I spend a lot of time attending testing conferences, reading blogs and articles about testing, and generally immersing myself in worldwide conversation about testing.
It was during a special interest group meeting in testing in Melbourne last week that I suddenly realized how often people say and write “traditional testing”, often as a means of differentiating the testing they’re talking about (in this case, it was “agile testing”) from some other form of testing which they loosely term “traditional”.
I then posed the following question on Twitter:
“What does “traditional testing” mean to you?”
Of the various responses I received, that mighty fine Australian context-driven tester, David Greenlees (@DMGreenlees) gave a thought-provoking answer:
“Any testing that follows an established tradition, i.e. I need to ask what they mean!”
I’ve rarely seen the term “traditional testing” being backed by a definition of what the speaker/writer means by it. Do they assume we all just know what they mean? Are we to assume they mean “procedure-driven, testcase-centric testing” (as suggested in a response from Aaron Hodder @AWGHodder)? Or do they really mean something else?
As David so wisely points out, context is king (yet again) here. For example, given that agile has been around in one form or another for over a decade, there are many development shops that have only worked in ways following the agile principles, so the testing they do in those environments is “traditional” to them – but likely far removed from a procedure-driven, testcase-centric approach to testing.
So, the next time a presenter or author says “traditional testing”, delve deeper to clarify what they mean by it – or any conclusions you draw from the points they’re making may be flawed.
I’m grateful to Michael Bolton (@michaelbolton) and James Bach (@jamesmarcusbach) – and indeed others in the context-driven testing community – for teaching me the importance of being clear in the language we choose to talk about testing – and “traditional testing” simply tells us nothing when uttered without context.