Friday, November 27, 2009

Book Review: Beautiful Testing

Beautiful Testing: Leading Professionals Reveal How They Improve Software, by Adam Goucher and Tim Reilly. Pub by O’Reilly, ISBN 0596159811.

This is a great book for testers, leads, and managers to read to get a better picture of where your testing process can bring value to your work. A few sections of this book didn’t get me much value, but the vast majority of the book left me frantically scratching notes and folding corners of pages over. I read the book over a weekend and came away with a large number of major additions to my QA roadmap I use at work.

Kamran Khan’s chapter on fuzz testing reinforced my ideas that choking your system with invalid parameters and input data is a tremendous way to shore up that system’s stability. I also really enjoyed Lisa Crispin’s and Alan Page’s separate chapters, both of which emphasized value-driven, sensible approaches to test automation.

If you want an amazing story around how testing can directly impact the lives of those around you, read Karen Johnson’s chapter “Software in Use.” Johnson ties a visit to an Intensive Care Unit to work she’d done on equipment in that ICU – it’s rare anyone sees that practical a link to work we do in this industry.

Other highly worthwhile chapters include the piece on Python’s development process, the overview on TDD, Mozilla’s regression testing philosophy, and others. The Python chapter, in particular, is a tremendous testament to how a rigorous testing philosophy can guarantee very solid releases even with a broad, distributed team of varying skills.

As my examples above point out, there’s a great amount of broad-stroke value in the book; however, a wealth of smaller, critical points abound in various chapters as well. Some weren’t phrased exactly like this, but I’ve taken away these other concept as well:

  • Track the source of your bugs (test plans, exploratory, developer, etc.) and pay special attention to bugs found by customers. These “escapees” point to areas to shore up in your test plan.
  • Mindmaps are a great way to brainstorm out your test plan or test areas.
  • Use small tools like fuzzers to help create your baseline input data.
  • 100% passing rates for your automated tests isn’t reasonable. Investigating 100% of your failing tests to determine whether the specific failure matters is reasonable. (I already firmly believed this, but it was nice to see in print!)
  • Using image comparison to check formatting.

This is one of the better books I’ve read this year, and it’s absolutely worth adding to your shelf.

1 comment:

triedandtested said...

Thanks for the review - I really wasn't (and still not) sure if this book was one which I would buy and read, or if it would just join my big pile of "to-read" books.

FYI - two chapters from the book are available for free in pdf format from O'Reilly's site -

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