23 August, 2011

Schools of testing?

CAST 2011 hosted an interesting debate between Doug Hoffman and James Bach on the topic of schools of software testing. The question under discussion was not whether there are different schools of thought within the testing community or not, but rather whether naming the schools and associating people with them is a good - or really bad - idea.

The debate was energetic, and clearly provoked a strong reaction in a lot of the attendees, which was only expected. The core issue is of course if it is ok to categorize people without bothering with their opinion. Most people categorize others, but hate when they themselves are put in a category that they do not approve of, or think they should belong to. It is a very touchy subject.

Personally, I like it.

To me, the fact that someone is associated with a school of thought corresponds to me being provided with a table of contents of a book. Let me try to explain. If person A says to me "- Person B belongs to the XYZ school", it provides me with a limited amount of information about person B, just like browsing a table of contents tells me something, but not everything, about the book. Immediately - without having to read the whole book (i.e. without having to have a deep discussion with the person) - I get a rough idea of the contents (i.e. the person's views and ideas). The same way I do not mind being associated with a school, or associating myself with a school. I find it helpful because I do not have to explain my general views over and over again, I just need to state which school(s) I consider myself belonging to. Sometimes I will disagree when others associate me with a certain school, but  that on the other hand gives me valuable clues as to how I am perceived. And it might even make me change my behaviour.

However, I do assume that people are mature and intelligent enough to realize that a table of contents can be misleading, and in order to get the full story you actually have to read the book. You cannot know a person without having talked to them and having formed your own opinion.

I think the concept of schools of testing is helpful, and in all honesty - even if it was rejected people would still categorize each other 'secretly'. I would rather have it done openly so you at least can have a discussion.

18 August, 2011

CAST 2011

I'm back from CAST 2011, and I've had some time to digest the experience and think about what thoughts I want to share. There have been many excellent write-ups that give detailed account of what transpired at the conference, and there is no need for another (worse) one. Instead, I'll make some short remarks on my impressions.

I had very high expectations, but I'm still amazed.

What drives me in life in general and as a tester in particular is a continuous strive forwards and a desire to learn and progress. I have no sympathy whatsoever for people who seem to consider testing to be nothing more than a way to pass time and earn your paycheck. What made CAST 2011 such a fantastic experience was that it was a gathering of enthusiastic, engaged, creative and ambitious testers. All willing both to learn and to teach. Everyone was friendly and approachable and willing to share. I was in awe of all the experience and knowledge that was surrounding me.

Even though there were of course different opinions on various topics on a smaller scale, it was fantastic to see such a large body of people all strive in the same general direction, sharing the same goal. And I find it very comforting to see people (testers) take such pride in their work.

I learned a lot and got a bunch of new ideas to try out, but mainly I was just soaking up the joy and energy. Thank you everyone who attended and thereby contributed to making CAST 2011 one of the best conference I've ever been to.

I'm proud to be a tester.