Professional testing = Applied epistemology


I am getting some acquaintance with the trade of professional testing; it is just amazing how far were my previous testing notions from the state of the art in such a profession.

Again, pillars from that trade like Glenford J. Myers and Cem Kaner help me to open my eyes.

For instance, in Lessons Learned in Software Testing by Cem Kaner, James Bach, Bret Pettichord, they said testing is applied epistemology; that is a very intense, deep in meaning and very compelling statement.

Comments (3)

  1. I.M.Testy says:

    Professional testing = applied epistemology…give me a break. Any complex job that requires half a brain cell is "applied epistemology. The Lessons Learned in Software Testing book is a good read. Unfortunately James Bach has been selling the epistemology snake oil because most people don’t really understand what epistemology is, and secondly because they really don’t understand testing.

  2. marcod says:

    Thanks for your comment, it is quite interesting.

    I would want to know a succinct definition for epistemology other than "study of knowledge and cognition".

    Do you have one?

  3. marcod says:

    A comment from James Bach:

    "This is the first time I’ve heard epistemology called "snake oil." It’s a bit ironic, though. Snake oil peddlers are people who try to fool you to get your money. Epistemology is (among other things) the study of how not to be fooled. As snake oil, it would be kind of self-defeating, eh?

    Epistemology is not merely about using your brain. It’s about getting good at knowing what is true and what is false (within the complicated and contingent nature of truth). Epistemology asks the question "how do I know that?" Science is applied Epistemology, of course, and so is testing.

    Epistemology– the way I think about it– encompasses all forms of logic, questioning, argument, rhetoric, experiment design, and theories of truth.

    Where exactly is the snake oil in that?

    Epistemology has a long history in the West (about 2500 years). I find it a comfort to realize that testing is not really a young craft at all. Only the surface details and the complexity of the problems have changed.

    But it’s more than just a comfort.

    Epistemology reframes testing expertise. If you wish you be a great tester, you must be great at designing experiments (a test is an experiment), applying logic (inductive, deductive, and abductive forms), explaining yourself and defending your explanations (for bug reports and test strategy). With an epistemic focus, being a tester means something more than just "writing test cases" or "writing bug reports." It’s about dispelling harmful illusions; sounding alarms that need to be sounded.

    But no testing textbook I know of teaches this stuff. I don’t get that.

    I think this study makes me better able to slice and dice specifications, manage evolving test designs, and sound credible in my analyses. I’m excited about it. I want to pass this idea along. Just read the first thirty pages of Karl Popper’s Conjectures and Refutations, or David Levy’s Tools for Critical Thinking. See what you think; think for yourself."

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