AACID, a Test Mnemonic

I recently attended the local incarnation of the Software Testing Clinic (all glory to Dan, Mark, Del and Tracey) where the topic was Heuristics and Oracles. To my shame, a vast array of test-related heuristics and heuristic-related mnemonics were presented that I’d never heard of.

At home, chastened, I did some more digging and uncovered even more. One thing that struck me was how, while there were a few pages that listed the testing mnemonics, and clarified the words that each mnemonic should help you remember, I didn’t find much explanation about what the words should mean to you, and how they should help you do better testing.

[Kinda like the International Phonetic Alphabet; you’ll see IPA glyphs in pronunciation help when you look up words. The obvious problem is that if you don’t know which sounds correspond to things like “ʊ” or “ə”, then “haɪ poʊ kənˈdrɪ ə” is next to useless in explaining how to pronounce “hypochondria”. But I digress…]

[Heurist|Mnemonic].*

So this led me to throw together the [Heurist-o-matic | Heuristicator | Heuristonomicon | Mnemonicomatic] (haven’t decided yet, but I think ‘Mnemonicomatic’ is winning);

  1. to bring together all the test mnemonics on a pretty webpage,
  2. to make it easy for people stuck for ideas to have some thrown at them without any effort,
  3. Most Importantly,  to expand upon what they actually mean.

Coding stuff aside – which didn’t really take all that long; I reused some old stuff – the bit that took longest was collating the information, trying to determine who the author is, but mostly what each bit of the mnemonic was actually trying to convey.

And as I was doing this, and reading the names of the authors, I felt that I should come up with something to add to my list, so I could be cool like them 🙂 And then I remembered; I already had!

Apologies for the 80s flashbacks, buuut……..AACID!

Some time ago I was trying to summarise my / our approach to testing, and to distill it down so I could communicate it to others. As a bit of a logophile – someone who loves words – I wanted to use similar word forms – in this case all ending in -ate – as another mechanism to aid recollection, in addition to the mnemonic.

The original mnemonic was ACIAD, because that’s broadly the order in which the things that each letter represents occur, but who’s going to remember ACIAD? So I messed it about, and boom. AACID. In reality, you will likely do aspects of each of these notional “stages” in different orders, or even at the same time, so it’s not too much of a cheat.

I wasn’t quite sure how to categorise this mnemonic, which might not be a big deal, but all the other mnemonics have one and I don’t want mine to picked on. So I think these are general testing principles to act as your touchstones, your center, the principles to which you can return if things get frustrating and confused.

1. Appreciate

The Appreciate stage is about learning as much as you can and building up your understanding of everything related to the project or product. Find and consume as many sources of any kind of information you can.

2. Communicate

The Communicate stage is about building up your support and information network. Talk to other roles and build up mutually beneficial relationships. If you uncover conflicting information, check your understanding and ask questions. Be constructive and support others.

3. Investigate

The Investigate stage is the exploratory, learning, testing phase where you are examining the product. Go slowly and pay attention. Take pictures. If you feel something, find out why. Look everywhere. Trust your instincts. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open.

4. Assimilate

The Assimilate stage is about allowing what you learn to alter what and how you test. Don’t forget to apply what you have learned. Adapt your expectations, but don’t abandon your values. Add their distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is futile.

5. Deviate

The Deviate stage is about doing all the things “they” say aren’t important or will never happen. Nothing ever happened until the first time. Mess about and get it “wrong”. Try different stuff, weird stuff. Find the edge and go beyond it. Get distracted and follow your nose.

There will doubtless be other guiding testing principles which I’d be happy to add to the list.

So remember; when in doubt, AACID.

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