Software Testing and Entropy

One of the challenges facing the field of software testing is the perception that test engineers have weak technical skills relative to developers and that the field has too many self-proclaimed experts who are anything but. One example is the upcoming Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference, in Portland, OR, in October. In past years I have been quite impressed with the technical quality of the speakers at the PNSQC. I’ll probably go to PNSQC but find it hard to recommend the event to others this year because the list of invited speakers appears to have been significantly dumbed-down. One quote from the PNSQC invited speakers descriptions goes, "One final secret every project manager must know—there is no ‘one right way’ to manage a project. Everything depends on your context." Well, there’s a real intellectual gem. Another quotes goes, " Some managers who’ve never studied testing, never done testing, probably have never even *seen* testing up close, nevertheless insist that it be rigorously planned in advance and fully documented." Okay, show me some data to support this ridiculous statement. Which managers? Where do they work? What survey or data supports this claim? On the other hand, I just returned from the Software Engineering and Data Engineering (SEDE) conference which had terrific speakers who actually presented useful, new information. One such topic is the relationship between software testing and entropy. In simple terms, entropy is a measure of disorder in a system. The general equation for entropy is:
where b is an arbitrary base (often 2 or 10) and p(x) is the probability that some random variable X takes on value x. The math looks scary but the concepts use only freshman level mathematics and are actually very, very simple. The talk at SEDE went on to describe many highly practical ways entropy can be used in software testing scenarios to improve software quality. The perception of software testing conferences will improve when conference organizers reduce the number of fluffy talks such as "Make Your Project Successful" and increase the number of talks that provide interesting and useful new testing information.
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