Monday, 4 July 2011

Fake Learning: Shortcuts Don't Always Exist

" #softwaretesting #testing "

Excuse the mini-rant...

I seem to have a love-hate relationship with different Q&A forums.

I like to give input on them, to share my perspective, with the hope that my take, however left-field or mundane, might help the questioner and all those taking part. I don't consider myself the guru - I'm just providing one piece in a thousand piece jigsaw - rather than have the whole picture on the front of the box!

Some people are out there asking questions in a genuinely investigative way, searching, pushing the boundaries of their own experience and forming opinions on what they find. That is fantastic, I love the energy (I won't say passion :) ), the willingness to go on a mental adventure, get out of your own mental comfort zone and see what you find and how you might use it.

For examples of thought-provoking questions look at the questions from Phil, here, or Shmuel, here, or Shrini, here.

There are no right or wrong answers - but every answer might help you learn something new.

Comfort Zone
But, on the other side of the coin there is the search for information without the searching or learning. This is definitely a case of not pushing ones own mental comfort zone.

Examples of staying within ones own mental zone - questions of the form:
What is the (insert one of: "best, most effective") (insert one of: "tool, process, method, etc") for (insert a general non-specific context or situation)?
These types of question want to bypass the learning journey. It's a pay-per-view approach - without the payment!

That may be ok if all you want to do is compile a list (the 21 capital coach journey in one week), but you must ask yourself how that information might be used - whether to get a flavour of something or to claim to "know" about something are two different purposes.

It's sort of the difference between learning by rote and information gathering (with hypothesis formation) -> ooh, scripted learning vs exploratory learning, or testing with your eyes wide open vs eyes wide shut!

Fake Learning?
The essence of these types of questions - for me - is an attempt to shortcut learning - to shortcut the experimentation,  digesting the information, hypothesis (ideas) forming and making new discoveries (at least to yourself). Shortcutting this (and purporting to have gone through it) is something I think of as Fake Learning.

Several people highlighted the problem recently:

  • Myself on twitter, here.
  • Phil Kirkham on twitter, here.
  • Michael Bolton on twitter, here.
  • Rosie Sherry in her blog, here.

No, not really. Am I (and maybe others) going through that "hate" part of the cycle right now. Maybe yes.

But it doesn't stop my own searching and willingness to help others along the way - so I'm still on the lookout for interesting and thought-provoking questions - that doesn't mean I always have the time to respond and get involved myself!

But if I'm asked directly for help, I'll always try and help. It fits in with my testing motto too!

Mini-rant over. :)

Beware of Fake Learning!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Carnival of Testers #23

" #softwaretesting #testing "

The workshop on testing concept continued it's travel around the world.

  • DEWT1 took place, with a write-ups from Ray Oei, here; Zeger Van Hese, here; Jean-Paul Varwijk, here (interesting first blog), here; Jeroen Rosink, here; Huib Schoots, here.
  • Later in the month a workshop on testing took place in New Zealand. KWST was born! Good reading from Brian Osman, here, and Aaron Hodder, here

This month saw 2 notable events from the podcast world.

  • Trish Khoo announced the launch the testcasters site (with Bruce McLeod), here. They sound like they have a lot of fun with it!
  • Also, TWIST had it's 50th edition. Michael Larsen writes about that and more, here.

Searching for THE ONE
There are recurring questions that crop up where searches are made for THE definition, guarantee, way or tool. This triggered some interesting perspectives.
  • Markus Gärtner examined a claim about "full automation" via model based testing, here.
  • Sometimes testers (and non-testers) get hung-up on the A-word (assurance), not to say anything about the Q-word! James Lyndsay produced a good perspective on Test Assurance as applied to (exploratory) testing, here.
  • A search for a good, better or best testing tour gave rise to this post from Cem Kaner.


  • A good follow-up on his testing debt article from Martin Jansson, here.
  • Vulcan death grip in testing? Adam Brown makes a case for it, here.
  • A reminder of thinking traps related to test automation was given by Shrini Kulkami, here.
  • A plethora of recent article links was provided by Matt Heusser, here.
  • A piece from BJ Rollison examining levels of testing, here, was interesting for the Beizer quotes and how they might not be an adequate model. 
  • An interesting piece from Markus Gärtner on ideas around Programmer-Tester separation, here
  • The importance of understanding WHAT you're testing was an experience from Adam Knight, here.
  • Although the deadline has passed now for the EuroStar lab rats, some experiences from Henrik Emilsson and Martin Jansson were given via the EuroStar blog, here.

Until the next time...