Tester’s act of Questioning…

If I look out for a word “Question” to find out “What  is Question?” in the Word Web it defines it as “A sentence of inquiry that asks for a reply”

But then whose reply? , and that throws another question indicating that the answer to the question itself was not revealing all the information at first and that leads to more questions.

In School I was always afraid of questions, as I would hardly know their answers, and that always made me wonder why they ask me to answer. In schools, there teachers won’t ask those students who know the answers to their questions, but instead they prefer to ask the one who does not know it. It seemed they prepare students to speak out answers. But with Testing it’s a bit different, because we ask questions to those who might have their answers or can get them for us.

Why do testers ask a question?
We feel as a Tester we are in a position to question anything in the product? We have a problem with somebody or the way things are going on? No. We ask because,

  • We don\’t know something and we are constantly thinking.
  • Have confusion or seek more clarity.
  • We are investigating
  • We can reduce the list of self made assumptions.
  • Even if we think we know the answers, we are not in a position to decide or concludethem.
  • We seek out some information which might reveal the facts which further can be helpful
    in executing more tests.
  • Most importantly they might help us to discover and understand some risky areas at theearly stage.

Are we in search of the truth or say which functions lie? I am more interested in the facts which matter and disclose them. Getting facts help the team to know the product and in the journey you report the bugs as well.

Why do testers ask so many questions? 

Do we love and enjoy questioning? No…

Suppose your web application of education domain records the Occupation of its members. The website allows its members to mutually exchange the knowledge they have in their respective fields. Requirement was to show their occupation on their profile page along with other information.

You see that a drop down lists all the required occupations and also allows members to select their occupation and its being displayed on their profile too. You enrolled yourself as a Teacher and its done. Are the tests finished?

What if a customer wants to enroll herself as a Science or Math’s Teacher? Tomorrow somebody might want to add the standard or a age group they are teaching, or the languages they might be able to communicate in, or the time span they would be available for.

To some customers they might be silly questions to answer for, and to some they might add value to their time they are going to invest while they choose/invite members to communicate and share the knowledge with.

So it takes us to the blackboard to search for the target audience of our website, whom we can not afford to lose out or how far that tomorrow is. It generates the series of questions, because.

  • We ourselves can not make the judgments based on the assumptions and create a pile of bugs to our credit. 
  • Probably it might affect the business of the product
  • Probably it might affect the customers of our customer.
  • Sometimes the answers to the previous questions make us aware of the missing facts, leading us to seek out more.
  • We want to advocate the risky bug and are trying to convince it with more facts
    It might add value to the product

What to question?
Suppose, you meet somebody, and he is asking you a simple question “How are you?”. You are supposed to tell how you are. But in the most cases this question is answered immediately by “I am fine” or “I am good” adding Thanks to change the point of conversation. Is this really a simple question? , and Are we really interested in knowing or listening to his/her details? Not always. But we do ask, because many times it’s a conversation starter or to break the silence. But the person facing this question would evaluate the situation before answering the original question, such as who is asking, how much to reveal depending on the type of relationship you have with him/her and if its safe to reveal the facts about him/her. So they would not overload you with their extra or personal information to the question which sounded so simple.

So, what to ask? 
That unknown wrapped inside the known. What’s that? What matters and why? To whom it matters? , and who is being affected? to name a few. So most importantly our questions should seek some value in the name of information we are asking for. As a Tester, we could not just go and ask Hey! What this function x is supposed to do? , or why does it behaves so? It’s a clear bug and you have to fix it.

  • We first have to do some homework, and what we think about it
  • Understand the value it might bring.

What do you need to have before you actually ask that question?
You have a question and isn\’t it a good reason to ask it. Of course you need to have some questions, but you would also need

  • A paper and a pen 🙂 where else would you note down those points? 
  • Courage? What if you don\’ have it? I guess in that case having a question, is enough to ask it.
  • Analyze the possible answers we might get from the person we are going to ask
  • Create a list of questions the intended information might bring to the table
  • Finding the person who might have the needed information
  • Finding the person who can take decisions out of those information
  • Time of the person to whom you are going to ask
  • Listening ears

How to ask?

Now this is very important as it would decide whether you would get that information or not and if yes, how much? We can’t just ping somebody, read out those questions loud, and push him/her to do the work.

  • Carry a positive attitude and respect what others do.
  • Ask if others have time for it or convince them in the case of urgency.
  • Presenting the information we have gathered can also encourage them to join in.
  • Having disagreement does not mean you are on the different page, as you are talking about the same page. 
  • Show you have a question and are not questioning them.
  • Sometimes asking wrong questions would get you the right information.

So as a tester we continuously try to learn and add the value by gathering information about the product with the act of questioning.