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The industry jargon can be hard to decipher at times, especially when trying to explain these buzzwords to fellow co-workers within your organization who don’t really have a clue what you are talking about. Buzzwords are unavoidable, however, there needs to be a clear understanding of what a buzzword is and the testing buzzwords you should know.
A buzzword can be defined as, “a term of art or technical jargon that has begun to have wider use in society among non-specialists who use the term vaguely or imprecisely.”
Basically, it comes down to the word being so overused that it loses its original meaning and begins to confuse people within the industry. Think of the words like visibility or enterprise you have probably heard over and over again, but each person has a different understanding of the word.
Crowdsourced testing is becoming a popular word to throw around, especially since the rise of crowdsourced funding (not related to testing). Crowdsourced testing is when a person with a website asks fellow testers to “attack” the server to see how much load the site can take and to try to run through many user paths. You can probably find a Redditor asking his fellow friends to join him for a “load testing party.” Like this guy…
Without mass coordination and planning, crowdsourced testing is not as effective as using a testing tool — which will get you better, more reliable, and more predictable results.
TaaS is also known as on-demand testing. Basically, it is an outsourced model where a test plan is given to a service provider who then executes all that testing on the organization’s behalf. Usually, due primarily to expense, a company will still do most of their testing in-house. TaaS is most suitable for specialized testing efforts that don’t require a lot of in-depth knowledge of the design or the system but may require a unique environment or short-term bursts of specialized activity.
While some TaaS providers operate with heavy automation out of a well-equipped lab, you’ll also find TaaS providers that use crowdsourced testing to achieve results for their clients.
This buzzword has significantly changed since when it was first used. The first thing an electronics engineer would do when testing a device was to turn it on and watch for smoke. If they saw any, something was clearly wrong.
The meaning of smoke testing as it relates to performance testing still refers to an early check, but luckily no smoke is involved. It is used as a gatekeeper — telling the tester if it is all right to initiate the long, intensive battery of performance tests that will follow. The last thing anyone wants to do is kick off a long series of tests before heading home for the night, only to come in the next day and see that the system crashed five minutes after you walked out the door.
Sanity checks are synonymous with smoke tests. You’ve probably heard this one a couple of times. It’s a basic test to quickly evaluate whether a claim or the result of a calculation can possibly be true. In testing, a sanity check will determine whether it is possible and reasonable to continue testing.
This buzzword might bring you back to your freshman statistics class, and some people confuse this test for looking for some sort of trend. It actually means you are testing changes to applications to make sure that older bugs that were previously fixed are not reintroduced with the new changes.
Mike Kelly, an expert in regression testing, explains: “When I think about regression testing, I think about any testing that involves the reuse of tests (manual or automated) or test ideas (regression charters for example — a regression test does not necessarily need to be the exact same test) to manage the risks of change. This could include testing for bug fixes, testing to make sure a bug fix didn’t break something else.”
Automated testing is often thought of as being specifically for functional testing, but it can mean any type of testing that is not performed manually. Businesses can automate many tasks, including load testing, which is easier than you might think if you’re already running continuous integration (CI) builds.
Software quality underwent a paradigm shift when automated testing systems were introduced. Instead of hiring an army of people to test a few functions on a few systems, it was suddenly possible to develop and run thousands of tests across many different real and virtual systems every day.
If you can automate your testing, why not run it with every code change? This is the concept behind continuous integration. The various developers working on a project combine their code — or check it in — to a central repository where it is built and tested automatically and continually. When a problem pops up between changes, you know about it immediately and can correct it right away.
You can thank Cem Kaner, the man who coined this buzzword back in 1983. Exploratory testing is sometimes confused with ad hoc testing but it’s actually an approach to software testing that is concisely described as simultaneous learning.
Kaner now defines the term as “a style of software testing that emphasizes the personal freedom and responsibility of the individual tester to continually optimize the quality of his or her work by treating test-related learning, test design, test execution, and test result interpretation as mutually supportive activities that run parallel throughout the project.”
Now that you have a clear understanding for these software testing buzzwords, we hope they won’t fool you in the future. Go forward knowing you have a clear understanding of what each of these words actually mean.
The post was originally published in 2014 and was most recently updated in July 2021.