Exploratory Testing with Interactive Fiction

I want to start off 2017 by playing around with the idea of exploration. I gave an example of how I applied exploration while testing a particular game as well as creating a game to test the exploratory abilities of testers and even a little bit about reframing interviews with gamification in this context. I want to start taking this to the next level.

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Testing and the Nature of Time

To quote Doctor Tolian Soran, the villain in Star Trek: Generations, “time is the fire in which we burn.” In a little less fictional of a context, the historian Robert Bloch has said of time that “it is the very plasma in which events are immersed, and the field within which they become intelligible.” Beyond those sentiments, time is also what provides us with a keen notion of polarity, by providing two aspects around the project singularity I talked about. So let’s talk about polarities and time and see if we can’t make this relevant to testing as a discipline.

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Testing Is Like Studying the Past

I was going to title this post “Testing is Like Archaeology.” Then I was thinking of “Testing is Like Geology.” But then I realized, as my argument took shape, that I could have said testing was like paleontology, or geomorphology, or even biography. I realized then that what I really wanted to focus on was how testing was, oftentimes, about studying the past. But to drive that argument home, let’s consider why we study the past. And let’s also consider why such study informs the future.

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The Dimensionality of Testing

Geometry is about getting from one place to another. It’s about looking at where we are and where we want to be. Or, perhaps, it can look at where we are now and help us backtrack to where we came from. However you use it, geometry takes place over a certain region of space and time. Space and time — whether looked at in the context of cosmology or just on our projects — is all about dimensions. So let’s talk about this a bit.

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Testing Is Like Cartography

What do maps do? Well, let’s think about how they great created. They get created by humans. So maps essentially distill the experience of others for the purpose of helping you understand a particular terrain. Maps help you get from where you are to where you want to go. Maps thus serve as a way to package up a vicarious experience by providing a representation.

Cartographers are people who create maps and it is very much a discipline. Further, it’s a discipline that shares a lot with testing. So let’s talk about that.

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The Shifting Polarities of Testing

Everything we rely on is in the past. Even the very moment of “now” became the past just as you read this. As the future gets here, it becomes the “now” and — you guessed it — moves into the past. So while we may build services and applications for the future, our work immediately becomes part of the load-bearing struts of the past.

This reality, while simplistic sounding, has important ramifications because it means we have to move between polarities.

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The Character of Projects

I was going to title this “The Irrelevance of Agile” but that struck me as an unfair title and not entirely indicative of what I wanted to focus on. Testers will periodically be involved in the “Is Agile Dead?” debate. Or even the “Agile is (Once Again) Dead” debate.

I’ve found these discussions to be an emotive area to wade into so I want to approach this from a different angle. This is me experimenting with thoughts rather than claiming to have any answers, so expect a bit of this to be somewhat muddy as I feel my way forward.

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