Principles for Testing?

In June (2015) I gave a talk, “Principles for Testing?” at a one-day conference of SIGIST (the British Computer Society’s Specialist Group in Software Testing) in London. I intended to work my talk up into an article, but haven’t got round to it (yet). In the meantime I’m posting a PDF of the slides (opens in new tab). Unusually for my talks these slides, along with the notes, carry enough of the story to make some sense on their own.

This was the abstract for the talk.

“There has been much debate in recent years about the balance between principles and rules when regulation is framed. Software development and testing are complex activities that do not lend themselves to fixed rules or prescriptive “best practice”. If stakeholders are to be confident that testers will provide value then perhaps we need clear principles against which testing can be evaluated. Testing lacks principles intended to guide and shape behaviour. I will show how this has contributed to some of the confusion and disagreement arising from ISO 29119 and the Stop 29119 campaign. I will also argue that we can learn from the “rules based versus principles based” debate and I will initiate a discussion about what form principles might take for testing, and where we should look for sources for these principles.”

Plenty of people contributed to the discussion, which was interesting but inconclusive. This is something I will have to persevere with. Please get in touch if you want anything clarified, or if you want to discuss these issues.

I used a brief clip from Apollo 13, which doesn’t appear in the PDF. It was an example of a complex problem requiring experimentation, the sort of situation where vague principles rather than fixed rules are more helpful. Here is a slightly longer version of that clip.

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