Friday, April 2, 2021

The Conflated Exploratory Testing

Last night I spoke at TSQA meetup and received ample compensation as inspirations people in that session enabled through conversations. Showing up for a talk can feel like I'm broadcasting, and that gives me the chance of sorting out my thoughts on a different topic every single time, but when people show up for conversation after, that leaves me buzzing. 

Multiple conversations we ended up having were on the theme of how conflated exploratory testing is, and how we so easily end up with conversations that lead nowhere when we try to figure it out. The honest response from me is that it has meant different things in different communities, and it must be confusing for people who haven't traversed through the stages of how we talk about it. 

So, with half serious tongue in cheek, I set out to put the stages of it on this note. Thinking of good old divisive yet formative "schools of testing" work, I'm pretty sure we can find schools of exploratory testing. What I would hope to find though is group of people that would join in describing the reasons why things are the way they are with admiration and appreciation of others, instead of ending up with the one school to rule them all with everything positive attached to it. 

Here's stages, each still existing in the world I think I am seeing:

  • Contemporary Exploratory Testing
  • Agile Technique Exploratory Testing
  • Deprecated Exploratory Testing
  • Session-based Exploratory Testing
  • ISTQB Technique Exploratory Testing
  • The Product Company Exploratory Testing

As I am writing this post, I realize I want to sort this thinking out better and I start working on slides of comparison. So with this one, I will leave it as an early listing, making a note of the inspirations yesterday:

  • The recruiting story, where people show up telling they schedule exploratory testing session in the end, only to find them cancelled with other activities taking over. The low-priority task of session framing, unfortunately common with the Agile Technique Exploratory Testing. 
  • The middle era domination by managing with sessions story, where session based test management hijacked the concept becoming the defining criteria for exploratory testing to survive in organizational frames not founded on trust. 
  • The common course providers forcing it into a technique story, where people learned to splash some on top to fix humanity instead of seeking power from it.
  • The unilateral deprecation story, where terrible twins marketing gimmicks shifted conversations to testing in a particular namespace to create a possibility of coherent terms in a bubble. 
I believe we are far from done on understanding how to talk about exploratory testing amongst doers, towards enablers like managers or how to create organizational frames that enable the style of learning.