After watching Elisabeth Hendrickson’s CAST 2012 Keynote (I think), I briefly fell in love with her version of the “checking vs. testing” terminology.  She says “checking vs. exploring” instead. 

I love the simplicity.  I imagine when used in public, most people can follow; “exploring” is a testing activity that can only be performed by humans, “checking” is a testing activity that is best performed by machines.  And the beauty of said terms is…they’re both testing!!!  Yes, automation engineers, all the cool stuff you build can still be called testing.

The thing I’ve always found awkward about the Michael Bolton/James Bach  “checking vs. testing” terminology, is accepting that tests or testing can NOT be automated.  Hendrickson’s version seems void of said awkwardness.  She just says, “exploring” can NOT be automated…well sure, much easier to swallow.

The problem, I thought, was James and Michael’s testing definition was too narrow. Surely it could be expanded to include machine checks as testing.  Thus, I set out to find common “Testing” definitions that would support my theory.  And much to my surprise, I could not.  All the definitions (e.g., Merriam-Webster) I read, described testing as an open-ended investigation…in other words, something that can NOT be automated.

Finally, I have to admit, Hendrickson’s term, “exploring” can be ambiguous.  It might get confused with Exploratory Testing, which is a specific structured approach, as opposed to Ad Hoc testing, which is unstructured.  Hmmm…Elisabeth, if you’re out there, I’m happy to listen to your definitions, perhaps you will change my mind.

So it seems, just when I thought I could finally wiggle away from their painful terminology, I am now squarely back in the James and Michael camp when it comes to “checking vs. testing”.



  1. Matt_Middleton said...

    Seems like "Exploring" could encompass both, just like "Checking" could include both automated and human-powered checking.

  2. Stephen Blower said...

    Whilst reading I started to think "What!" as I thought you were going to say that automated checks was testing, so you lead me along the wrong path only to get me to the right destination in the end, thanks.

    Matt: Exploring can not include automated checks, by definition the journey has already been planned, there is no exploring to be done.

  3. Unknown said...

    Finally I got the difference between them now, wonderful explained! Thank you very much!

  4. halperinko said...

    Thanks - "Exploring vs. Checking" sounds much better than "Testing vs. Checking".
    You may explore with the assistance of automation, but still the exploration and mainly drawing conclusions based on it requires a human.

    Great Blog BTW - surprised I haven't noticed it till now - Luckily STC lists indicated one of your posts.

    @halperinko - Kobi Halperin

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