Exploratory Testing - James Bach

Rapid Software Testing
14 Jul 202302:30


TLDRThe video script challenges the conventional understanding of testing in the tech industry, emphasizing the importance of exploratory testing—a method where testers have the autonomy to make decisions during the testing process. It criticizes the industry's tendency to underestimate testers, suggesting that creativity and intelligence are crucial for effective testing. By arguing that scripted testing, which limits tester autonomy, is less interesting than exploratory testing, the speaker highlights the need for a shift in perspective. They advocate for recognizing testers as intelligent individuals capable of making smart, strategic decisions, rather than mere followers of predefined scripts.


  • 🔍 Exploratory testing is about empowerment and control, allowing the tester to make decisions during the testing process.
  • 💡 The essence of exploratory testing is the freedom to explore and choose different paths, akin to how other professionals exercise their skills in various ways.
  • 🧠 Being a tester is not about following a rigid script, but about using intelligence and creativity to identify issues and find solutions.
  • 🚫 The perception that testers are not smart or that testing is a 'stupid' job is a misconception that leads to the need for a special term like 'exploratory testing'.
  • 📝 Scripted testing is sometimes necessary, especially when a tester wants to stop making new choices and follow a predetermined plan.
  • 🤔 The industry's confusion between testers as mere followers and as intelligent problem-solvers has led to the emphasis on exploratory testing.
  • 🌟 Testers should be seen as clever human beings hired for their ability to think critically and adapt to different scenarios.
  • 🛠️ The value of exploratory testing lies in its adaptability and the tester's ability to react to new information and changing circumstances.
  • 📊 Exploratory testing encourages a more dynamic and responsive approach to testing, which can uncover issues that scripted methods might miss.
  • 💼 It's important to recognize the professional skills and decision-making abilities of testers, rather than reducing them to mere executors of tests.

Q & A

  • What is the core concept of exploratory testing?

    -The core concept of exploratory testing is that it is a type of testing that is controlled by the tester, allowing them to make choices and exercise their critical thinking skills during the testing process.

  • Why is the term 'exploratory testing' unique in the context of testing jobs?

    -The term 'exploratory testing' is unique because it highlights the fact that testers, unlike in many other professions, are often expected to follow predefined scripts and not make independent choices, which is unusual for roles that require intelligence and problem-solving skills.

  • What does it mean for a tester to have control during testing?

    -Having control during testing means that the tester has the autonomy to decide what to test, how to test it, and when to make changes or stop testing, based on their observations and understanding of the software being tested.

  • Why would a tester ever choose to give up control during testing?

    -A tester might choose to give up control during testing to adhere to strict guidelines or regulatory requirements, or when using scripted testing methods that are more suitable for certain types of testing, such as compliance-based or accessibility testing.

  • How does the perception of testers as 'stupid' affect the industry?

    -The perception of testers as 'stupid' or less intelligent leads to an undervaluation of their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, which in turn can result in a preference for scripted testing over more dynamic and adaptable exploratory testing methods.

  • What is the role of intelligence and adaptability in exploratory testing?

    -Intelligence and adaptability are crucial in exploratory testing as it requires testers to think on their feet, make informed decisions, and adapt their approach based on the outcomes of their testing and the behavior of the software under test.

  • How does exploratory testing differ from scripted testing?

    -Exploratory testing involves simultaneous test design and execution, with a focus on discovery and learning, whereas scripted testing follows predefined test cases and is more structured and less flexible.

  • What are some benefits of exploratory testing?

    -Benefits of exploratory testing include the ability to uncover bugs that may be missed by other testing methods, the flexibility to adapt to new findings, and the encouragement of creativity and critical thinking among testers.

  • What are some challenges associated with exploratory testing?

    -Challenges of exploratory testing include difficulties in replicating failures, determining the need for tools, selecting the best test cases, reporting test results, and documenting all events during execution.

  • In what situations might exploratory testing be particularly useful?

    -Exploratory testing can be particularly useful when there are experienced testers on the team, when an early iteration is required, when testing a critical application, or when introducing new testers to the team.

  • How does the industry's view of testers affect the use of exploratory testing?

    -The industry's view of testers as mere executioners of scripts rather than intelligent professionals can lead to underutilization of exploratory testing, which relies on the tester's ability to make informed choices and adapt to the software's behavior.



🔍 The Essence of Exploratory Testing

This paragraph emphasizes the importance of exploratory testing in the software testing process. It argues that without exploratory testing, a tester becomes a mere 'human algorithm,' losing the ability to make choices and exercise control. The core idea is that exploratory testing allows testers to harness their intelligence and decision-making skills, which are inherent in other professions but often overlooked in testing. The paragraph challenges the misconception that testers are not intelligent and highlights the need for the industry to recognize the value of exploratory testing as a reflection of a tester's intellect rather than a special technique.



💡exploratory testing

Exploratory testing refers to an approach in software testing where the tester actively controls the testing process, making decisions on what to test and how to test it based on their experience and intuition. This method emphasizes the importance of the tester's ability to adapt and make choices in real-time, as opposed to following a predetermined script. In the video, it is highlighted as the fundamental idea that empowers testers to act as intelligent individuals, using their brains to make informed decisions during the testing process.


A tester in the context of the video is a professional who is responsible for evaluating the quality of a product or system, particularly software. The role of a tester is not just to execute tests but to engage in exploratory testing, which requires critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and the ability to make choices. The video emphasizes that testers should not be seen as mere executors of test scripts but as knowledgeable individuals who can contribute significantly to the quality assurance process through their expertise and decision-making capabilities.

💡human algorithm

The term 'human algorithm' in the video script refers to the notion that when testers stop being exploratory and simply follow a predetermined script, they become akin to a human algorithm—executing instructions without the benefit of human intuition and decision-making. This concept is used to criticize the devaluation of the tester's role and to argue for the importance of exploratory testing, which leverages the tester's cognitive abilities and adaptability.

💡power to make choices

The 'power to make choices' is a central theme in the video, highlighting the importance of agency and autonomy in the testing process. It underscores the idea that testers should have the freedom to decide on their testing strategies and approaches, rather than being confined to a rigid, scripted process. This power is what differentiates exploratory testing from other more mechanical testing methods and is essential for testers to effectively identify and address potential issues in software.

💡scripted testing

Scripted testing is a method of software testing where testers follow a detailed, pre-written plan or script. This approach is contrasted with exploratory testing in the video, which emphasizes the value of tester's intuition and adaptability. Scripted testing can be useful for specific, repetitive tasks but may not be as effective in uncovering unexpected issues or taking advantage of the tester's full range of skills and insights. The video suggests that an overreliance on scripted testing can undermine the role of the tester as a thinking, decision-making professional.

💡intelligent people

The term 'intelligent people' in the video refers to the expectation that testers should be hired for their intelligence and problem-solving capabilities. It challenges the stereotype that testers are not expected to be smart or to make decisions like other professionals. The video argues that testers, when acting as intelligent individuals, should be empowered to use their skills and judgment in exploratory testing, rather than being reduced to following scripts without critical thinking.

💡construction followers

The phrase 'construction followers' in the video is used to describe individuals who are expected to follow instructions without much independent thought or decision-making. This term is contrasted with the role of testers, who should be seen as intelligent professionals capable of exploratory testing. The video criticizes the industry for sometimes treating testers as mere construction followers, which undermines their potential to contribute meaningfully to the quality of the software being tested.

💡quality assurance

Quality assurance in the context of the video pertains to the overall goal of testing, which is to ensure that the software product meets certain standards of quality before it is released. Both exploratory and scripted testing methods contribute to this goal, but the video emphasizes the unique value of exploratory testing in achieving high-quality outcomes by leveraging the tester's ability to make informed, real-time decisions.

💡software testing

Software testing is the process of evaluating a computer program or system to detect and correct faults or bugs. In the video, the focus is on the role of exploratory testing within this broader process, highlighting the importance of the tester's active involvement and decision-making in identifying potential issues and ensuring the final product's quality.


The term 'professional' in the video underscores the idea that testers should be regarded as experts in their field, with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their roles effectively. It challenges the notion that testers are unskilled or that their work is not as valuable as other professionals, advocating for a recognition of the expertise and decision-making abilities that testers bring to the table.


Exploratory testing is about maintaining control as the tester.

The essence of exploratory testing is the ability to make choices during the testing process.

Every profession has the power to make choices, but testers are often seen as an exception.

Teachers and managers have the freedom to deviate from their scripts without being labeled as 'exploratory'.

The term 'exploratory testing' may be necessary because people underestimate the intelligence of testers.

Intelligent behavior is mistakenly seen as a special technique when it's just testers doing their job.

Exploratory testing means having control over the testing process.

Scripted testing can be valuable when a tester wants to stop making new choices.

The industry sometimes confuses testers with construction followers rather than recognizing them as intelligent professionals.

Exploratory testing is fundamental and should not be seen as a special technique.

The need for a term like 'exploratory testing' highlights a misunderstanding of the testing profession.

Testers should be seen as normal, clever human beings hired for their intellectual capabilities.

The discussion around exploratory testing is a response to an industry that undervalues tester's intelligence.

The contrast between exploratory and scripted testing is not about the methods but the level of control and choice.

Exploratory testing emphasizes the tester's role as a decision-maker in the process.

The industry's perception of testers needs to shift from mere followers to recognizing their full intellectual potential.





testing is exploratory if you take


exploratoryness out of testing then


you're no longer a tester you're a


program you're a human algorithm


so the fundamental idea behind


exploratory testing is and always has




testing that is in the control of the


tester as the tester is doing the work


in other words do you have the power


to make choices


notice how every other job we can


imagine has power to make choices


and no one


has a special word for that


a school teacher can choose to teach a


lesson in a different way and no one


says whoa whoa what are you doing some


kind of exploratory teaching a manager


can decide to say something in a meeting


that they haven't written out in advance


and nobody says hey that's exploratory


management you're doing


why is it


that only when testers act like ordinary


smart human beings that people seem to


think they need to have a special word


for that and I already know the answer


the answer is because people think


testers are stupid


they think testing is stupid so when you


do anything smart they feel like that


must be some kind of special technique


you're using rather than just being a




clever human who was hired to use their


brains now as soon as you say that


explore trade testing means testing over


which you have control


then what's really interesting is to ask


yourself well why would you ever not


have control and that's an interesting


question because there are times when


you do want to give up control when you


want to stop making new choices and


that's interesting


that's why I think scripted testing is


the interesting thing to talk about not


exploratory testing the only reason we


feel we have to talk about exploratory


testing is our industry is so screwed up


that they've confused us


for construction followers instead of


intelligent people



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