Monthly Archives: December 2018

2018 in review

I’ll briefly look back on 2018 to close out my blogging for the year. I published 19 blog posts in 2018, down a little from 2017 (with 22 posts). My target cadence remains one post per month so I feel like I’ve done “enough” over the year and hopefully provided some valuable and interesting content along the way. The stats indicate almost exactly the same number of views of my blog as during the previous year, but with a slight increase in the number of visitors. If there are topics you’d like to see me talking about here (especially to encourage more new readers), please just let me know.

Conferences & meetups

It was my quietest year in a long time in terms of conference attendance. I made it to just two conferences (both specific testing events), co-organizing one and co-presenting at the other.

My first conference of 2018 came in February with the Association for Software Testing‘s second Australian conference,  CASTx18 in Melbourne, for which I was Programme Chair and local organizer. The conference went really well, with a great programme (well, I would say that!) and lots of good vibes from the delegates. The Langham Hotel was a fine venue for the event and the success of the conference led the AST to commit to the 2019 conference (and beyond) – more on that below!

My only speaking gig of the year came in October up in Sydney, co-presenting with Paul Seaman at the inaugural TestBash Australia conference. This sold-out conference featured a good single-track programme and it was great to meet up with so many friends from the testing community there. Our presentation went well and the topic (our volunteer work running a software testing training course for young adults on the autism spectrum) seemed to resonate with many people in the audience. It was an enjoyable gig all round and we appreciated the opportunity to broaden awareness of the EPIC TestAbility Academy.

In terms of meetups, I only made it to those running alongside conferences. I organized a meetup before the CASTx18 conference and Katrina Clokie drew a good crowd, with fantastic hospitality courtesy of the Langham. The pre-TestBash Sydney Testers meetup in Sydney saw a presentation from Trish Koo and a decent bunch of testers turned up at the impressive Gumtree offices in the CBD.

Work stuff

Quest under private equity ownership continues to do well. I again managed to visit our major Engineering locations during the year, namely in China, California and Czech Republic (those three locations within about two months actually!), and the opportunity to travel and work with people from different cultures remains one of the most enjoyable (and challenging) aspects of my role.

I was promoted during the year, to “Director of Software Craft” (previously “Principal Test Architect”), giving me a broad remit to help the Engineering teams across the world improve the way they build, test and deploy their software.

Community work

My community efforts through 2018 were directed in two main ways, viz. the EPIC TestAbility Academy (ETA) and the AST’s conference.

ETA – a software testing training course for young adults on the autism spectrum (in association with the not-for-profit disability organization, EPIC Assist) that I present together with Paul Seaman – continued in 2018 after the good start we made in 2017. Although we originally planned to run the course twice during the year, we only managed to run it once and I was absent for a large portion of it due to work and personal travel commitments (with Michele Playfair doing an outstanding job of covering for me). For the first time, we had a couple of students finding placements at the end of the course actually doing software testing so that was incredibly rewarding. We hope to continue with ETA in 2019 if EPIC Assist can find a way to staff and fund the programme.

At the CASTx18 conference, I was asked by the AST to more formally take on responsibility for the ongoing organization of their Australian conference. It was not an easy decision to take on this responsibility, but I was honoured to be asked and decided to accept on the basis of jointly working with Paul Seaman to organize their conference from 2019 onwards. Paul and I decided to rebrand the conference and so “Testing in Context Conference Australia” (TiCCA) was born. We enjoyed coming up with a theme, inviting our keynote speakers (viz. Lynne Cazaly and Ben Simo), running a call for proposals, and selecting our speakers. Registrations are ticking along and we’re looking forward to running the two-day conference at the end of February at the Jasper Hotel. (More details on the conference and registration packages can be found at the conference website, http://ticca19.org).

Other stuff

I got the opportunity to appear on two different podcasts during the year, something I’d never done before. The first one was for the New Zealand-based SuperTestingBros podcast where I talked about neurodiversity and ETA with Paul Seaman.

The second one was a long-distance affair, chatting with Johan Steyn from South Africa for his Careers in Software Testing podcast.

These were both good experiences, quite different in flavour but hopefully of general interest and I look forward to opportunities to do more podcasts in the future.

I feel like the year has been a good mix in terms of developing professionally while also giving back via a couple of community-focused projects in ETA and TiCCA. I’m sure 2019 has challenges in store and I have a new (personal) testing-related project hopefully kicking off early in the New Year, so watch this space for more details on that!

In the meantime, all that remains for me to do is wish you all a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, and I hope you enjoy my posts to come through 2019.

In response to “context-driven testing” is the “don’t do stupid stuff” school of testing

I blogged about the Twitter conversation that ensued from this tweet from Katrina Clokie:

One of the threads that came out of this conversation narrowed the focus down to “schools of testing” and, in particular, the context-driven testing community:

There’s a bit to unpack here, so let me address these replies piece by piece.

“Divisive rhetoric from some of the thought leaders in that camp”

I can only assume that Rex was referring to the more vocal members of the CDT community, such as James Bach. I haven’t personally experienced anyone trying to be deliberately divisive in the CDT community, but I acknowledge that passion sometimes manifests itself in some strongly-worded comments. Even then, I wouldn’t see this as “rhetoric” as that implies a lack of sincerity or meaningful content. The CDT community, in my experience, attracts those who are sincere about improving software testing, the way it’s done, and the value it delivers.

The use of the term “thought leaders” is also interesting as I don’t see anyone within this community referring to themselves or anyone else as thought leaders. There are obviously more prominent members of the CDT community but also many doing great work in advancing the craft of software testing in line with the principles of CDT behind the scenes (i.e. not so vocally via avenues such as social media).

“CDT is more accurately called the “pay attention” or the “don’t do stupid stuff” school of testing”

I’m not sure whether Matt Griscom’s response was designed to provoke CDT community members or stemmed from a genuine misunderstanding of the seven principles of CDT, which are:

  1. The value of any practice depends on its context.
  2. There are good practices in context, but there are no best practices.
  3. People, working together, are the most important part of any project’s context.
  4. Projects unfold over time in ways that are often not predictable.
  5. The product is a solution. If the problem isn’t solved, the product doesn’t work.
  6. Good software testing is a challenging intellectual process.
  7. Only through judgment and skill, exercised cooperatively throughout the entire project, are we able to do the right things at the right times to effectively test our products.

I agree that we should all be paying attention as testers (or as any other contributor to a project). Paying attention to the broader project context is really important if we are to do a great job of testing, but it is still overlooked and too many testers seem to think the software in front of them is the most important (or, worse, only) aspect of the context that they need to care about.

The seven principles of CDT may well also help to decrease the chances of testers spending their time doing “stupid stuff”, but that seems like a good thing to me. Working in alignment with these principles is, to me, a better approach than following standards or “best practices” that fail to account for the unique context of the project I’m working in. I’d argue that many best practices or recommendations from other “schools” actively promote what would in fact be “stupid stuff” in many contexts.

“the value of the phrase “context-driven””

I don’t see “context-driven” as a phrase – we have a clear statement of the seven principles backing what “context-driven testing” is (see above) and the value comes from understanding what those principles mean and performing testing in alignment with them. Rex replied on Matt’s request for enlightenment, saying “”Marketing” is the value enjoyed by a small few testers. “Schism” is the price paid by all other testers.” I don’t agree with this and the use of the term “schism” is exactly the kind of divisive language Rex was accusing CDT community members of using. Does anyone “outside” of the CDT community really “pay a price” for the existence of that community? I just don’t see it.

(The domain that Matt refers to is http://context-driven-testing.com/ and it’s not being actively maintained as far as I’m aware, but it does at least give us a reference point for the principles. )

There – obviously – remain challenges for the context-driven testing community in communicating the very real value and benefits that come from testing viewed via the lens of the CDT principles. It’s great to see the continued efforts of the Association for Software Testing in this regard, with their most recent CAST conference having the theme of “bridging between communities”. I’m also proud to co-organize the AST’s Australian conference, TiCCA19, and look forward to delivering a great programme to a broad representation of the local testing community, with a focus on CDT and the value that approaches built around CDT principles offer.

On the testing community merry-go-round

This tweet from Katrina Clokie started a long and interesting discussion on Twitter:

I was a little surprised to see Katrina saying this as she’s been a very active and significant contributor to the testing community for many years and is an organizer for the highly-regarded WeTest conferences in New Zealand. It seems that her tweet was motivated by her recent experiences at non-testing conferences and it’s been great to see such a key member of the testing community taking opportunities to present at non-testing events.

The replies to this tweet were plentiful and largely supportive of the position that (a) the testing community has been talking about the same things for a decade or more, and (b) does not reach out to learn from & help educate other IT communities.

Groundhog Day?

Are we, as a testing community, really talking about the same things over and over again? I actually think we are and we aren’t, it really depends on your lens as to how you see this.

As Maria Kedemo replied on the Twitter thread, “What is old to you and me might be new to others” and I certainly think it’s the case that many conference topics repeat the same subject matter year on year – but this is not necessarily a bad thing. A show of hands in answering “who’s a first-timer?” at a conference usually results in a large proportion of hands going up, so there is always a new audience for the same messages. Provided these messages are sound and valuable, then why not repeat them to cover new entrants to the community? What might sound like the same talk/content from a presentation title on a programme could well be very different in content to what it was a decade ago, too. While I’m not familiar with developer conference content, I would imagine that they’re not dissimilar in this area, with some foundational developer topics being mainstays of conference programmes year on year.

I’ve been a regular testing conference delegate since 2007 (and, since 2014, speaker) and noticed significant changes in the “topics du jour” over this period. I’ve seen a move away from a focus on testing techniques and “testing as an independent thing” towards topics like quality coaching, testing as part of a whole team approach to quality (thanks agile), and human factors in being successful as a tester. At developer-centric conferences, I imagine shifts in topic driven frequently by changes in technology/language and also likely shifts due to agile adoption too.

As you may know, I’m involved with organizing the Association for Software Testing conferences in Australia and I do this for a number of reasons. One is to offer a genuine context-driven testing community conference in this geography (because I see that as a tremendously valuable thing in itself) and another is to build conference programmes offering something different from what I see at other testing events in Australia. The recently-released TiCCA19 conference programme, for example, features a keynote presentation from Lynne Cazaly and she is not directly connected with software testing but will deliver very relevant messages to our audience mainly drawn from the testing community.

Reach out

I think most disciplines – be they IT, testing or otherwise – fail to capitalize on the potential to learn from others, maybe it’s just human nature.

At least in the context-driven part of the testing world, though, I’ve seen genuine progress in taking learnings from a broader range of disciplines including social science, systems thinking, psychology and philosophy. I personally thank Michael Bolton for introducing me to many interesting topics from these broader disciplines that have helped me greatly in understanding the human aspects involved in testing.

In terms of broadening our message about what we believe good testing looks like, I agree that it’s generally the case that the more public members of the testing community are not presenting at, for example, developer-centric conferences. I have recently seen Katrina and others (e.g. Anne-Marie Charrett) taking the initiative to do so, though, and hopefully more non-testing conferences will see the benefit of including testing/quality talks on their programmes. (I have so far been completely unsuccessful in securing a presentation slot at non-testing conferences via their usual CFP routes.)

So I think it’s a two-way street here – we as testing conference organizers need to be more open to including content from “other” communities and also vice versa.

I hope Katrina continues to contribute to the testing community, her voice would be sorely missed.

PS: I will blog separately about some of the replies to Katrina’s thread that were specifically aimed at the context-driven testing community.