Don’t Try to Tell Me You Can Automate the Testing!

Michael Bolton’s rap teaches us it’s automated checking, not testing

So, you say you can automate testing? Michael Bolton, a creator of Rapid Software Testing, would tell you that you’re wrong.

We were lucky enough to host Bolton at this year’s TestingUy, the largest software testing conference in Latin America, in which he rapped about the misnomer of “test automation” during his awe-inspiring keynote speech in the Antel Tower in Montevideo.

Michael Bolton rap

To understand why he asserts that testing cannot be automated, you have to know these important definitions that he crafted with James Bach:

  • Testing is the process of evaluating a product by learning about it through exploration and experimentation, which includes to some degree: questioning, study, modeling, observation, inference, etc.
  • Checking is the process of making evaluations by applying algorithmic decision rules to specific observations of a product

As the two explain in this famous blog post, an implication of these definitions of testing and checking is that:

Checking is a process that can, in principle be performed by a tool instead of a human (automated), whereas testing can only be supported by tools (not automated).

And, as the two see it, all checking is testing, but not all testing is checking. 


Didn’t get to see the keynote? Well, Michael Bolton was kind enough to pass us along the lyrics to share with the community and we also have an audio recording of him rapping!

Read the lyrics below to know why we do not dare utter the words: automated testing anymore. (Although, you may still hear us call it that from time to time, as it’s still a pervasive term in the industry)!

Michael Bolton’s Original Testing Rap

Michael Bolton’s rap lyrics as of June 3, 2017 (lyrics may change over time)*:

Experimentation, learning, freestyle exploration

studying and modeling, conjecture, observation

test code development, task prioritization

checking out competitors, preparing simulations

reconciling your testing with required regulations

gathering, assessing, and applying information

deliberation, judgement, designing visualizations

setting up the lab to try complex configurations

working out the problems in a puzzling situation

finding ambiguity in a product specification

trying to look beyond the predicted expectation

that’s because testing’s all about investigation

questioning and learning-playful product interaction

trying to keep your focus while you’re managing distraction

sensemaking, myth-breaking, decision making, no faking

stressing out the product to discover where it’s breaking

refining test approaches through deliberate practice

how could hackers hack this? don’t give them access!

working with the marketers to show the app’s power

point to all the features try to finish in an hour

So I shall socialize to promote collaboration

other folks can help me with my testing preparation

talking with the managers to learn what they require

testing for charisma—that’s what customers desire

refactoring at every step keeping things maintainable

let’s get over overtime and make the pace sustainable

working with the marketers to show the app’s power

point to all the features try to finish in an hour

selecting, configuring, and then applying tools

applying critical thinking confirmation is for fools

pattern recognition, distributed cognition

helping shy colleagues get over inhibition

building coverage models, analyzing risk

eliminating waste, trying to keep the pace brisk

wrestling with problems in the setup of environments

interviewing users to discover their requirements

interrupted and disrupted ‘cos the product’s full of bugs

the fellas who developed it must have been on drugs!

I want to say this while I’m in a rap rhythm

a check’s a part of testing encoded in algorithm

testing’s much more than automated checks and test cases

human variation puts the product through its paces

use the tools powerfully, that’s what I’m suggesting

but don’t try to tell me you ca automate the testing!

To clarify, these are the lyrics that we received from him after the event. Some appear crossed out because he didn’t actually rap those verses for us on this particular occasion. Nevertheless, they are worth sharing!

What a delight it was to watch Bolton’s keynote! Let us know, do you agree with his testing philosophy?


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