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Test Automation, Exploratory Testing, and Bubble Wrap

John Kensinger

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In a recent blog post from Bas Dijkstra, he metaphorically equates test automation to bubble wrap in “an attempt to help people see test automation in a slightly different light than the ‘be all end all’ solution to all testing problems that it’s still perceived as too often.” While I suggest you check out his article, here’s a quick summary:

  • Bubble wrap (and test automation) lacks isolated value.
  • It is used as a means of “safely” delivering a higher-value product.
  • Often times, more than is necessary is used.
  • It protects from some issues but not all.

The above analogizes bubble wrap to test automation, ultimately making a case for the appropriate - and not superfluous or unnecessary - use of test automation.

Bas also uses an excellent example shared by Alex Schladebeck regarding the importance of exploratory testing alongside automated testing:

Say you’re going for a run in the park. You may make a list of everything to watch out for (i.e. weather, other people, the potential for injury), but it happens that there is a dangerous animal in the park that you didn’t account for in your list. This is a clear example of when exploratory testing can be incredibly useful.

Both forms of testing are important in forming a comprehensive testing suite. But where does one end and the other begin?

How do you balance the two forms of testing?

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