Effective Software Testing: 50 Specific Ways to Improve Your Testing - Book Review

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by Elfriede Dustin
Addison-Wesley, 2003
ISBN 0-201-79429-2
Cover price: US$34.99
304 pages
Some books are great reads, and some are chock-full of useful information. Sometimes you find a book that is both, but unfortunately, this book fits neither category.
Judging by the title, you might expect to discover between the covers a lot of tips and techniques to really help you and your team get better at testing. Unfortunately, if you have more than a little experience as a tester, you will find little here that is new to you. Conversely, if you are relatively new to testing, many techniques in Dustin's list of fifty might be new to you, but for the most part, you won't get enough detail to really learn them. For me, reading this book was about as helpful as reading the menu at my favorite take-out restaurant: I've seen all the choices before, and Dustin did not have much new to say about them.
Most of the suggestions about ways to improve your testing, which Dustin calls items in the book, are broad statements that, to an experienced tester, simply represent common sense. She describes some of these items in no more than a page, and the coverage is frustratingly skimpy.
Take Item 24, for example: Utilize System Design and Prototypes. An experienced tester might read this and say, "Okay that makes sense. Give me some details." But in the page devoted to this item, you will find only the following advice:
  • Prototypes can be helpful in detecting inconsistencies in requirements.
  • Prototyping high-risk and complex areas early allows the appropriate testing mechanism (e.g., a test harness) to be developed and refined early in the process.
  • Designs and prototypes are helpful in refining test procedures, providing a basis for additions and modifications to requirements. They thus become a basis for creating better, more-detailed test procedures.
  • Prototypes are also useful in the design of automated tests using functional testing tools.
As you can see, Dustin just keeps describing the high-level benefits of utilizing system design and prototypes -- she never gets down to specific actions a practitioner should take.

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