Replacing the word “test”

Elisabeth Hendrickson wants to get rid of the word “test”, as it can mean two different things, which she labels “Check” and “Explore”.

I very much agree with the fact that there are two entirely different aspects to testing. “Checking” is when you get a warm fuzzy feeling when the bar gets green. You perform an experiment and if you get a positive result then you know that all is well.

“Exploring” is different in that you don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling on “green”. In other words, if the experiment produces a positive result, you’re not done yet. You need to look further, until you find a negative result. Only then will you have learned something. And if you spend some time exploring, and find no problems, then there’s always that nagging feeling: is there really nothing to find, or did I just not look hard enough?

So it seems I agree with Elisabeth. Then why this blog post?

Like Elisabeth, I think that words matter. She’s right to want to replace the word “test”. I just disagree with the replacements. “Check” has way too many meanings, and the definitions of “explore” don’t seem to catch what is meant well enough for my taste.

So I’d like to propose an alternative from the world of science: “verify” and “falsify”. Automated tests verify that the software behaves as expected, while exploratory testing falsifies both the expectations and the completeness of the test suite.

What do you think?


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