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43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not much of value here, October 11, 2009
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This review is from: Exploratory Software Testing: Tips, Tricks, Tours, and Techniques to Guide Test Design (Paperback)
A few years back, I read "How to Break Software" by James Whittaker. I liked it. It wasn't wonderful, but it had a good batch of practical, useful tips. Then I read "How to Break Software Security" and "How to Break Web Software". I liked them as well, but not as much. Still, I figured I'd read James Whittaker's newest book "Exploratory Software Testing". Sadly, the downward progression of his writing continues. This book is by far the worst of the bunch.

Chapter 1 - "The Case for Software Quality" is nothing more than "software is terrific, but it has bugs". That's it, nothing more here.

Chapter 2 - "The Case for Manual Testing" talks a bit about testing, and tries to define exploratory testing. Whittaker's definition has apparently caused some controversy among some well-known practitioners of exploratory testing, so here is his perhaps unique definition:

"When the scripts are removed entirely (or as we shall see in later chapters, their rigidness relaxed), the process is called exploratory testing."

Whittaker then divides exploratory testing into two sections. Exploratory testing in the small is that which guides the tester to make small, distinct decisions while testing. Exploratory testing in the large guides the tester in how an application is explored more than how a specific feature is tested.

Chapter 3 - "Exploratory Testing in the Small" was, to me, the only useful chapter in the whole book. Here Whittaker offers practical advice with examples for thinking about constructing test data, software state, and test environment.

Chapter 4 - "Exploratory Testing in the Large" is where Whittaker dives into what appears to be the point of the whole book - his Tourist Metaphor. Apparently this is a big hit at Microsoft, but I found it pointless. Think about every type of testing you have ever performed. Now try to torture it into a phrase that ends with the word Tour. There you go - that's the chapter.

Just to give you a flavor, here's a list of all these Tours, and their variations:

The Guidebook Tour
Blogger's Tour
Pundit's Tour
Competitor's Tour
The Money Tour
Skeptical Customer Tour
The Landmark Tour
The Intellectual Tour
Arrogant American Tour
The FedEx Tour
The After-Hours Tour
Morning-Commute Tour
The Garbage Collector's Tour
The Bad-Neighborhood Tour
The Museum Tour
The Prior Version Tour
The Supporting Actor Tour
The Back Alley Tour
Mixed-Destination Tour
The All-Nighter Tour
The Collector's Tour
The Lonely Businessman's Tour
The Supermodel Tour
The TOGOF Tour
The Scottish Pub Tour
The Rained-Out Tour
The Couch Potato Tour
The Saboteur Tour
The Antisocial Tour
Opposite Tour
Crime Spree Tour
Wrong Turn Tour
The Obsessive-Compulsive Tour

Perhaps the idea of calling UI Testing a Supermodel Tour appeals to you, and will make for a richer, more productive set of tests. I don't get it. I just don't see any value here. Doesn't testing have enough variation in language and definitions already, without adding this silliness?

Chapter 5 - "Hybrid Exploratory Testing Techniques" tells us that it's acceptable to combine scenario testing with exploratory testing. Then it spends time rehashing each of the tours from Chapter 4 and tries to suggest a side trip for each.

Chapter 6 - "Exploratory Testing in Practice" presents essays written by several Microsoft testers describing how they each used one or more of the tours in a testing situation. It appears as if Whittaker instructed his charges to write a "What I did this summer"-style essay, in the form of "How I used Tours to do my testing".

Chapter 7 - "Touring and Testing's Primary Pain Points" tries to tell us (in a few paragraphs) how to avoid five pain points - Aimlessness, Repetiveness, Transiency, Monontony, and Memorylesness. There's little real instruction here. For example, we are told that in order to avoid repetitiveness, we must know what testing has already occurred, and understand when to inject variation. Uhm, ok.

Chapter 8 - "The Future of Software Testing" has nothing at all to do with the other chapters, or exploratory testing. It's basically Whittaker's gee-whiz vision of what might be possible (some day) in the future. Perhaps. Whittaker has given this talk in several webinars - it's simply rehashed here.

Since these chapters take up only 136 pages, and obviously aren't enough to fill out a real book, three unrelated appendices are bolted on. A few pages about Testing as a career, and a bunch of pages lifted directly from Whittaker's blogs fill out the book to over 200 pages.

If you really want to learn about Exploratory Testing, this is probably not the place. "Exploratory Software Testing" is fluff - stretched and tortured out barely to book-length. There's not much in the way of learning here.

And if Microsoft testers are really instructed to "Tell me what kind of testing you did today, and make sure it ends with the word Tour", then I feel very sorry for them.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 14, 2009 12:38:14 PM PDT
E. Kore says:
I understand what the first reviewer is saying about the existence of much unneeded, maybe unhelpful terminology.
But as testing progresses, we are always looking for better ways, better guides to speed up and aid our test practices...I haven't read
this book yet but could all those tours be seen as heuristics...when you read them, did they act as pointers to guide you to think about specific items, areas to be tested? Maybe if you just let go of your dislike for his trying to make testing a tourist affair, it might be a better read? LOL

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 15, 2009 6:46:48 AM PDT
I considered that. But even if I were to call them "heuristics with a different name", I didn't find them very useful. Perhaps you will find more value when/if you actually read the book than I did. Perhaps not.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 25, 2009 6:58:26 PM PDT
Say; if by what you conclude the book doesn't add much value to the tester's arsenal, is there any other book which might offer more valuable content? If not, I'm considering to give this one a try. Thanks! ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2009 6:21:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 26, 2009 6:22:06 AM PDT
I don't know specifically the kind of book you are looking for.

But here's a list of books I have on my shelf:
http://www.sqablogs.com/jstrazzere/56/My+QA+Bookshelf.html

I find most of them to have more valuable content.

Posted on Dec 1, 2009 1:20:23 PM PST
D. Godon says:
I can appreciate your criticism, but one star? Your review seems to acknowledge that there's some redeeming content in the book - doesn't that merit 2 or 3?
More specifically, the fact that his tours (or heuristics) have proven valuable at Microsoft, Google, and elsewhere is enough to warrant consideration. Moreover, just claiming you don't find them useful is not the most helpful criticism.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2009 2:00:52 PM PST
Does 1 moderately useful chapter out of 136 meager pages warrant more than 1 star? It doesn't for me. I'm not trying to be mean here, just honest. Isn't that what you'd want out of book reviews? Isn't that better than just giving every book I've ever read at least 2 or 3 stars?

If I'm going to review a book, I can only comment on my own thoughts, my own opinions. The fact that his tours have proven useful to some testers at companies where the author worked might mean they warrant consideration by some folks. But that doesn't mean they are of any use to me.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2009 3:04:51 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 1, 2009 3:09:03 PM PST
D. Godon says:
You can rate how you want. Fair enough.
Regarding the usefulness of the tours though, your criticism would be improved if you had specific issues with the tours. The fact that he uses goofy names and overly hip metaphors might not be to your taste, but that doesn't make the specific heuristics ineffective. While I haven't read the book yet, I've read some of his previous ones and recently went to a SIG talk he gave on this book. His thinking with the tours seems like a natural evolution of the work James did on Model Based Testing. The goal of coming up with heuristics for test design and planning seems very worthwhile. Moreover, the ideas inherent in many of the tours are arguably fairly novel. In any case the challenge for you as a reviewer, I believe, is to be more specific in your criticism, or provide a rationale for why the goal of coming up with heuristics for test design is not a worthy goal ("pointless," as you say of his effort).

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2009 5:15:54 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 1, 2009 5:18:25 PM PST
Well I have read the book, and unlike some of the other reviewers, I paid for it myself. Thank you for your critique of my review, but I'm not sure how much more specific I can be.

As I stated. my feelings about all these tours are summed up as follows:
I see no value in these metaphors. In my testing I don't feel the need for them. And I believe testing already has enough variation in language and definitions already, without adding this additional layer.

If taking whatever type of testing you do, coming up with a tortured phrase ending in the word "Tour" is useful to you, then more power to you. And perhaps that will justify the cost of the book for you, should you choose to purchase it.

If you do so, or if you borrow it from someone else, please come back and add your own book review. That way, we can debate the merits of the book itself, rather than debating my review of the book and how many stars I gave it.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2009 5:34:26 PM PST
D. Godon says:
I don't mean to harp on you. At least, as you say, you read the book and provided your feedback in a review. However, the commenting feature for reviews is to discuss those reviews so I don't think my feedback is entirely out of place. I look to reviews to decide whether I will read the book, which is what I'm trying to decide with this book. You've got some good points in your review regarding some of the "filler" content and whether its valuable to introduce yet more terminology (I might argue about how severe such flaws are, but it still good feedback) - thank you. However, I don't see specific criticism of individual tours - just this abhorrence of the term "tour". The idea of tours and the specific tours he offers seems like the real meat of the book. I don't see that it matters much what you call them - the question is: are they useful in test planning or design. As such, I would like to hear specific criticism of one or more tours regarding why it/they are not useful. This would help justify a one star rating and, more importantly, it would provide feedback on the heart of the book to help me (and others) decide whether to read.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2009 5:56:34 AM PST
Here's my suggestion to help you with your read/don't read decision. You've read some of Whittakers' other works (as I have), and have heard him speak about the book. You are intrigued by the Tours metaphors. So use Amazon's "Look Inside" feature and read one or two of the tour paragraphs.

For example, here's what Whittaker writes about the Money Tour:
"Testers performing the Money tour should sit in on sales demos, watch sales videos, and accompany salespeople on trips to talk to customers. To execute the tour, simply run through the demos yourself and look for problems."

If 25 pages of this is exactly what you are seeking, then you should buy the book. Perhaps you've never tested demos before and having read the catchy phrase "Money Tour" will prompt you to do so. And perhaps "look for problems" is exactly the guidance you need. That might justify the cost of the book for you.

It didn't for me, but I've been in the Software QA business for a long time, and have read a lot of other (better) books on testing.

Hope that helps you with your decision.
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