e-testing Blog

Book Review – The Testing Practitioner

The following book review was presented by Peter Morgan, e-testing’s Principal Consultant, at Eurostar.

The Testing Practitioner – by Erik van Veenendaal and others.
Paperback, pp 436.
UTN Publishers, Den Bosh.
ISBN 90-72194-65-9.

Amazon.co.uk Link

EuroStar 2002 was the first such conference that I had attended; on the way home I was confronted by lots of blue-and-black rucksack carrying individuals at Edinburgh airport. By chance, travelling to Bristol was one of the great and good of the testing world, someone that had presented at the conference. We sat together on the plane, and this person encouraged me to consider presenting at EuroStar 2003. So that is why I am here before you now.

Over the next two days, I have three books for you. These are all mainstream testing books; the criteria I have chosen is that the material should be relatively recent, and that I have read them all since the start of 2003. The book I am talking about today is ‘The Testing Practitioner”, by Erik van Veenandaal, and others. Obviously, there will be more about the others tomorrow.

I want to start by dispelling two myths, or misconceptions, with this book. The first is the idea that this book is ONLY for those who are studying for the ISEB Practitioner’s Certificate in Software Testing, and the second that the material will be all that you need to get you through that particular exam. Neither of these is true, the editor would not want to claim them as so. The book both will supplement other material, and yet give you something to think about. The introduction hopes that testing professionals find it useful in improving their practice. However, there is a word of warning. There are some glaring typographical errors, and spelling / punctuation problems. Do not let that put you off. They may have resulted from the perceived need to be first to market!

The volume contains nothing really new. There is not much in testing that is new, and it is really not about looking for the so-called silver bullet, the brand new thing. What testing is really about is making the old work. Testing is about methods, techniques, tips and wrinkles, and sometimes it is just about the plain straightforward slog of ‘doing it’.

Some of the authors are “my kind of people”. I like their style, I can understand what is being said without having to read and re-read that which is before me. For others it will be people who are on YOUR wavelength. On that basis, please excuse my choice of details presented today; I am not primarily a TMap / TPI person, so that is reflected, although the coverage in this volume is good. There are 24 contributors, some of whom are both here this week, and speaking (so I better watch what I am saying). Many are household names in the testing world; James Bach, Stuart Reid, Les Hatton, etc. A nice touch is the pen picture summary of the contributors, all together at the end, rather than scattered throughout the chapter headings.

I want to mention three pieces in particular. Paul Gerrard’s contribution on ‘Good Enough Testing’ is only marginally longer than his biographical details. Yet it makes a lot of sense, and as you would expect from Paul, comes very much from a risk-based point of view. Very short – yes. However, it is well worth reading, and puts the ideas behind the topic in stark clarity, and the briefness is itself a strength.

My second snippet for you concerns ‘Inspections’, by Tom Gilb. I had better watch what I am saying, as Tom is the next speaker up, but I had written what I wanted to say before realising that fact. Tom is an old hand at inspections, being the co-author of a well-respected book. Much of what he says is good common sense. Have you heard it said that inspections should only be carried out on completed documents? That was my perception, as well. However, the exhortation is inspect early and often whilst documents are being written. That way, the cost to fix defects is even less. Incidentally, like much of the book, Tom’s contribution is based largely on previously published material, and his chapter is recognisable from content on his web-site.

The third bit that I wish to highlight is Rex Black’s contribution on incident management. In the ISEB Practitioner syllabus, Incident Management is 1.5 hours out of a total of 56 hours. That is approximately 1/40 of the total, so with 6 questions on every exam paper, there will statistically be one question on incident management every 6 sittings. So, at 23 pages for ‘The Bug Reporting Process”, should this section be missed out? Here is something to get hold of:

Q What is testing for?
A To find and raise defects. (I hesitate to accept that as a ‘proper’ answer)

Q Why do we raise defects?
A To get them fixed!

That little gem introduces the notion of clarity and completeness in the raising of incidents, and will hopefully stop ‘incident ping-pong’, something that is discussed in this section.

So, in this brief review, I hope that I have whetted your appetite, and perhaps encouraged you to take another look at this book, that you could have dismissed because you thought that it did not apply to you. Finally, the information contained in the appendices, especially the automation tool criteria, gives you a very good basis to draw up your own, company specific list.

Peter Morgan, Principal Test Consultant, e-testing


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