Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams

Lisa Crispin, Janet Gregory (2008)
Review date: August, 2010

This book has 21 chapters, so there's no point in summarizing them all. It's also divided into parts, five of them, which are more managable.

The first part lays ground by describing the agile tester and agile practices in general. Two chapters are devoted to this.

In part two, "Organizational Challenges", the authors discuss actual problems and caution signs, but also team composition and work practices. Three chapters in total.

"The Agile Testing Quadrants" make up the theoretical bulk of the book and span over six chapters. Here Brian Marick's model is explained in detail, and each quadrant is its own chapter.

Then comes a two-chapter part on automation. No surprises.

A second "theory hump" is found in the fifth part - "An Iteration in the Life of a Tester", where practical advice is given about every phase of the development cycle, and the agile tester's role.

The book ends with a summary part.

Two things make this book stand out in terms of layout and structure: Each chapter begins with a mind map, and the book is full of anecdotal stories.


When writing a review, I usually look at the notes I was taking while reading the book. In this case I threw these notes away immediately. Somehow they didn't help!

Even though this book is very well structured, with mind maps at the beginning of every chapter, I find it very hard to say what it's about. To be honest, I think it's because it covers so much ground. When reading it, I got the impression that it touched on pretty much everything that has to do with testing in agile environments. At the same time, the authors keep a shallow level. Maybe "shallow" isn't the right word. It's as if they stop as soon as they've covered a topic just enough.

My overall impression is that this book is like a saga, a story on testing. I don't think it's very easy to pick a chapter that matches your topic of interest, read it and then apply its contents. Instead, this book constitutes a flow that should be read as a whole. I get this impression, because I didn't perceive the chapters as natural boundaries between different concepts.

Enough of advice on reading. What's good and what's bad?

If you have little experience doing agile development and testing, this book will most likely open a new world to you. The amount of experience gathered and expressed here is really vast. You can really tell that the authors have done it all and decided to put it on paper. The book is full of short stories from the authors' day to day work. While some of them are a little simplistic, they should provide a newcomer to the field with lots of practical examples. At first I found them a little annoying, but by reaching the end of the book I found them quite fun, and they do break up the text and make it easier to read.

For me, the brightest shining star in this book was the section on the agile testing quadrants. It was the first time I saw this classification, and I couldn't find equally exhaustive material when googling the term.

On the whole, I think this is a really good book that should provide something for both beginning and advanced agile developers/testers. When I come to think about it, it somewhat resembles the book The Art of Agile Development.

What's bad then? As I said earlier, I threw away my notes, so I'm not going to pick on any particular phrasing. Instead, I can mention that the book feels a bit unstructured and repetitive, and long. It covers a lot of ground, but I kept feeling that I read the same thing over and over again, but somehow differently phrased and viewed from another angle. Since this is pretty much the only bad thing I have to say about this book, I strongly recommend reading it. Just read it for the sake of the anecdotes and not as a cookbook.

Who should read this book

Everyone involved in agile development from either the developer's or tester's perspective will find something valuable in this book. Either you find some new ideas, or you find confirmation that you're doing things right.


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