Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Exploratory Testing Driven by Mind Maps with @claubs_uy (#PNSQC2021 Live Blog)


Photo of Claudia Badell
When it is applied correctly, in a targeted and purposeful manner, Exploratory Testing can be an effective and useful tool to any tester for learning, discovering new avenues of using the product (both intended and unintended), and developing additional questions for further investigation (in short, Exploratory Testing is the application of good science, IMHO).

Mind maps are a neat way to get ideas down on paper (and to be clear, paper or a whiteboard is much more my preferred method of creating them). I've worked with a few different versions on a computer but I will confess I have often struggled with using them. that's mostly a personal problem, as I know many people who are well versed and like using the software programs for mind maps. 

So what do these two things have in common? I have my own thoughts on that, of course, as I think that mind maps can be a great way of organizing thoughts to create initial charters and track what I am doing as I am doing it... but what does Claudia Badell have to say about it? that's what I'm here to find out :).

In my world view, Exploratory Testing is a way to focus on learning about the system and its dependencies, ways to interact with the system, and in the process, feel out the limitations the systems may present to us and how we might be able to exploit those limitations to find potential vulnerabilities. If we are doing this by ourselves, or we are the lone tester on a team, then our exploration and a report of what we find might be sufficient. How about if we need to work with a broader team and testing is a common activity amongst the entire team? This is where lessons learned brain dumps or report is not necessarily sufficient and having an additional "information radiation" method would be warranted and desired. In this case, Mind maps and specifically online mind maps would be a good tool to share with others. Okay, deep breath, guess my paper strategy isn't going to work here, but that's fine :).

Claudia recommends building a mind map for each feature or each story, and have them contain test conditions, ideas, and variables to cover for the specific feature or story.

As we see each of these nodes created, each of those nodes could effectively be an Exploratory Testing session. For that matter, we could also create sessions for each leaf coming off of a node, such as we see below:

Now something I think could be cool (and it may be available, I just haven't used it) would be a way to attach an exported text file or image file for each leaf node. this way we could gather our notes from Exploratory test sessions and incorporate them within the mind map if desired (at least I could see that as a benefit, others mileage might vary :) ).

Claudia suggests the idea of a meta-language so that we have a clear understanding of how the ideas are represented. Consider this sort of like a Gherkin for Mind Maps but not necessarily that strict. The metal language doesn't just mean words, it could mean colors, symbols, images, and branching. The point, as I'm hearing it, is not so much what the meta-language is but that the org as a whole understands it so that everyone who would use it can use it.

So overall the goal of the mindmaps is to be a reference for points to start and avenues to consider for Exploratory Testing sessions. Each session will be unique but we need not reinvent the wheel every single time (as appealing as that sounds at times ;) ). Instead, the Mind Map allows us to focus on developing hypotheses, and our exploratory sessions are our experiments. the data we gather can then be included with or imported back into the mind map and now we have a collection of values we can use again later. Thus the mind map isn't just a once-and-done item. Instead, it is continually updated and reused. Cool, this is already getting me a little more excited about moving away from my preferred paper method.

One of the lessons Claudia shared is that having the ability to reference and notate a shared mind map and keep exploratory notes is that the team as a whole can improve and update the testing ideas and testing strategy (see my comments yesterday on the value of a less formal test strategy; this seems like it might fit that bill beautifully). Also, I like the idea of iteratively bumping up and adding/pruning information so that we are dealing with what is pertinent and important for each feature rather than just having an ever-growing list of busywork to deal with. 

I have to admit, I entered curious and I'm leaving with a concrete plan as to how I can implement this with no permissions needed. I love when I get those, so thank you, Claudia :).

1 comment:

Bryce said...

Great post, thanks for sharing.
The team here @catchsoftware love using visual ways of structuring your data to make it more accessible to everyone. We've released our Next Generation Testing tool with a structured mindmap at it's heart and are keen for people to give us feedback on it.
If you'd like to give us feedback please sign up to a real-time trial (URL below) and jump in and have a play.
Thanks in advance and happy testing!