Point/Counterpoint: Test Principles Revisited

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of IEEE Software, published by IEEE, and is reprinted with permission.

By Gerald D. Everett and Bertrand Meyer

Read the full article, “Point/Counterpoint: Test Principles Revisited“.

Below is the background on the article from the viewpoint of Gerald D. Everett.

Bertrand Meyer published an article in the IEEE Computer Magazine titled “Seven Principles of Software Testing” (August 2008, pp.99-101). The article struck me as boldly proclaiming, “this is all you need to know about testing”. Whether or not the author intended to make that proclamation, the article could possibly strike the other 84,999 IEEE Computer Society readers the same way.

Had Meyer placed his observations and conclusions in the context of any of the internationally acknowledged software testing certification bodies of knowledge, then I could have accepted his Seven Principles as an experienced reflection on that body of knowledge. He chose, instead, to postulate all seven principles only within his own professional experience on one software development project.

Seeing the need to broaden the discussion about Meyer’s Seven Principles to their actual impact on the whole software testing body of knowledge and best practices in front of the IEEE Computer Society audience, I wrote a rebuttal to Meyer’s article using ISTQB as the anchor for my impact statements. Curiously, the editor of Meyer’s article in IEEE Computer Magazine bluntly refused without explanation to consider publishing my rebuttal. I then submitted my rebuttal to the editor of a column titled “Loyal Opposition” in the IEEE Software Magazine. He was very interested and helped me prepare a shorter version of my rebuttal for his column in August, 2009.

The senior editor of the IEEE Software Magazine reviewed my article and suggested to my editor that we see if Meyer would be interested in a published debate, what the IEEE Software Magazine calls “Point/Counter-point” in lieu of my standalone rebuttal in the Loyal Opposition column. When contacted, Meyer agreed to debate me in writing for publication. The Point/Counter-point column in the IEEE Software Magazine dated July/August 2009 is the result.
In its most rigorous implementation, user acceptance testing validates a predefined set of acceptance criteria and is used to formally accept or reject a system. Other user acceptance testing efforts are far less structured, and simply allow users to "play" with the system to ensure they are "happy" with what was implemented. The level or rigor used will depend substantially on the type of project and the potential impact (user, business, financial, reputation) of the change.

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