No More Exploratory Testing—Really?

Michael Bolton

Thirty years ago when Cem Kaner coined the term “exploratory testing,” it was largely ignored for almost a decade. Since then, the idea of exploratory testing has moved through recognition, controversy, hostility, tolerance, and acceptance. Yet questions remain: Is exploratory testing an activity? or is it a technique? or is it an approach? If the purpose of testing is to notice and reveal new information when the landscape of the product is poorly known, described, or understood, then isn't all testing exploratory? Recently, some of its leading proponents have begun to question whether the idea of exploratory testing is helping or hurting the testing craft. Is the term a source of inspiration or confusion? Has talk about exploratory testing served its purpose? If so, what should we be talking about instead? Michael Bolton describes his experience teaching testers about exploratory testing and explaining it to others. He outlines the conversations, confusions, and controversies—past and present—on the topic and some of the successes, failures, and ongoing problems when skilled testers try to describe their work.

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