Your Testing is a Joke

W19     Start Time : 14:45     End Time : 15:30

Your testing is a joke. Or, rather, some parts of some of the testing done by some people reading this will be somewhat analogous to some subset of what some people would accept as jokes. Sometimes. Language can be tricky like that. And that’s one of the things that makes it such a productive tool for jokes, and such a flawed tool for specification.

Edward de Bono, in his Lateral Thinking books, makes a strong connection between humour and creativity. Creativity is a key to testing, but jokes? Well, the punchline for a joke could be a violation of some expectation, the exposure of some ambiguity, an observation that no one else has made, or just making a surprising connection. Jokes can make you think and then laugh. But they don’t always work. Does that sound familiar?

At Linguamatics we have a weekly caption competition. I wondered what my process for creating entries was and as I spent more time thinking about it, I started to notice parallels with the way that I think about how I test. For instance, I might take each of the key entities in the picture and “factor” them – generate a list of features, related concepts, synonyms and so on. In testing I might then look for overlapping factors for potentially interesting test ideas, in the quest for a caption I might try to use the same approach to find an ambiguity and hence a joke.

In this talk I’ll take a genuine joke-making process and de-construct it to make comparisons between aspects of joking and concepts from testing such as the difference between a fault and a failure, oracles, heuristics, factoring, modelling testing as the exploration of a space of possibilities, stopping strategies, bug advocacy and the possibility that a bug, today, in this context might not be one tomorrow or in another.

Yes, there will be some jokes in the session. And I’ll try explain why the groans you’ll hear are a good sign too.

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  • Speaker


    James Thomas - Test Manager, Linguamatics, UK

    James is one of the founders of Linguamatics, the world leader in innovative natural language-based text mining. Over the years he’s had many roles in the company, the most recent of which is test manager. He strives to provide an environment in which his testers have an opportunity to do their best work and he blogs at