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Subject: RE: [tag-discuss] Keep It Simple: some options
Never too late to jump in :-) I think you made a good case for a first deliverable just being a guideline - but a broadly applicable and authoritative one.
- even if the first step is a TA methodology guideline without ambition beyond that (e.g. mark-up) you don' t seem to rule out a more formal TA representation in a next step. :
(a) a TC charter that only targets a TA guideline as unique deliverable, and explicitly prohibit any work on a formal representation (e.g. XML mark-up). Any intent to do other deliverables beyond this guideline, after being done with the guideline, would require a re-chartering of the TC.
(b) a TC charter that targets a TA guideline as first deliverable (mandatory), and also allows the TC - should the TC consider it useful - to produce another deliverable (optional) containing a TA representation or mark-up. The TC may also decide (vote) at that time on the purpose of this mark-up, as it may impact its design. E.g. may decide that requirements for this mark-up are just for publishing concerns.
(c) same as (b), but the 2nd deliverable - the TA mark-up or whatever representation - is not an option, I.e. it is understood the TC is supposed to produce it.
In all 3 above, the TC must focus on a guideline in a first phase, that excludes a mark-up or formal TA representation. It may work on a mark-up in second phase, and this deliverable will be distinct (a different document) from the guideline deliverable. Only, it is easier to do so when going from (a) to (c):
- in (a), Re-chartering the TC to extend its scope is a bit more paperwork, and requires 2/3 majority to pass. Also needs be done with same IPR mode.
- in (b), TC may decide either to NOT do the mark-up (simple majority vote), or to do it, after producing the guideline deliverable.
- in (c), TC is committed to work on a mark-up after being done with 1st deliverable. (I know that some folks have mentioned they consider this an important output)
NOTE: everyone welcome to " vote" on this too... or add alternative if you really can' t live with any above option...
From: Patrick.Curran@Sun.COM [mailto:Patrick.Curran@Sun.COM]
Sent: Tuesday, December 05, 2006 6:24 PM
Subject: [tag-discuss] Keep It Simple
I've lurked for too long - sorry about that. I've been following the discussion with great interest, and it's time for me to jump in. I'll start by offering some general opinions and suggestions, and then hopefully I'll be able to respond in more detail to some individual messages.
In the interests of making progress in a reasonable period of time, and of defining something that is likely to be adopted by a significant number of spec writers and test developers, I propose that we Keep It Simple.
Our primary goal should be to encourage and promote the use of test assertions by specification writers. The W3C QA Working Group briefly discussed the value of test assertions in the QA Framework:
Specification Guidelines , but much remains to be done to explain and justify their use. Publication of a "guidelines" document, even without any definition of structure or markup would be extremely valuable. (My test developers spend a considerable amount of time identifying assertions when this could have been done by the spec authors.)
While it is theoretically possible to write specifications in formal languages, and to write (or even automatically derive) detailed, structured test assertions from which test cases can be automatically generated, most spec authors would not use these approaches. (With some notable exceptions - for example the Java Language and Virtual Machine specs - most specs in the Java world are written in English by people whose primary job is not the creation of formal specifications, but rather of creating software which they document as best they can.)
I therefore suggest that we declare these topics out of scope, at least for the first phase of our work.
A topic of lively discussion within the W3C Working Group was whether it's possible to classify "testable sentences" within a specification as test assertions, or whether assertions must necessarily be "derived"
from the specification and formulated separately in some kind of supplement to the spec. I believe that we must allow for both possibilities. (Here in the Java world we usually identify text within the specs as assertions, but I know that other approach is preferred
The QAWG eventually agreed that both approaches were valid, and defined a test assertion as "a measurable or testable statement of behavior, action, or condition [that is] contained within or derived from the specification's requirements and provides a normative foundation from which one or more test cases can be built."
In addition to promoting the identification/creation of test assertions, a simple XHTML markup would be very helpful. For example, when an assertion is contained within the specification we might mark it up like
<assertion id="123">The horizontal and vertical sides of a square are equal in length.</assertion> This means that you can flip the square by 90 degrees and it will look just the same.
Alternatively, if the text of an assertion is not found directly within the specification but instead is derived from it and recorded separately, it might be marked up like this (note that we now need to provide a pointer into the specification to indicate where the assertion was derived from):
The horizontal and vertical sides of a square must be equal in length.</assertion>
If the TC achieved no more than this (encouraging spec authors to create test assertions and defining a simple markup) I would be very pleased.
A well-defined list of assertions is key to much of the test development process, and a great deal can be built from this simple foundation - for example, coverage maps and reports, "marked-up" specifications that link assertions to test cases, etc. (See "How Many Tests are Enough?" in the Test Development FAQ  for my thoughts on coverage measurement.) For example, here at Sun we have a tool that we use to identify and mark test assertions within Javadoc, to associate assertions with test cases, and to generate reports that tell us how extensively we've covered various areas of the specifications. Industry standards in this area would allow us to create a more widely useful version of this tool.
Of course, once we've defined a markup for assertions there will always be a great temptation to add more structure and additional elements.
What version(s) of the spec does this assertion apply to? Is it associated with a Profile or another "Dimension of Variability" ? How important is it that it be tested? Is it tested, and if so how thoroughly?
Some additional structure is probably appropriate for test assertions, but we might want to consider starting with a "Basic Profile" that defines the minimum necessary elements and expand on this in a later phase to create an"Advanced Profile".
However, we should beware of conflating test (case) metadata with test assertions. They don't necessarily belong together. (An assertion states what is to be tested, whereas test metadata typically helps to define how to test.) Given a simple assertion ID as suggested above, test metadata stored separately from the specification or assertion list could easily be integrated with it. As an author of the Test Metadata document  David referred to in another thread, I encourage those who wish to work on test metadata to do so through the W3C QA Interest Group rather than here.
In conclusion, I suggest limiting our phase one activities to a "guidelines" document that explains the value and promotes the use of test assertions, and the definition of a simple markup that allows them to be identified within text specifications and also in separate "assertion lists". As the QA Framework: Specification Guidelines 
"Test assertions facilitate the development of consistent, complete specifications and promote the early development of test cases.
Developing or extracting test assertions helps uncover inconsistencies, ambiguities, gaps, and non-testable statements in the specification. It can provide early feedback to the editors regarding areas that need attention. An added benefit is that the assertions are usable as input to test development efforts."
For the record, I do believe we should form a TC and I don't believe that we need a workshop before we can do so, though I think there would be great benefit to some kind of meeting once we've made a start.
I'm looking forward to participating, and will encourage other members of my team to do so too.
Manager, Java SE Conformance Test Development, Sun Microsystems
 QA Framework: Specification Guidelines:
 Test Development FAQ: http://www.w3.org/QA/WG/2005/01/test-faq
 Variability in Specifications: http://www.w3.org/TR/spec-variability/
 Test Metadata: http://www.w3.org/TR/test-metadata/
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