I'm all for agile testing yet I see it as mostly discussions around testing (who can/should do it, what size of chunks we do it in, how can we do more of it earlier and continuously) - the person doing testing and looking at the application is largely left at their own device.
Exploratory testing is when you pop into a design meeting, what are the questions you choose to ask, problems you choose to pinpoint? It is when you sit next to a developer to pair on programming, what are the problems you pinpoint immediately, what you keep track of for after the pairing, what you know you will need to spend private time on in an environment that would feel it slows you down while pairing if you initiated the move. It is when you listen to people, read documentation and plan for the hands-on time learning with the application, to empirically figure out what you really know and don't know.
I want to see more of stuff on how to really do that. And I know it isn't easy.
On year one of European Testing Conference, I got on the stage myself to deliver a demo talk on Exploratory Testing. I called it "Learning in Layers - A Demo of Exploratory Testing", and started my session off my removing my personal access to the keyboard by inviting just someone I had never met from the crowd to be my hands. For an idea from my head to the keyboard, it needed to be spoken out as intent, followed through with location and details on where in the screen I wanted things to happen. This style of pairing is called Strong Style Pairing, and my demo pair was awesome on speaking back in questions, pointing out things I wasn't seeing.
On year two of European Testing Conference, I convinced Huib Schoots to do a practical exploratory testing session. His version was called "Testopsy" and it was a fun session where the audience first listed what activities we expect to see while someone is testing, and then mapping out which of those activities we were actually seeing. If you need a vocabulary for the activities, Exploratory Testing Dynamics list gives a nice basis for that.
On year three of European Testing Conference, I had Alex Schladebeck step up to the challenge. Her version was a show and tell, with deep insights of what the audience can take away from seeing others.
So, here's three recipes:
- Do it strong style paired so that everything must be spoken out loud
- Focus on the activities that get intertwined so that you can develop skills in each activity not just the umbrella term
- Show what you do and what it finds with a real live in production application