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Testing as Exploration

In the beginning, there was testing.

Thus begins James Bach and Michael Bolton’s essay on Exploratory Testing 3.0. The point they make is that, at the start, there wasn’t a clear distinction made between exploratory testing and automated testing. It was only after the rise of automated, scripted testing that the term “exploratory testing” came about to define human, interactive, ad hoc testing.

Bach and Bolton describe the evolution of exploratory testing over time. They note how the concept of agency came to characterize exploratory testing as opposed to scripted testing, and how they eventually decided to do away with the distinction altogether. That is, their new definition of testing is not exploration versus scripting — it characterizes scripting as just one technique through which we can explore and test our software:

Testing is the process of evaluating a product by learning about it through exploration and experimentation, which includes: questioning, study, modeling, observation and inference, output checking, etc.

As someone who loves tinkering with, exploring, and trying to break new things, I wholeheartedly support that perspective.


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Happiness Engineer for Automattic, the company behind Linguaphile and Translator. Tester.