design" with Ross Collard. That was an amazing class that opened my eyes to a whole new world of analysis and problem solving that I didn't know before. Cool!

After that workshop, I had plenty of opportunities to practice what I learned, try new techniques and tools, and explore additional testing ideas thrown out onto the just-budding software testing mailing lists. One of the things we discussed in Ross' class was the role of "ad hoc" or informal testing. I don't have access to the data, but some study-or-other at the time (90's sometime?) showed that ad hoc testing failed to produce the same amount of testing coverage that formal test design analysis would.

Okay, I buy that. To paraphrase: guessing ideas off the top of your head consistently produced less coverage than having some structured analytical approaches/techniques/heuristics/models at your disposal. Okay. I don't need a formal study to tell me that.

Time - Bane or Innovation Catalyst?

Time. What time is it? How much time do we have? When do you want/need it? What's the deadline? I need more time!

If we had all the time in the world for software development, would the delivered results really be of better quality?

A co-worker at a past employer wrote the following when someone sent an email submission for a fun, internal contest the day after the deadline:
The contest ended a long time ago. Trying to submit something now is like submitting your late university assignment.
One of my profs told me:
"I don't care if you have something that's better than all the works of Shakespeare. If you can't get it in before the deadline it's worth nothing to me."

Ha, ha. It was intended as a funny remark at the time but there's some truth in there too.

So, if someone submits an assignment "on time" but of lesser value/quality than they might produce if they had more time, would they still continue to work on their opus or would they give it up to move onto the next project? Do we (as a collective group of intelligent human beings) lose out by putting Time ahead of Quality?