Getting Ready for Beta and Focus Testing
NetBeans IDE 5.0 beta will be out during next few days, depending how fast the remaining P1s get fixed. These days our quality engineering team is performing intensive testing of beta. Special attention is given to the biggest highlights, like Matisse. I think some of my colleagues are getting crazy of making forms all the time, but that's what you have to do if you are a tester.
In our QE team, we do all the usual quality stuff like writing test specs, going through them, writing automatic tests, measuring code coverage, testing performance, accessibility (A11Y), internationalization (I18N), etc. As you can imagine, being a tester means doing a lot of repetitive tasks which are not as cool as writing code. I have the impression we have the same kind of issue as documentators, our work is basicly the opposite of exciting (which is boring).
This year we started to use a new technique called "focus testing". You gather a group of let's say six people who focus on testing a single part of the IDE. Although I was never a member of these focus groups - we did only few such tests so far, my impression is that this group way of testing is much less boring than usual testing (some people seem to enjoy it!). The point is that you can share experiences you have with tested features, bad-mouth developers for their silly bugs, discuss various strange things which occur when using the features and so on.
Of course you can find lots of duplicates during the focus testing, but that's not really an issue - at least you know which bugs are really visible. As an observer, focus testing seems to me as a really useful way of testing, the results are quite impressive both in number of filed bugs and in the confidence the team has about the biggest issues.
I read a few books about testing (which are probably even more boring than testing itself) and I never found description of such a technique in them. So I was wondering if there is some official term for this kind of tests and if other QE groups are using it. So if you did something like this before, please let me know, I'd be interested in your experiences.