Monday, February 8, 2010

The Software Testing Jigsaw....

Tweet and re-tweet

Recently I had a thought that there would be s similarity between a jigsaw and software testing.
I send out a tweet into the world to share this thought.

1. Two of the important pieces of a jigsaw is the first and the last.1 to tell it is started and 1 it is ended. What if testing is a jigsaw?

2. The more jigsaw pieces, the more of the shape is hidden. Would distraction by numbers also count for test cases?

On these thoughts I got the following reactions:
TestSideStory: Testing would be an insolvable jigsaw puzzle: there is no "last piece"
Divinebastard: Of course it's a jig-saw; always aiming for optimum coverage

They made me re-tweet/thought about it:
"Perhaps we start sometimes with the "last piece of the jigsaw", missing some fun in between and losing control on how to start"
"Aiming for optimum coverage: I like it. Since optimum can be reached at several moments and circumstances"

Solving is exploratory
After searching for information to support my thoughts I surprisingly came up with an article from James Bach Exploratory Testing Explained
In that article they compare solving a jigsaw with exploratory testing. It is about learning while solving. Getting to know the shape, color and act on the information you receive. During the solving process you change your strategy.

When we just started to play around
It is not only the software which make you puzzle. It is the entire environment. Imagine how we started with jigsaws. When we were little we used to play with those jigsaws with handles attached to it to function as a tool the guide is with the movements. We learned how to pick up the pieces, identify them and how to recognize the shapes were it should fit into.

After a while we got used to these jigsaws and were able to solve them faster. We made the next step into the puzzles were we have to “solve” the jigsaw using more of our skills. We started with those 10 or 25 pieces jigsaw. We loved to play with them as they were presenting our action heroes in fancy colours.

Introduction of the unknown
Some complexity was introduced by our environment. The shape, size and picture is known, and challenge is created by numbers and the unknown. Unknown as this is the first time we have to decide were to start, how to start. Most of the time we gained instructions to start with the borders. Meanwhile to focus on pieces which might help to solve it (faster)

Introduction of speed and boredom
After a while we raised the speed of solving. It is not intentionally we are doing it. We just got familiar to the jigsaw. At this certain age we were ahead of the environment which provides us with the same jigsaws again and again. Besides the ability to work with agility, we also got introduced to boredom. We finished the jigsaw within optimal speed and sometimes we might got unintentional destructive to certain pieces just to earn newer jigsaws with more challenges.

Challenged by numbers and shapes
At a certain level we were introduced to jigsaws with more pieces we dealt with before. Also the complexity rose due to overlapping colours and pieces with less detail. We had to combine pieces and look more carefully to the shapes of the pieces. This was the first time we got introduced intentionally with the aspect time. We were no longer able to solve a jigsaw within the same period or the same day. We got aware about our ability not to finish within time.

Ownership of space
At a certain moment we were not only confronted with the time aspect. Also the space aspect became important. When we were young we were allowed to leave the jigsaw on those places we felt convenient at. When growing older we learned that other people also needed that table we were working on. We need to find tools and means to store the jigsaw and create the ability to continue. Or we need to gain that supervision to claim that space as our own.

Differences in jigsaws and challenges
Fortunately we maintained our position and kept our joy in solving jigsaws. At this level we earned to position to choose our own jigsaw. We manage to solve different images, sizes, and even shapes (notice the 3D jigsaws etc). I can imagine that we start challenging our selves. We agreed that solving jigsaws is fun, therefore we continued. We tried to make a game of it. Solve within predefined rules like:
- Time: e.a. try to solve on the same day, otherwise clear the table and start over again the next day;
- Order: e.a. border last
- Based on colour/ shape: e.a. order first the colours and continue then or different shapes.
- Together: e.a. with other people
- Fun: find the missing piece (remove one piece from the jigsaw and try to guess which one is missing :) )
- On shape of the pieces: e.a. use the back of the jigsaw and solve it based on the shape of the pieces.
- …..

Teaching our children
At the end we started teaching our children with solving jigsaws. Make it happen that they learn the basics of solving, playing and controlling their sense organs. Learn a bit from the things mentioned above. We start teaching and guiding how to approach jigsaws. For them it seems solving, for us it became approaching.

Similarities with testing
Some similarity with testing is there. Testers start with small assignments; easy steps for teasing the mind and ability to act within a certain environment. At a certain moment testers a learning (the) tricks. A pitfall here is they become bored and not seeking for their own challenges. Other testers try to gain more information and are growing in their behaviour. They become able to find their own way within space, time and culture.

There are also certain rules. We have to define our own questions. If it is a jigsaw or a system. Some challenges are the same. e.a. When will we start, when to end. Is the project size defined on number of cases/ jigsaw pieces? Did we have to start with the first piece of the jigsaw or shall we start with an end-to-end case.
Are we able to tell others what we have done and why we have done it? Are we able to explain why we did it that certain way (e.a. borders first) Are we triggered by colours/details or guided by our own skills and ability to define our route.

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