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This chapter is from the book

1.8 Pitfall Specifications

Chapter 2 gives high-level descriptions of the different pitfalls, while Chapter 3 documents each testing pitfall with the following detailed information:

  • Title A short, descriptive name of the pitfall
  • Description A brief definition of the pitfall
  • Potential Applicability The context in which the pitfall may be applicable
  • Characteristic Symptoms (or, How You Will Know) Symptoms that indicate the possible existence of the pitfall
  • Potential Negative Consequences (Why You Should Care) Potential negative consequences to expect if the pitfall is not avoided or mitigated3
  • Potential Causes Potential root and proximate causes of the pitfall4
  • Recommendations (What You Should Do) Recommended actions (prepare, enable, perform, and verify) to take to avoid or mitigate the pitfall5
  • Related Pitfalls A list of other related testing pitfalls

    A few words on word choice and grammar are probably appropriate before you start reading about the individual pitfalls:

  • Potential Applicability You may fall into these pitfalls on your project, but then again you may not. Some pitfalls will be more probable and therefore more relevant than others. Of course, if you have already fallen into a given pitfall, it ceases to be potentially applicable and is now absolutely applicable. Because potential applicability currently exists, it is described in the present tense.
  • Characteristic Symptoms You may have observed these symptoms in the past, and you may well be observing them now. They may even be waiting for you in the future. To save me from having to write all three tenses and, more importantly, to save you from having to read them all, I have listed all symptoms in present tense.
  • Potential Negative Consequences Once again, you may have suffered these consequences in the past, or they may be happening now. These consequences might still be in the future and avoidable (or subject to mitigation) if you follow the appropriate recommendations now. These consequences are also listed in the present tense.

Note that sometimes the first symptom(s) of a pitfall are the negative consequence(s) you are suffering from because you fell into it. Therefore, it is not always obvious whether something should be listed under symptoms, consequences, or both. To avoid listing the same negative event or situation twice for the same pitfall, I have endeavored to include it only once under the most obvious heading.

  • Potential Causes Finally, the causes may also lie in your past, your present, or your future. However, they seem to sound best when written in the past tense, for they must by their very nature precede the pitfall’s symptoms and consequences.
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