Saturday, June 28, 2008

Testing Lessons From Civil Engineering

Below is the paper I submitted as a prologue to an experience report, discussion, and (hopefully) additional research that I'm presenting for the first time during CAST08:

Engineers don’t look at the world the same way that testers do.  Engineers look at the world with an eye to solving problems.  Testers look at the world with an eye toward finding problems to solve.  This seems logical.  What is less logical is the fact that engineers, and I’m talking about the kind of engineers that deal with physical objects, seem to be much more sophisticated in their testing than testers.  In fact, most of what I know about testing, I learned as a civil engineering student.  We didn’t call most of it testing.  We didn’t even identify it as anything other than “You really want to get this right.” Maybe Civil Engineers test better than software testers because of the motivations to “get it right”.  Consider what happens when a piece of Civil Engineering, like a bridge fails: