Testing Lessons from England’s Courthouses


I had an interesting day on Friday (16 July).  I decided to stay on in London for an extra day after the London Testers Gathering the previous evening and was glad I did.  During the course of the day I learned much that can be applied to the software testing craft.

I have always been interested in the law but it is many years since I sat in a Courthouse listening to cases.  I took the opportunity on Friday morning to visit the Old Bailey (the Central Criminal Court in London, famous because of the number of notable cases brought before it).

In the first case I sat in on, the Counsel for the Prosecution was summing up for the jury.  Note-taking would prove vital for recalling the facts when the jury comes to deliberate its verdict and it was encouraging to see the number of people jotting notes.  I think if I were sat on that jury I, too, would have needed to take copious notes to aid concentration to counter the dry monotones being used by the barrister!

The second case was also very instructive for me as a tester.  An expert witness was being cross-examined by the Counsel for the Defence but the answers being given were unclear.  I was fascinated listening to the way the barrister dealt with this.  He kept rephrasing the same question but probing slightly different angles.  I was reminded of the persistence with which we must explore the questions we try to answer by testing.  Do we just accept an answer which does not quite fit or do we explore other avenues of enquiry to understand what we have observed?

After the expert witness was allowed to stand down from the dock, a further witness was called.  The questioning style was altered to suite the witness and less technical language was used in the phrasing of the questions.  When we are testing do we go for a ‘one size fits all’ approach and test everything in the same way or are we careful to tailor our approach to the situation?  I trust that for all of us it is the latter.

I then spent an enjoyable afternoon at the Royal Courts of Justice where the higher Courts of the legal system in England and Wales sit.  I went into three cases there and it was interesting being reminded again of how persistent we must be to get to the bottom of some of the questions we need to answer by testing.  In one of the cases brought before the Court of Appeal an adjournment was being sought because new ways of interpreting and dealing with a piece of evidence had come to light.  Are we careful to re-consider our approaches to testing in the light of new ideas and evidence?

Whilst it is very good to read testing literature extensively it is also good to explore other disciplines and see what we can learn from them to help us in our day-to-day testing.  For me my day in London’s Courthouses was very educational and I will look forward to visiting again some time.

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One Response to “Testing Lessons from England’s Courthouses”

  1. Tweets that mention Testing Lessons from England’s Courthouses « Stephen Hill's Blog -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Anna Baik, Stephen Hill. Stephen Hill said: Testing Lessons from England's Courthouses: We can learn much from observing due legal process. A report of my day e… http://wp.me/pRZ0L-z […]

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