ER: presenting at the AST’s “Steel Yourselves” webinar (30th January 2023)

I was delighted to be invited to participate in a webinar by the Association for Software Testing as part of their “Steel Yourselves” series. The idea is based on the Steel Man technique and I was required to make the strongest case I could for a claim that I fundamentally disagree with – I chose to argue for “Shift Nowhere: A Testing Phase FTW”!

I had plenty of time to prepare for the webinar and to do my research on the use and abuse of testing phases. I also looked into the “shift left” and “shift right” movements as counterpoints to the traditional notion of the testing phase. Sorting through the various conflicting and contradictory ideas around testing phases was an interesting process in itself. I built a short PowerPoint deck and rehearsed it a couple of times (so thanks to my wife, Kylie, and good mate, Paul Seaman, for being my audience) to make sure I would comfortably fit my arguments for a testing phase into the ten-minute window I would have during the webinar.

January 30th came around quickly and the webinar was timed well for Europe (morning) and Australia (evening) as well as places in-between, so it was good to see an audience from various parts of the world. The session was ably facilitated by James Thomas for the AST and Anne-Marie Charrett went first, to make her case that “Crosby was Right. Quality is Free”. She did a great job, fielded the questions from audience really well and made some good observations on the experience – and concluded right on time at 30 minutes into the session.

I felt like I delivered my short presentation in defence of a testing phase pretty well, getting a few smiles and interesting body language from the audience along the way! There were plenty of questions from James and the audience to challenge my claims and I tried hard to stay “in character” when answering them! The final section of the webinar allowed me to remove the mask and speak freely on my real points of view in this area.

Preparing for and presenting this defence of a testing phase was a challenging and interesting task. As usual, if we’re willing to look past the dogma, there’s usually some useful ideas we can take away from most things. While I disagree that the lengthy, pre-planned, scripted test phases I was often involved in during the early stages of my testing career really offer much value, I think the noise around the “shift left” and “shift right” movements has left a gap in-between where we still need to take pause and allow some humans to interact with the software before unleashing it on customers. (I’ve written about this previously in my blog post, The Power of the Pause.) Thanks to the AST for the opportunity to present at this webinar and give myself a refresher on this particular area of testing.

A recording of this “Steel Yourselves” webinar, along with plenty more awesome content, can be found on the AST YouTube channel.


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