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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Mon, 04 Aug 2003

Soap Opera Testing

Here's something I wrote for the member's newsletter of the Agile Alliance.

To me, testing is about more than finding bugs. It's also about helping the whole team understand the domain and the needs of the users. It should be a way of provoking insight.

One good technique is from Hans Buwalda (www.happytester.com). He calls it "soap opera testing". It goes beyond the straightforward scenarios that teams often use in development. Soap opera tests exaggerate and complicate scenarios in the way that television soap operas exaggerate and complicate real life. Here's an example:

"A customer named Marick hires a car for a three-day business trip. (This, by the way, gives him enough rental points to reach Preferred status.) Midway through the rental, he extends it for another week. Several days later, he calls to report the car has been stolen. He insists that the Preferred benefit of on-site replacement applies, even though he was not Preferred at the start of the rental. A new car is delivered to him. Two days after that, he calls to report that the "stolen" car has been found. It turns out he'd mis-remembered where he'd parked it. He wants one of the cars picked up and the appropriate transaction closed. Oh, and one other thing: the way he discovered the mislaid car was by backing into it with its replacement, so they're both damaged..."

Soap opera testing is a kind of brainstorming, one that surfaces questions easily overlooked. When does Preferred status kick in? What are the implications of renting two cars at once? Like other types of brainstorming, it's best done in a group.

When I sent that text to Hans, he had some interesting comments that need to be written down somewhere public. So the above is by way of introduction, and here's what Hans had to say:

There is more to say, but these two points would be the most important:

  1. Involve (in the group) some "real people" to get ideas, like experienced end-users, subject matter specialists, but also experienced testers (the old fashioned craftman types) and of course developers (they know the complexities and weak spots).

  2. Cover/augment the scenarios with a list of "test objectives", atomic statements describing what should minimally be tested, and match the objectives with the soap operas after(!) those have been produced. That way a potential draw back of soap opera's (lack of systematic coverage) is effectively addressed.

P.S.: Ken Schwaber (the newsletter editor) was kind enough to let me publish my blurb here even though the newsletter isn't out yet. Join the Agile Alliance and you can read it again! I quote Hans's email with permission.

## Posted at 14:21 in category /testing [permalink] [top]

More on change detectors

Jonathan Kohl writes:

After reading the quote of Christian Sepulveda's point on "change detection" on your blog, I tried it out in a meeting today. It seemed to go over quite well with people. I was talking about automated unit tests in particular as "early change detection" as well as other automated tests with regards to a goal of automation. I asked what the goal of test automation was for the company, and no-one had really thought of it.

I was proposing that collaboration between testers and developers with automated regression tests is a good way to go. If the goal is change detection, an effective way to approach it is through different automated testing techniques. Instead of just trying to automate the manual regression tests, development automated unit testing and other automation efforts have the potential to compound each other.

The change detection concept really seemed to help people get a consensus on why we should be automating these sorts of tests instead of just "automation == good". It really came in handy.

(Posted with permission.)

P.S. I'm told that Cem Kaner coined the phrase "change detector" at Agile Fusion. The idea has been widespread, but as the patterns people know, a catchy phrase matters a lot. Here we have one, one that I at least don't remember hearing before.

## Posted at 06:17 in category /agile [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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