Four Schools of Software Testing

Most readers of “Creative Chaos” probably know that allthough I do all things software, my predominant focus is software testing. In fact, a few weeks back Elisabeth Hendrickson labelled my blog “Mostly Testing”, and I was vaguely annoyed that I did not make her “Mostly Agile” list … then again, seeing how my thoughts on Agile Jumping the Shark played out, I should probably be flattered.

I hope that it is no suprise that I ascribe to the Context Driven School of Software Testing. Brett Pettichord has a presentation on the Four Schools of Software Testing which provides some more background on the competing ideas in software testing.

James Bach posted this yesterday to the context-driven yahoo discussion group; It matches my feelings relatively well, and I thought it was worth sharing:

I first attacked the CMM because they labeled my community “Level 1: Initial” and called it “heroic”. The first label was clearly not descriptive of what we were doing at Borland, the second label *was* descriptive, but they seemed to think heroism was a BAD thing. This caused me to speak out in favor of my school, and to seek better ways to decribe it. For a time I called it “Market-driven software engineering” but that didn’t stick. Then I called it the Cognitive paradigm (as opposed to the Clerical paradigm), but when Cem suggested context-driven, that captured it better, for me.

I think the strategy of some consultants, such as Rex Black, is to label their school in such a way as to encourage the belief that their school is the only school– and thus that there is no controversy. I think that’s why, in Rex’s certification advertisments, he writes as if his ISTQB school of “elite” software testers represents the pinnacle of testing achievement for all of us, instead of a peculiar formulation that looks to my eye like an example of sloppy Factory school thinking.

To me, to deny controversy is terribly arrogant. I may have a different view of humility than Rikard, but to me I express humility not by saying I don’t have a strong idea of what is right and wrong, but rather that I have a strong idea, that my strong idea may be mistaken, and that I strive to encourage the kind of criticism I need in order to improve it.

I’m upset with people like Rex, who fight for the ascendency of their faction in the wider community of testers while pretending not to be part of any faction. That turns it into a propoganda war instead of a straightforward debate. It’s trying to manipulate people instead of persuading them.

I want to see more use of the schools concept so that we can have a free market of ideas where consumers can make informed choices.

If you don’t know much about the Context-Driven School and would like to know more, you can subsrcibe to the Yahoo Group. We also talk about context a fair bit on SW-IMPROVE, my email discussion list, where the volume is considerably less.

One comment on “Four Schools of Software Testing

  1. Hi Matthew,

    You’ll be glad to know I removed the category labels from my blogroll. The blogs I like (like yours) tend to be too hard to categorize, and the categories didn’t add much. Sorry I annoyed you!

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