Friday, March 23, 2012

Sympathetic testing

One of the reasons I like BBST courses is that there is a focused reading on a topic. There are questions asked about a document. You might have read the document before but one seems to learn more when there is a focused reading of the same document under time pressure. In the Test Design course, I learn about "Sympathetic Testing". There seems to be an excellent document explaining how to learn an application. The focus is on learning about the application and not testing the application.

Do go through this article by Michael Kelly here.

I decided to learn about the application ClipX in a similar manner to how Mike Kelly learnt about the Magnifier tool. The first tour described was the 'Feature Tour' where the focus is to move through the application, getting familiar with all the controls and features one comes across.

I installed the application ClipX from
Based on the Mike Kelly's blog post, I prepared this mindmap.
Application Tours
The next few hours, I will be focusing on the application tours. Let me start with the feature tour.
When I was installing the application, I found one interesting behavior. The 'Run the application now?' popup appeared even before the progress bar on installation window was complete.
Click here to view the partial report of the feature tour. I did not do a complete feature tour.

What did I learn from this exercise?
It was a different experience to focus on learning about the application and not hunt for bugs.

Rich model
As the focus shifted from "Can I test for this bug" to "What else this product can do", I learnt about the product in detail. The additional information will help me frame better tests and target each of the areas I learnt. This also helps me in relating a test on a single feature to its effects on other feature. The rich model helps me think of the big picture.

Better bugs
As I learn more about the overall application, I ask questions related to the design of the application. If I were to concentrate on a single feature, my question might be limited to the particular feature. Looking at the bigger picture, I can find bugs related to the absence/presence of a particular feature. I can question the very existence of a feature instead of a bug in a feature.

Risk - Coverage - Priority
I can talk to my stakeholder with my initial report and ask for the areas to be tested. Based on my initial tours, I have an idea of how a test might affect the other features. How risky is a particular feature? What percent of coverage would be achieved in terms of features? Which feature demands highest priority testing? I have a better answer to such questions after this exercise than before the exercise.

Learn in five minutes
After I finished prepared the report, I realized that few of my tests could have been avoided if I had seen other features before. The next time, I will quickly go through most of the options within five minutes and then focus on tours.

I am still learning to do sympathetic testing well. Have you experienced Sympathetic Testing? What do you think? How do you learn about the application? How much time do you spend?


jasmeetsinghbhatia said...

I think I too undergo sympathetic testing , but i did it almost unknowingly till now. It was my natural reaction once the product was in for testing after the build. I do not jump directly with one hand on the product and other on Bug reporting system. I give time to understand what actually i am using the product for and have i ever used a similar product before. If yes , what issues i faced , what were the most critical components that i used , where did i find utility breaks. After such questions , i try to figure out a path to test the product at hand. I would like to extend my grtitude towards Ajay , fo defining what was actually Sympathetic testing .

Bernice Niel Ruhland said...


I liked how you identify the different tours in a Mindmap with a brief strategy for each. I believe this provides the tester with some structure while allowing him to explore. I know you were using this to learn the product, but I can see where this is applicable for functional and regression testing. The Mindmap provides a visual to keep focused without having to read through a lengthy test plan. Testers often experience mental traps that can reduce their ability to think of new testing ideas. For example, we find ourselves testing a feature the same way every time. By using your Mindmap and the article "Taking a Tour Through Test Country" provides different ways of approaching the testing problem. Bernice