Exploration Through Example

Example-driven development, Agile testing, context-driven testing, Agile programming, Ruby, and other things of interest to Brian Marick
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Fri, 20 Jun 2003

The personal context

At Agile Fusion, I flashed on something about context-driven testing. James Bach said I should write it down.

In the ideal, adding context-driven testing to a project means that the tester observes the context and designs a testing strategy that matches it (while recognizing that the strategy will change as understanding increases).

Reality is less tidy, less rational. First, any particular strategist comes with a bundle of preferences, a set of experiences, and a bag of tricks. The natural first impulse is to do this project like a prior successful one. This project's context has an influence, to be sure, but does it really drive the strategy? Often not, I suspect. The test - perhaps - of context-driven-ness is how readily the strategist recognizes that what appears to be external context is the projection of internal biases.

This is especially tricky because internal biases take on external reality. To be trite, the observer affects the observed. The most important part of context is the people (principle 3). The strategist changes people's goals, activities, assumptions, and beliefs. So early choices shape the context, I suspect often in self-reinforcing ways.

This argues for rather a lot of humility on the part of the strategist. On the other hand, things have to get done. One cannot spend time in an agony of undirected self-doubt. So, an assignment for context-driven testers: tell stories about how you misjudged the context, then recovered. And about how you shaped a project wrongly. My sense is that the effect described here, though hardly insightful, is under-discussed.

## Posted at 05:19 in category /context_driven_testing [permalink] [top]

About Brian Marick
I consult mainly on Agile software development, with a special focus on how testing fits in.

Contact me here: marick@exampler.com.




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