More on the “Attack on the Testing Role”

About a month ago I took a slide from James Bach’s Orcas Island Training and posted it to twitter. The internet became very upset, I suspect more from the writing style than the content. As the person who posted a single slide without context, I felt obligated to explain and wrote up a 1,600 word explanation the next morning. For what it’s worth, Justin and Peter Schrijver were waiting for me, so we could drive together toto the training site.

I spent about an hour saying “five more minutes …”

The blog post seemed to provide some clarity to the readers, which pleased me.

… time passes …

Earlier this week, Claire Moss reminded me that I was sharing the same perspective – with different words – at CAST 2012, in a talk titled “How to speak to an Agilista (if you absolutely must).” The presentation was only twenty minutes long, and yes, the title was part joke, but the gist was that the technical arm of the Agile movement, specifically XP, had indeed included a desire and interest to automate away boring old testing and eliminate the tester role.

Best of all, there were cameras running.

The first half of this talk is background material to provide the historical context and explain where the desire to eliminate the role came from. I was searching for ways to have meaningful dialogue with groups that made different assumptions about the way the world worked.

And I got it. At the end of my little spiel Claire Moss spoke up that she had not had that experience; that all her projects were Agile and testing was valued. She was disagreeing with me, I disagreed with her. Instead of jumping  to “Well it’s nice that you haven’t encountered that yet with your limited experience” and her to “You’re wrong!” we spent a little bit of time understanding each other.

Claire when home and wrote a blog post, then came back for Test Coach Camp in 2012. We slowly began a long-time collaboration that has led to presentations at two Agile conferences on software testing, including this year, 2016.

I sat down with the company president I was thinking of in the video. He told me he had tried hiring testers in the past, that they created a lot of documentation and asked a lot of questions but didn’t find any bugs. I replied that if they tried someone more focused on outcome, someone with real exploration skills, they might have a different result.

They did end up hiring an exploratory tester. In fact, the second tester they hired just sent me an email that he had spent four years at the company, and he appreciated the things I had done to help get him hired.

The Point

There are very real differences out there between software communities. There are genuine misunderstandings. On a bad day, twitter amplifies this, because different communities use it as a bridge, using the same shorthand terms to mean different things.

“Fighting for understanding” doesn’t quite fit. Seeking to understand is certainly work, and it can be frustrating work. That work can have drawbacks. Over the years I have invested tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of words in seeking to understand people that have gone nowhere. It’s a tradeoff, but I usually try to make the investment.

Today I tried to paint a picture of how the folks at Excelon like to collaborate, at least on a good day. If you’d like to talk, well, we’re around.



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