Friday, September 23, 2005

Oblique Strategies and testing

A message posted to comp.lang.python pointed me to a post by Robin Parmar on Oblique Strategies. I had read about this concept before, but I didn't really delve into it, so it was nice to see it mentioned again. The Oblique Strategies are one-line sentences devised by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt as ways to "jog your mind" and get you unstuck in moments when your creative juices don't flow as much as you would like to. They offer "tangential" solutions to problems, as opposed to the more obvious, and oftentimes futile, "head-on" solutions.

It strikes me that the Oblique Strategies could be an important tool in a tester's arsenal. After all, good testers should be able to "sniff" problems that are not obvious; they should be able to go on "tangents" at any time, to follow their intuition in finding bugs that might be due to subtle interactions. I find it funny that, according to Brian Eno, the very first Oblique Strategy he wrote was "Honour thy error as a hidden intention." Errors, bugs...sounds pretty familiar to me!

I was thrilled when I saw that Robin wrote a Python script that emits a randomly chosen Oblique Strategy every time it's run. I plan on using it regularly to jog my devious tester mind :-)

Here's one strategy that was already printed twice by the script, so I'd better pay attention to it today: Slice into equal pieces. I can't really tell you what that means, I'm not yet done mind-jogging....


Michael Bolton said...

Feed the output back in as input.

---Michael B.

Michael Bolton said...

I forgot to mention that I think this is really wonderful.

---Michael B.

Anonymous said...

Elisabeth Hendrickson has a cute random-test-strategy generator, at

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