Sunday, 24 April 2016

Thoughts around the label "Checking"

Observant readers of twitter and my occasional (6) blogs related to checks, testing and checking will know that I have done some head-scratching over the term "checking".

Some of My Heuristic Triggers
Why, what has triggered this for me? I have a number of factors - mainly these heuristic sources:
Are You're Lights on? [1], Reason for testing (term usage) [8], Framing testing terms [9]
--> My questions: What problem are we trying to solve? And does this succeed?

Weinberg's Rule of Three [2] and the Conway Heuristic [5]
--> My questions: What alternative interpretation is there? How could this be interpreted, or what consequences might it create (unintended or not)? How could it be misinterpreted?

Communication, Exploring Requirements [3], Dialogue & tacit knowledge [4], Understanding Arguments [6] and Heuristic wear-n-tear / refinement [7]
--> My questions: Do the statements & arguments stand up? Does something get lost in interpretation?

Towards Clarity (for me)
These are usually with me in my toolkit as aids - some more than others. So, I read Michael Bolton's recent post [11] on checking and what isn't checking - this got me thinking on this topic again.

As I stated on his blog - after a challenge for clarity from Thomas Ponnet:
Checking "... is a label that should only be used (imo) for an observation of something that is happening or has happened. It’s a post event rationalisation (it’s “a posteriori” knowledge).  
If you state your intention to include checking in your activities you are really describing your testing – because the intent, analysis, selection and discussion of results is testing – even if checks were used. 
Then I would find it more accurate to talk about the testing that /will be/ aided by checks. Afterwards it might be accurate to describe the testing has included checking. Planning checking, intending checking is by implication testing – and I (personally) don’t see the added value and I question it’s accuracy. 
But, that doesn’t, of course, stop anyone using the term however they want and in ways they find useful."
I am making an assertion for how checking might be used in a less-ambiguous way.

I was challenged that I might be in shallow-agreement with the RST meaning of checking. Of course, this is always possible - I went and re-read the testing-checking-refined [10] and Michael's post [11]. I didn't find any examples of the usage of "checking" (as of 23 April 2016) - i.e. examples of how it would be used in speech or written form.
Thus, there is a risk for shallow agreement with something that isn't demonstrated. Whether that is small or high, how would you know?
A couple of questions then occurred to me: 
  • What's the guide for shallow agreement on the definition and use of "checking"? 
  • What's the accepted form for agreement when the main post doesn't demonstrate it?
Does it matter?
What have I been doing? I've been testing the concept of "checking" - trying to understand ways it will work and risks associated with its usage. I've given examples (in the blog [11]) of potentially unintended consequences of its usage.

Would examples and the above guide for "checking" help? Maybe, maybe not. It might be that the problems I have highlighted "don't really matter" or isn't a "high priority issue". That's fine, I can live with that. It's possible I'm getting stuck in the semantics... Oh!

My context/background: 
I started writing, questioning and exploring these issues in September 2009. I was one of the vocal parts of the discussion that led to the re-drawing/refinement of the diagram in the testing-checking-refined post [10].

I've called out and questioned people - typically on twitter - that might be using "checks" and "checking" in unsafe ways. I don't typically use the word "checking" in my work - partly due to some worries I've seen in misunderstanding - and also that I can distinguish between testing and checks without "checking".

Not using "checking" myself doesn't mean I can't usefully "test" it, its usage and risks associated with its usage. Can you? And if so, what heuristic guides would you use?

[1] Are Your Lights on? (Gause, Weinberg)
[2] The Secrets of Consulting (Chapter 5; Weinberg)
[3] Exploring Requirements: Quality before Design (Gause, Weinberg)
[4] Dialogue, Skill & Tacit Knowledge (Göranzon, Hammaren, Ennals)
[5] Tester's Headache: The Conway Heuristic
[6] Understanding Arguments: An Introduction to Informal Logic (Sinnot-Armstrong, Fogelin)
[7] Tester's Headache: On Thinking about Heuristic Discovery
[8] Tester's Headache: Testing. What was the question?
[9] Framing: Some Decision and Analysis Frames in Testing
[10] James Bach: Testing And Checking Refined
[11] Michael Bolton: You Are Not Checking

No comments:

Post a Comment