Welcome to the Software Testing Spot!

Testingspot word cloud

This spot has some ramblings about software testing (and software design, development and other information technology related stuff too), some useful tips, an exercise in design, usability and testing and a lot of web places to investigate.

If you've got no idea how you ended up here, don't panic. For light amusement, visit MagPortal. For a slightly stronger diversion, try a googlewhack or two. For heavier entertainment, try teaching yourself a little about software design, quality and testing with this.
If you are interested in some of Erik Petersen's ideas about exploratory testing and bug clusters, have a read of the award winning Back to the Beginning paper or choose a link below to read about something else.

About Testing

In September 1997, in an online discussion on the purpose of testing, Boris Beizer said that software was tested 1] to find bugs and 2] to check quality. David Gelperin said a higher priority purpose (when achievable) was 3] to prevent bugs being born. None of these areas need be the exclusive domain of software testers, particularly the last 2.

People always make mistakes. When computer systems are built, it is often from scratch and in a rushed time frame so the possibility of mistakes is significant. What's worse is many people are completely unaware that they make so many mistakes and never bother to check what they have done. When these mistakes occur in software, they are called "bugs". According to Boris Beizer , this is a very old English word (from the Welsh "bwg") that meant a problem or a difficulty. It was later used to describe problems with machines then computers. A bug causes people problems or difficulties when they use software.

While "testing" traditionally (up until the early 1980s) referred to what was done to a system once working code was delivered (now often referred to as system testing), testing around 2002 was "greater testing", where a tester could be involved in almost any aspect of the software development life cycle. Once code is delivered to testing, it can be tested and checked but if anything is wrong, the process involved to fix it is quite detailed and time consuming. If the error was caused by a design ambiguity, or a programmer oversight, it is simpler to try and find the problems as soon as they occur, not wait until an actual working product is produced. Studies have shown that about 50% of bugs are created at the requirements (what do we want the software to do?) or design stages, and these can have a compounding effect and create more bugs during coding. The earlier a bug or issue is found in the life cycle, the cheaper it is to fix (by exponential amounts). Rather than test a program and look for bugs in it, requirements or designs can be workshopped or documents can be reviewed.

Anyone working in software development (not just testers) needs to check their own work for mistakes, and check for other team members, so everyone is involved in "greater testing". We need to check what and how we design, develop and test, and better design and development practices can help mistake-proof our application for the people who will use it. As agile software development has become popular, the line between developer and tester has blurred and disappeared in some cases. A developer testing tends to be structure focussed, and system testers tend to focus on software behavior.

Software is typically built to a model that is documented in some detail (from a specification, to index cards, to a conversation that creates an example of how a system is to function), and the testers compare the model to software as it is designed. They need to learn about the model (through reading documentation or investigation) then compare the expected model actions with the actual system actions. This comparison of actual versus expected can move beyond software testing into general quality assurance for the whole software development life cycle. For example:

Project planning

Is a project plan meeting expectations - is it realistic; does it have short tasks and regular milestones to track progress; does it have checking tasks such as reviews, risk assessments, audits or replans; does it allow for slippage and rework of defective code; is it agreed to by the team working to it, etc
Design specification
Is a design specification (whether for a large system or a prototype) meeting expectations - is it clear , concise, unambiguous, without contradictions, understandable by both the customer and the technical team that will work with it, etc
Is code meeting expectations - following standard practices (for the industry, organization, department or team); containing enough explanatory comments; as simple as possible to allow easy modifications and maintenance; using Test Driven Development (TDD); containing tracing or debugging code if required, etc
Testing documentation
Is a test plan meeting expectations - following standard practices (for the industry, organization, department or team); explaining the required test environment; the type and amount of test data needed; roles and responsibilities; change management; bug raising, resolution and retesting processes, etc

With the popularity of the internet, software was often developed without a specific model, making it much more difficult to test. Just as documents could be reviewed without specifically defining each expected result of each step of the review, so could tests be performed without explicitly defining everything that had to be tested in advance. Testing approaches to this problem are becoming known as as "Exploratory Based Techniques". The techniques include risk based exploratory testing, rapid testing, attack or taxonomy based testing, etc.

Testing is a lot simpler than it seems once the basic principles are understood, but software quality is going backwards. One study found that most software was tested, though about three quarters of all software was only tested informally. Another study (Meta Group Dec 2001) found only 20% of web sites are tested at all. Hopefully this site may help in some way to correct that appalling figure.
We already know one effective approach. In the last decade, practices built around small teams (known as agile methodologies) have been documented and described, focussing on minimizing the overhead involved in delivering software by trying to deliver regularly working software to customers, and focussing on human to human communications when determining the models that are used. I think these approaches will replace the traditional ones within a decade. I hope so at least....

About this page

My name is Erik Petersen. I'm based in Melbourne, Australia, and have a consultancy called Emprove. I've worked in all facets of software development since the mid 80s, concentrating on quality since the middle 90s. This occasionally biographical site contains some of the things I have found since I came online in 1996. During a short career break in 2002, I created this software testing site, different from other testing sites on the web. I wanted it to be like a book of information that I could use and share with other people. I based it on a folder I had in the early 90s when I worked in software services and moved regularly between roles across the software development lifecycle. The folder had reference material with tips and articles of relevance to work, or things I may do occasionally like give a presentation, or help out in an interview, etc.
The Internet was and remains a major source of knowledge for me beyond hands-on experiences. I had a good collection of good reference sites on testing and quality, and I have added to those for other relevant areas such as life skills and project management. This site has introductory material for people who want to learn more, but it is also a useful resource for experienced testers, developers, designers, managers and others. It also has an exercise in design, usability and testing that both novices and experts should find rewarding.
I invite you to wander through and discover things. The Spot is one large page so you can search it all using your browser, or use the heading links or just page through it. The linked sites are all free, and you can grab the information as you go (but respect the legalese at each site please). Most sites have their own links page too. Sometimes I have pointed out particular articles, sometimes you can investigate for yourself by searching the site or looking through the articles. Some files are PDFs, so I presume you have Acrobat Reader. Some files are MS-WORD documents, but most word processors would handle them. If you do find an unreferenced article was very useful or have a favorite unlisted site, send me a note and I may mention it by name. There are other sites that I will list when I get the time (and others that I have yet to discover). For the time being, try these.

Mostly lifecycle

The information here spreads across the entire software development lifecycle from requirements to design to development to testing to release. Once you finish here, don't forget to try the exercise in design, usability and testing either.

The StickyMinds site
The software testing and quality engineering site (acronym STQE, pronounced sticky). When I started at the ANZ Bank in 1997, one of our goals was to create an internal database of testing knowledge. We never got around to it, but this cornucopia did. It has the best articles about almost anything from hundreds of sources. Also has some other good features like weekly "editorials", and discussions. Sticky minds is part of SQE which Dave Gelperin used to give as his home page before he sold his share (but you'll still find some of his articles at StickyMinds).
The CrossTalk article
This software engineering magazine crosstalkonline.org (with a defense slant) had all the issues online and searchable. Each issue focused on a particular area of interest with articles from leading experts. If anyone finds it archived, please let me know
(archived) All about Reviews
This is an 89 slide presentation, from the people behind CrossTalk, covering all types of reviews across the software lifecycle.
Software Development
This magazine has all issues online and searchable. They also have great newsletters.
the MagPortal
Search here at the Magazine Portal for software development, design and testing articles from the technical Dr Dobbs Journal, to big-picture CIO and other mags as well. Search All categories to include other IT magazines, but also diverse mags from Scientific American to Wired, and many others. There were 101 magazines that had articles containing "software testing" though quite a lot would be passing references (like "Car and Driver", "Bank Director", "Askmen.com" and "Entertainment Today"!).
Software defect reduction top 10
I consider this short article by Barry Boehm and Victor Basili to the closest thing yet to a holy grail of software quality, and if you understand each item and the implications of it, and you are able to implement a process to leverage it, you will be producing great software.
The Software Engineering Body of Knowledge is a brave experiment, modelled on the Project Management BOK. The Association for Computing Machinery pulled out of the SWEBOK process based on the findings in this report.
While the BOK approach may work for some aspects of the software lifecycle, software testing is another matter. There are so many different situations and variations on testing that a BOK cannot cater for. Some University of Calgary students have created an alternative view of the testing SWEBOK section (slightly more agile friendly).
I voted against approving the draft versions of the SWEBOK. I was happy to note that Australia had the largest number of reviewers outside of the US and Canada, but 16 people out of 600 or so is a tiny sample of the possible reviewer base.
Principles of context-driven quality
The realist's manifesto for quality software systems. Rather than a testing BOK, what is required is a context driven approach that changes with the type of software, or project, or supporting documentation or deadline involved. With minimal doco or planning time, we utilize exploratory based techniques. The techniques include risk based exploratory testing, rapid testing, attack and taxonomy based testing, etc. See James Bach's or Cem Kaner's sites for more information, or read some of James's articles on StickyMinds. Also check out James Lyndsay's great exploratory testing page
Completely unrelated to Fred Flintstone's "Yabbadabbadoo", the UPEDU or Unified Process for EDUcation is a fully featured software development methodology, but designed to teach good practices in software development (and not for commercial software production!).
It is based on Rational Software's RUP process, and a text book that describes the process. Many companies have proprietary methodologies that they will only distribute to paying customers. RUP is probably leading the world because it is built around Use Cases that represent what software is meant to do, where diagrams supplement words. Search yoopeedoo for the Use Case artifact for more information or try StickyMinds
A cynical but often true view of the software development life cycle

Mostly human error

Once you are finished here, you'll also find some examples in the exercise in design, usability and testing if you look carefully.

the Britney Variations
Composers of music often write pieces of music that contain variations on a musical phrase. This archived page lists variations of a different sort.
You don't need to spell to sell
An example of the confusion caused by the Britney (and other) variations, and a clever piece of functionality to get around it.
About Human Error
Ray Panko has collated the results of many studies that show how feeble we really are. One of the most dangerous aspects of this now is users creating spreadsheet macros and not realizing how easily they can get it wrong. This rates a mention as the last item in the Software defect reduction top 10
An Engineer's view of Human Error
Article about Trevor Kletz on various sorts of human error. He believes better training or supervision can prevent some errors but the most effective action is to reduce opportunities for error, or minimise their effects, by changing designs or methods of working. This is a presentation of his as well.
Introduction to Human Failure
This talks about different aspects of human errors. There's also other reference material as well
Accident Aetiology
This is a course on errors and failures from a English quarrying site, with lecture notes and slides.
Computer Stupidities
No matter how perfect a computer system may be, a fundamental flaw we usually cannot avoid is it needs to be used by humans. Thanks to Gerard Yvanovich for the link.

Mostly testing

Once you finish here, don't forget to try the exercise in design, usability and testing either.

Back-to-the-beginning word cloud

Mr Glenford Myers
Well, sort of. This is my "Back to the Beginning" discussion of testing axioms from 1976 and their impact on testing today. It won Best Paper at STARwest in California in 2006.
Testing FAQ
If you are after some basic information, you may find it in the Software Testing Frequently Asked Questions
(archived) System Testing Lifecycle
This was a good introduction to the classic system testing life cycle. There was also 10 System Testing Commandments with explanations. Luckily this is on the web archive. (There was a typo in the explanation but there are probably a few on this page too.) It's also worth looking at 16 Testing Commandments.
the Testing Life Cycle
This link actually takes you to a book called "Rapid Testing". The sample chapter is a good introduction to testing activities from design through to code, and defines some useful buzzwords like validation, verification, V model, static testing, dynamic testing, etc. Use these terms in job interviews. [grin]
On risk and quality
This paper, "A Software Quality Model and Metrics for Identifying Project Risks and Assessing Software Quality " is a good introduction from NASA on quality, requirements and risk, though all the ideas on metrics may not be relevant. Check out the typo in the URL as well. Oops. [grin]
Another related article is "verification and validation implementation at NASA", which you will find at NASA. It includes the risk criteria that NASA use.
(archived) A Testing Introduction
A brief but meaty university introduction to software testing by Kevin Sullivan. Testing wasn't even available when I was at uni, and I don't believe you need a uni education to be a good tester, but it certainly wouldn't hurt.
Choosing data for tests
You can't test everything, so you need to be choosy. Equivalence Partitioning is a key technique and this article is one of the best I've seen. It will help you to choose a good cross-section of your data. Craig Borysowich does not seem to mention tester or trainer in his bio but he writes great articles about testing. The slides by Gail Kaiser at Columbia University was a long time reference, but they have vanished into the ether. So have George Corliss' slides from Marquette U.
Another approach to equivalence partitioning is on this University of Maryland page. Follow it up with this California Polytechnic EP example from Dr John Dalbey.
Test Partitioning Techniques
A guide from the Eclipse team.
Partition Testing
A great example of using equivalence classes from Debra Richardson (reposted). Could also be called "How to thrash a Find function". Study the example, then try the partitioning exercise then compare your answer to the provided one. More great uni material.
Mr James Bach
James is a leader in the new school of software testing moving away from the traditionally heavily engineered approach to testing software to agile methods drawing from other disciplines such as human problem solving and scientific method. The "exploratory based techniques" link in the opening paragraphs of this page links to this article by James that sums up his ideas. You'll find a lot of interesting reading at his web site. I recommend "Exploratory Testing Explained". Try to solve his dashboard puzzle (under Presentations) too.
Dr Cem Kaner
Cem says he "tests software, legislation, and people's patience (not always in that order)". Shift.com reported that Network Computing magazine called him "one of the sharpest thorns in the side" of software makers. Cem is a Professor in Computer Science at Florida Institute of Technology, and is looking at educating the next generation of software testers. Back in 1996, when I first started participating in online testing discussions, I had no idea who he was and blithely gave him some testing advice. I have used a lot of his advice and wisdom in my testing. Look at "Paradigms of Black Box testing" for a great overview of the variety of test approaches.
Michael Bolton
If you watch the deleted scenes with commentary in the 2nd Blade movie, you'll see they try the Michael Bolton experiment with the Vampire King, putting a long blonde curly wig on him. [grin] This is not that singing MB, but this one is into experiments of many kinds. One of the deepest thinking testers and definitely one of the most productive in terms of regular output, Michael has many great conference presentations and regular columns to read. Start by reading "A Map By Any Other Name" perhaps.
Dr James Whittaker
James was the professor at FIT who lured Cem from consulting in California and into education in Florida. James is breeding "Jedi Testers" that will routinely crash bad software, just as advanced martial artists smash bricks and wood. If you haven't heard the mantra of "input, output, data, computation", you have some catching up to do. With a teaching team headed by Whittaker and Kaner, can you guess where Microsoft used to go to hire testers? Then they hired James! Now James has moved on to Google. James's web site seems to have gone off line, so I've linked to a Breaking Software presentation.
Mr Brian Marick
Brian has his own articles on testing and development and some surveys of new testing ideas here. Brian has a foot in both the developer and tester camps, and was the original tester signatory for the Agile Alliance. He has probably the best set of agile testing links on the web.
One general article of Brian's, "Classic Testing Mistakes", has since become a minor classic in itself, and I am very proud of the fact that I was one of the reviewers of the original draft.
Paul Gerrard
After providing your email address and name, you'll find great articles on risk based testing amongst others. Paul Gerrard probably has the largest number of web hits for his name of any person in testing. Paul is a British tester, but also shares his name with a footballer. I wonder if that has anything to do with it. [grin]
Ms Elisabeth Hendrickson
Elisabeth, Ms Test Obsessed, has some great articles about software testing. Check out "Why are my pants on fire".
Mr Rex Black
Rex has some great material on software testing too. Check out "Risk Based Testing: What It Is and How You Can Benefit".
Rob Sabourin
Rob is always writing great pieces. Search the web to read Rob's "I am a bug" presentation to learn a little about bugs!
Jonathon Kohl
Jonathon is interested in exploratory testing amongst other things. In the fourth part of his ET intro , he presents strategies for test ideas. Many of these qualify as quicktests, short test ideas designed to highlight a particular behaviour of interest.
Danny Faught
Danny is a interesting contributor to the testing space and has some great content.
Harry Robinson
Harry specializes in model based testing but he is also interested in testing humor like testing bumper stickers!
Mr (often broken) Boris Beizer
Boris concentrates on writing books and hasn't got a web site. He's been heavily involved in testing and quality since the mid 60s (after getting a testing doctorate!), and takes a engineering approach to testing and doesn't like to cut corners, but is now semi-retired. This book extract highlights the best and worst of 13 test practices. Note that Jakob Nielsen has disproved Boris's thoughts on usability testing (to my satisfaction at least but probably not Boris's). Boris also presumes that management always allows lots of time to develop and test....
The saqa domain routinely vanishes then returns so if the above link is broken, you'll also find the extract here
Software Testing Education
This site has some excellent training material and links to American testing and quality courses.
Test Process Improvement
TPI was created by Martin Pol and Tim Koomen, and is probably the best process improvement tool to measure where you are presently and target actions to produce improvements. You'll probably need to buy the books to do it properly (now called TPI Next with new tools ), but this is an introduction at least.
Testing dirty systems
This is Randy Rice's approach when you're not sure what you are testing.

Mostly risk

After 50 years of software projects, they still seem to fail at a rate that would be completely unacceptable in any other industry. I think the role of risk management will be more important over the next decade in both testing and software development. As well as these links, search the page for other risk links including one from NASA.

The Negative Side of Positive Thinking
Payson Hall discusses why risk is so important in software development. You'll also find some other great risk articles by Payson here and at StickyMinds.
Ursus Three-step
In 1997, IEEE Software magazine had a special issue on "Managing Risk". When the guest editor, Tom DeMarco, and the author of the lead article, Tim Lister, write a book on risk "Waltzing with Bears", you would expect a lot, and they have delivered. There is also a related risk planning tool (in an Excel spreadsheet). There is more like this at their ASG site
The biggest risk
This essay by Mark Cashman looks at the risks that technology development and integration projects face, and suggests some mitigation strategies.
Risk and Uncertainty
A summary of a speech by Les Hatton.
A guerilla guide to risk management
A speech by Rear Admiral Kathleen Paige, with the amazing title of Chief Engineer, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition/ Director, Theater Air and Missile Defense and Systems Engineering. Please respect the conditions of use. This is now broken, so I'm trying to relocate it.
SEI Risk management
This is the Software Engineering Institute's take on risk. There are some (long) documents to download relating to the 3 letter acronyms SRE, CRM and TRM. Happy reading.
Risk Prioritization
A lesson on ranking risk for testing, including sample questions.
Risk Reference card
A double sided reference on risk. Please respect the legalese.

Mostly design

Once you finish here, don't forget to try the exercise in design, usability and testing either.

Jakob Neilsen
Jakob Neilsen's useIT (Useful Information Technology) site is a treasure trove of information on building user focused systems. He has proved it is quite a simple exercise to test how usable a system is. If you want to do it too, start out with "Why you only need to test with 5 users", "Cost of user testing a website", and "Instructions for branch office testing". Also check out Bob Stahl's "Usability Testing" article at StickyMinds.
Mr Alan Cooper
Alan Cooper wrote some software that Microsoft bought off him and renamed Visual Basic. Alan is into engineering simple mistake-proof human oriented designs that allow us to do our work easily. His articles have gone from his site, but I recommend the archived Fourteen principles of polite applications
(archived) Paul Heckel
This is an extract of Paul's "The elements of friendly software design". It is a hyperlinked document, and the legalese states it is for reading only and not for printing.
Karl Wiegers
Karl focuses on the design side of software, with some good articles on requirements and reviews amongst others.
The Atlantic Systems Guild
They claim "If you build software, chances are that you and your organization are using some technique developed by The Atlantic Systems Guild." They have a lot on requirements here, articles, a template and links too.
Thomas Alspaugh
Thomas has a nice discussion on kinds of requirements, ways to group them, and who could be interested in them. There's also various other articles to explore.

Mostly development

Developers sometimes will ask testers for assistance or sources of information, so try these. Also, the Agile Alliance has seen development testing become much more advanced, and the line between tester and developers is becoming less clear in many teams. (This section is under development!)

Planning Poker
Estimates are invariably wrong on traditional IT projects for many reasons. This simple agile approach to a more formal method (a.k.a Delphi ) gets all the team involved, is fast and fun. This site is Mike Cohn's free web-based planning tool. For a more detailed explanation of how it works, read this. For non-web p-poker, you can make your own cards if you want to (here is an example) or use this template pack or this set of very visual cards. Read this piece for ideas on further improving estimates.
Some agile conversations
The Agile Alliance is an amazing group of people creating better ways to design, develop and deliver software that does what customers want and need. It will take me a long time to collate all the links I want here, so in the interim, this site has audio interviews with many of the key players. Alternatively, try the Open Directory's agile links
The Atlassian folk blogging on how they do agile
Explaining agile to executives
Here is Brad Appelton's suggested approach for a presentation slide.
Ten tips on agile software development
This is taken from a conference session by Joshua Kerievsky.
About TDD
Test Driven Development is a poor name for an amazing practice. By building small unit tests that assert the validity of small parts of programs as the program is built, the tests as a whole become a regression test checking that everything still works as changes are made. The requirement to plan tests in advance of creating the code also forces simplicity of design on the code, that makes long term changes much simpler and less time consuming. If newly added code breaks existing code, an assert test should fail, and relevant code needs to be corrected so that the failing test passes. The tests remain part of the code and can only be moved to system test when everything works. Properly done, this covers off lots of the risks of regression that system testers typically faced. All new software development should be done using TDD, and as the assert code is free, there is no obstacle to it. Here is some more TDD info and case studies involving money handling and reading a data file (both in the original TDD language, Java). If you are interested in trying TDD, why not try it with Ruby. Alternatively, here is a non-programmer 1 hour hands-on tutorial involving Excel macros.
the Ruby Language
If you are wanting to learn more about development, try Ruby (go on, try it now!). If you want more, learn to program with Ruby, or just learn Ruby, or even read the amazing illustrated Ruby book. Ruby will enable you to create utilities to help make testing easier, and has libraries to support test automation and other application areas (look up watir ). Ruby is free, as are a lot of the references. Brian Marick's Ruby book is a great source of information too (but you'll have to buy it).
To make things easier, use an IDE (integrated Development environment) like EasyEclipse for RUBY . Read this short introduction to using it (read from Creating a Sample Ruby Application From Eclipse), or a longer introduction if you prefer.
All about Refactoring
While a program work for a user, the actual under-the-covers implementation may be overly complex, not tested properly, hard to understand and maintain, contain duplicated code, and basically be unfinished. Refactoring is all about cleaning this up. The stuff that refactoring cleans up is called technical debt. This material is from Martin Fowler. There's another good article by Chuck Connell on The missing theory of refactoring
Dependency Injection
I once did some technical writing for IBM, and one of the challenges was writing help text or explanations of complex functions, while trying to use the language of a grade 6 student. Explaining dependency injection to a non-coder is a similar challenge. Imagine you run a window washers collective. Each worker has their own basic gear, buckets, sponges, scrapers, and can handle smaller jobs unassisted. Larger jobs need scaffolding or cherry pickers, so they need to be provided for the workers in those cases. Dependency injection provides complicated material to a worker function to help it do its job. This simplifies the design, and makes it more flexible allowing different types of materials to be provided in different cases. Another advantage is the ability to provide fake materials, when we are only interested in testing the function to check it still works properly. Another introduction to DI is the first chapter of a book all about it, or this shorter article. Here's a ruby focussed intro as well.
the Software Dev Commandments
Jean Debell says "May the source be with you". These 10 items serve as lessons to code by for developers, and evidence that "developers love acronyms" for testers.
How To Write Unmaintainable Code
While this is part of a large site dedicated to Java, it is of value to all programmers, especially in procedural or object oriented languages. I hope your developers will realize that this is really a "how not to" guide!!
Teach yourself programming in ten years
The Amazon search in this article no longer works. Amazon give you a message saying use Advanced Search, but provide no links or clues to find it! Maybe they need to hire some of the people the article talks about!
(archived) Testing, Debugging and Reviews
This university book chapter is a technical introduction aimed at software developers, and it includes example programs in C++.

Mostly management

Managing in Mayberry
This parable is a clever look at management styles, and the importance of a comfortable chair....
1 minute manager
An article based on the famous book.
Johanna Rothman
Johanna writes about managing people and projects as well as testing. Her new Manage It! book is fantastic.
Mike Tarrani
Mike's Life Cycle, Project & Infrastructure Management site is a mix of artifacts and links (across the SDLC including testing and risk), and some engaging web logs (under Content We Update Daily). Thanks to Chris Holt for the link.
Basic project management skills
These articles are written from an engineering point of view but apply to IT as well.
The PMBOK is the standard internationally accepted guide to managing a project, but it is viewed as information that needs to be paid for, hence the wikipedia entry. In 2002, old versions of the PMBOK were available at the PMI site, then it was only extracts and now, nothing. This dead link had the entire 1996 PM Body of Knowledge here, then they followed the example of the English language sites and removed it. Oh well, suffice to say that the PMBOK doc ("A guide to the project management body of knowledge) is available as both a pdf and zip file, and if you experiment with a search engine you may find a copy. If you wanted to, you could buy the latest PMBOK at the PMI site......
the Busy Person's Project Management book
Rob Thomsett's plain speaking guide to all things projecty. Rob's from Melbourne Australia like me.
Principle based project management
James Chapman adds 10 principles to focus on beyond the PMBOK. I like his 8th, "If it hasn't been tested, it doesn't work." He also has some tips for project mgmnt newbies.
(archived) Runtime collective
This is a good summary of IT project management, including Steve McConnell's classic project mistakes.
(archived) 100 rules
There are 100 rules for project managers here, based on experiences at NASA.
Leadership for Librarians
There is a tutorial and summaries of a variety of books here (down to a single sentence or even word!), including the 1 minute manager, and lists from Martin Luther King and Benjamin Franklin.
Corner Office
Corner Office is a section of the Business pages of the New York Times. It features interviews with senior managers on leadership and management. Some interviews (like Steve Ballmer) also have the audio highlights to listen to.
Boss magazine (Australian based but internationally focussed) is a general management magazine that comes out in print on the second Friday of each month as an insert in the Australian Financial Review newspaper. All the content is online as well and it has great articles, information and links and is searchable.

Mostly Tools

A survey of free and commercial Test Tools
Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll let Danny Faught take over on this.
Open Source Test Tools
I haven't played with many of the tools here but they look promising.
Just Enough Test Automation
Read these articles extracted from the book of the same name.
Automation Junkies
"(archived) dedicated to exploring and supporting the area of software test automation and how it fits into your software testing cycle" and doing it well...
Alternative Test Tools
Alan Richardson has some tool lists, a presentation, a paper and even some movies of the tools in action. I've had freemind on my PC for several years now and track most of my work activities with it.
Test Tools list
A good list with several free tools. Also see the tools links pages at QA City, Testing Stuff and Workroom Productions below.
Brian Lawrence
You'll find free requirements, design and life cycle tools here.

Mostly Bugs

Once you finish here, don't forget to try the exercise in design, usability and testing either.

A dozen bug writing tips
This is short, sharp and to the point. Also see Rex Black's "The fine art of writing a good bug report", and Elisabeth Hendrickson's "Writing Effective Bug Reports".
Reporting bugs effectively
A useful article from the programmer point of view.
Origin of the species
Not Charles Darwin , but Fred Shapiro on the origins of the words "bug". Apparently, his origins are not altogether. Grace didn't actually find the bug, but was involved with the team that did. They knew of the term "bug" already, which is why they made the pun (first ACTUAL bug) in the report.
Struggling software
Ben Simo asks "Is there a problem here?" where software struggles to function or communicate to the user when it has not functioned according to expectations.
Usability bugs
The Bad User Interface gallery highlights screens and messages that are a little less than "user friendly".

Mostly Retrospectives

A neat introduction to retrospectives from Chris Sims.
Agile Retrospectives - Appreciative Inquiry
An overview of the core material in the book Agile Retrospectives by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.
Live and learn from Retrospectives
Another introduction to retrospectives, from Rachel Davies.
Retrospective Techniques
A framework for retrospectives, with lots of links, from Idia Computing.
Agile Retrospective Resources
To quote Rob Bowley's site, "a resource for sharing retrospective plans, tips & tricks, tools and ideas to help us get the most out of our retrospectives".
Retrospectives changing culture
Alan Dayley wrote this in the washup of a twitter thread I started about the 1 key agile practice to adopt first, based on my blog post. For me it was standups because of the impact on quality, but the bulk of commenters thought it was retrospectives!
Retrospectives and 5 Whys
Using the 5 Whys to avoid the blame game.

Mostly Life Skills

Managing stress
This site also has information on creativity and memory skills, problem solving, management, etc.
Online writing lab
This site has tips on writing and language. The material on conciseness is similar to a poster presentation I did while I was working for Computer Sciences of Australia. If you follow the conciseness rules when writing, your message should be understood every time.
Virtual Communication Assistants
Online tutorials to improve skills for public speaking, interviewing, meetings, teamwork and more.
Big Dog's Biscuit Bowl
Don't let the name fool you, there is some great material here on training, leadership (including presentation skills), an amazing links page (under Library) and more.
Business Balls
Continuing on with strange site names, this grew out a consultancy that provided juggling lessons as part of team building. This site has all sorts of gems, covering team building, human resources, leadership, communication, humor, even juggling!
Creativity and problem solving
Some ways to generate ideas or solve problems in teams and by yourself.
Problem Solving Techniques
This is a comprehensive guide to a range of problem solving techniques.
Investment in People Skills article
The first half of this article is a short people skills introduction. Good people skills are essential for testers who are typically criticizing other people on a regular basis and need to be good at sugar coating the message and building trust.
Listening to Connect: A Beginning Frame
An approach to improving your listening skills, by Sally Ann Roth (scroll down till you see her name). I wish I could follow the advice here more often, but just as my fingers keep producing typos, my mouth keeps on talking!
Influencing with Integrity
Genie Laborde's book "Influencing with Integrity" is one of the most amazing books I have read (in the library of one of the companies I worked for) , but unfortunately I don't remember enough of it.
I have to buy a copy soon. If you don't want to buy it, the downloads at the bottom of this link page introduce some of the core ideas.
Life Skills
This holistic list is something to aspire to, and not that hard to attain if you set your mind to it.

Links blogs and forums

Once you finish here, don't forget to try the exercise in design, usability and testing either.

Testing Reflections
A series of tester and developer blogs, focussed on testing and quality.
Erik's Blog
My blog at testing reflections.
IT Project Failures Blog
Michael Krigsman muses on the sad realities of software/hardware/infrastructure projects.
Software Testing Hotlist
A comprehensive list of links, maintained by Bret Pettichord. At the very bottom of the list you'll find a link to his own papers and presentations, or just go to his website to see them.
Testing Stuff
Kerry Zallar has a neat name for his site, and a great disclaimer, "This may not be the best testing web site out there ... but, it links to many that are! "
Workroom Productions
I was looking for James Lyndsay's site for some articles, but was pleasantly surprised at the great links list he also had. James has won several best paper awards, and you'll find those papers here, plus an exploratory testing timer amongst other things. We used the timer at an ET workshop we both co-presented at AsiaSTAR 2003 & 2004 in Sydney, Australia. We have since independently delivered ET training sessions around the world. Also check out James's great exploratory testing page and his shockwave black box testing machines
QA city
QA city has now merged into another website. Go to the page of Downloads and look for "Common software errors" to see a great (long) list of error types, after you provide your details.
Lots of online training
While it is preferable to learn technical skills from a human, there are many introductory courses available for free on the web. All testers should know XML and SQL, and you'll find interactive courses that let you practice your programming as well.
mainly design and development links
A (archived) great page of design, architecture, patterns, use cases and other links.
some Usability links
A great page of usability and user interface design links.
Project Management Links
A page of useful links, aimed at non-profit organisations.
More Project Management Links
Another page of useful links, mostly templates and reference with some (archived) BOK links.
CIO's Research and analysis pages
These links are to assorted magazine articles.
Open Directory's software testing links
The Open Directory sites are listed by popularity as sites and links. Will this page ever make it? Yep. It appeared in mid 2002, and cracked the top 30 in Sept 2002, but has since dropped out (it is now on the Directories page). Maybe I should have updated those broken links quicker... :)
The name may indicate Quality Assurance, but in their own words, this is "The online community for software testing & quality assurance professionals". There are nearly 40 forums covering process, approaches, tools and logistics. There's also an associated links site.

Mostly whatever

Here you'll find odds and sods including some sites that look back at the past, a site that looks to the future, and some web related sites.

Australasian functional testers, with a nimble twist, rather dormant but may revive
Arabic Testing Spot
This is an archived version of this page translated electonically into Arabic. Read my Arabic on-the-fly translations blog entry for more and a description how to generate translations yourself.
Levi Hand Signal Technique
I've blogged (is this a dictionary word yet?) on this. It is an incredibly simple technique to use in meetings to wrap up all the discussion on a topic before moving on to the next topic, or alternatively jump to a new topic to move on from a stale one.
Download Shockwave
James Lyndsay got me interested in using shockwave programs run in browsers for teaching testing. He prefers to write his own testing machines, but I prefer to reuse other people's (with real bugs). I have shown hundreds of people my exploratory testing of clocks demo. I have written up but not posted a simple intro to testing using shockwave programs (stay tuned!). If the following game and clock don't work, you will need to download shockwave. So here is an interesting game you could try and a corresponding clock. I challenged James Bach with the game as a testing challenge, and he ended up beating my high score of 6481 I think (can you find the strategy that lets you score in the thousands?). If you get an extremely high score, send me a screenshot. The clock has no bugs but you can watch it forever....
Turning Points in Computing (up till 1999 at least)
A special 1999 issue of the IBM Systems Journal, this is a good source of historical information.
Significant Folks in IT
Computerworld's interviews with significant IT people.
History of Computing
This is a interesting source of information covering many aspects of technology.
Brief history of Programming
David Chisnall takes us from Turing to tomorrow.
Harrow Technology Report
The rapidly changing face of computing is the subject of this report (it used to be called that until recently as well). People from around the world assist Jeff Harrow with items for his newsletter. You can subscribe via email or just read it here. Thanks to Craig Spendlove for this.
Search Engine Watch
A must-visit site for the serious net searcher, with a great monthly email newsletter
the Googlewhack instructions
All work and no play makes for an unhappy day. If Magportal can't amuse you, try googlewhacking as an intellectual challenge. What is googlewhacking? Try it and see. A related activity is using Google Autocomplete, or creating your own Autocomplete application site

Try this out

Perpetual Calendars
Try this exercise in design, usability and quality. Here are some examples of perpetual calendars (most of which need Javascript to run). A printed calendar is typically only valid for a month or a year at a time. A perpetual calendar is designed to allow a calendar to stay current. It may also be used for future planning, or investigating historical dates. Try out each calendar then try and answer these questions. Which are the best designed? Which are the most usable? Which are the simplest? How would you justify your choices? If you redefined your concept of good design or usability or simplicity, would your choices change? What if you had to choose a calendar for a child to use?

PC 1

PC 2

PC 3

PC 4

PC 5

PC 6

PC 7

PC 8

PC 9

PC 9

PC 10

PC 11

PC 12

What functionality does each calendar offer? Is it a yearly, monthly, weekly or daily calendar? Is it obvious how to use it? Do you think people would need to be trained to use it? Can you tell what day of the week a date falls on? Can you easily move to adjacent months or years? Could you use your browser to print a calendar for a month or a year and hang it on a wall? If you print it, do you have space to write notes for particular days? Which calendar would you choose to use? Would this change if you had to meet a particular requirement (e.g need space for notes, or need to easily view next or previous month), or some combination of requirements?

What is the quality of the software like? Are the calendar headings correct? Do they overlap? Are you doing all the calculation instead of the computer? Alternatively, could you print one out as fallback (perhaps during a power strike) to calculate a future date? Try doing incorrect things as well. What happens if you enter unexpected information, eg letters for numbers or vice versa, or just spaces or nothing at all or is it mistake proofed to prevent you? What happens if you try to enter a year with 10 digits, or a negative year or a year of zero? Which calendar would you choose to use in terms of quality?

If you want to, try the exercise again with these perpetual calendars. While these calendars all work for both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, calendar E does not fully function with W3C browsers like Opera, Mozilla, etc (though all the other calendars are OK for W3C), and Opera does ugly things to calendar D.
















Was the spot "Some Preaching On Testing"? Or "Some Polemically Overblown Tirade"? Or something in between? Send comments to Erik Petersen at
If you took the challenge in the Mostly Bugs section, you may have already seen the first bug report.

In case you are wondering why some links are listed as the something site, or Mr Somebody Useful, and others are not, HTML won't let you nest a site link inside a page link, so the extra text at the start of the site link lets you do it (but it looks a little clumsy all the same).

Currently this site is under (perpetual?) construction. Please visit again. Thanks to the wayback machine site for preserving lost gems.

Copyright © 2002-2020 Erik Petersen

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First created - March 25 2002
Last read - What time is it now?
Last updated - 20 Mar 2020
Ongoing Task - updating 50 broken links
Last updated with archived sites - 21 Aug 2011
Word clouds added - 6 Nov 2009
First deleted - On June 2 2004 for 10 days by an annoying hacker
(hey IR, this is a site to help people so please don't come back)
Also hacked with random text and links for expensive european watches, WTF?
Disclaimer : My fingers ignore my brain as I handcraft HTML so please ignore typos. The reliable links were all live last time I checked.