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Five Questions With Kyle Larsen

July 28, 2008

Kyle Larsen water skis barefoot. He also tests Microsoft's security engines. I don't know which feat would scare me more to attempt! Kyle, however, takes them both in stride. If you ever meet Kyle, his love for testing (or for water skiing, depending where you meet him) will come through loud and clear. So will his willingness to help other people learn, whether those other people are young children setting out on their first barefoot ski attempt or young testers setting out on their first bug hunt. Regardless of whether your goal is to increase the quality of your skiing or to increase the quality of your code, Kyle can help you do that.

Here is what Kyle has to say:

DDJ: What was your first introduction to testing? What did that leave you thinking about the act and/or concept of testing?

KL: My first introduction to formal testing was in a Software Engineering course at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. What I thought was that it was impossible that, knowing all of the test cases in advance, a development team would not build software that passes every test. The test team gives the answer key to development, so ... that math still doesn't make sense to me.

DDJ: What has most surprised you as you have learned about testing/in your experiences with testing?

KL: Model-based testing, monkeys, test generators, and these sorts of things mean there are many easy ways to explore an infinite input space so, it is not as easy for development as it might seem. What surprises me most though is that testing is a bottomless pit. There is more to learn than has been discovered. Even if we could solve every class of defects known today in an instant, it takes only one creative tester to think of a new class of issue that no one before sought to discover and everything comes unraveled.

DDJ: What is the most interesting bug you have seen?

KL: Every bug that is not found on purpose is the most interesting bug. Every bug that is stumbled upon by luck or without any real plan to have found it represents a single sting from a swarm that, left unaddressed, will follow.

DDJ: What do you think is the most important thing for a tester to know? To do? For developers to know and do about testing?

KL: Know the product. Know the developers, their designs, their code, the changes they make, their process, the defects they fear, the mistakes they made in the past, the mistakes the competition made. Know what the users appreciate and what they hate. Know the techniques others are using to discover defects in general and in specific to your own product. Probably what is most important though is to know that there is always something in the product that can be improved.

DDJ: Is there anything else you would like to say?

KL: Are you counting five bullet points or five question marks? One bullet point here was full of three questions and a conjunction to top it off. But, on the other hand, does this count as an answer? I'm sure I lost count somewhere ...


[See my Table Of Contents post for more details about this interview series.]

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