Sabre Rattling & Software Testing Dogma

Sometime during the 70’s a famous Scottish football manager said “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

I remembered this Bill Shankley quote a couple of days ago when I read yet another “discussion” (code word for silly/boring argument) regarding the various factions that have been developing throughout the software testing fraternity for far too long. Why are we having discussions about who’s ideas are “best” – especially when some of those promoting their ideas quite stridently believe there is no “best practice”!!! The only thing that really matters is that software gets released safe and sound and that “no animals get hurt in the process”. If your software sucks you need better process, if your software never fails and your customers love it then you have great process. End of discussion…

As I said recently, there is plenty of misinformation available (mainly on the glorious www), but there is also bucket loads of good (even great) stuff. But how do we sort the wheat from the chaff? How do we know who/what to trust? How do those of us who have been in and around software testing for more than 20 years provide guidance to the newbies and the easily led?

Well, a good place start is the various Industry Standards and/or internationally recognised certification programs. The standards are pretty safe (though they face difficultly keeping pace with innovation) and the certification programs are ok as a point of reference, but they can be seen as somewhat compromised by factional influences and dogma. Basically, nothing is flawless and nothing should be held up as sacrosanct, it’s all a work in progress – just like the rest of the universe…

I’ve listed a few of what I consider to be trusted sources on my Blog Home Page, it’s not an exhaustive list but it’s a start. Scott Barber’s “Tweeted Times” and Joris Meerts’s “Testing News” (both on Twitter) are excellent references. Gerry Weinberg, Dot Graham, Rex Black and Martin Pol provide excellent guidance, without any hype. The EuroSTAR and Techwell websites are excellent resources. And then there are the classic books by Weinberg (again), James Whittaker, Boris Beizer and Black (again).

I like to think of myself as a pragmatist/realist and therefore I don’t subscribe to the “my Dad’s got a better car than your Dad” mentality. I subscribe to the belief that we are all here to make the best of an ever evolving universe and that we can all learn from each other and help each other. Therefore, when I read/hear of “protracted discussions” that result in people getting hurt (generally not physically, thankfully) I wonder how peace, love and understanding got left at the door and sabre rattling came in through the window.

I re-tweeted an Einstein quote today – “Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”. There are several reasons why I like this quote, but in the context of this article I like it because it encourages openness and thoughtfulness as opposed to rigidity and dogmatic leadership. The best teams I’ve been part of (whether I’ve led them or been one of the flock) are the ones that encourage innovation and creativity. Yes, we had processes, but we were also smart enough to innovate around a model.

I’m going to wrap up this week by challenging everyone in our community to focus on positive feedback and progressive thinking. To be supportive and nurturing. To point out issues and erroneous thinking in the same way that we provide feedback to developers who inadvertently insert bugs into the software we are testing.

We are all fallible. We are all still learning this very young discipline of software development and testing. We are all fledglings wanting to be better than we currently are. Let’s not shoot down ideas or pillory naivety. Let’s try and understand all perspectives and beliefs without ridicule and insincerity. I know that I can be a little cutting when I’m tired and cranky but, as I said before, to err is human. I’m going to do my part in this quest and I hope other thinkers in our community will subscribe to the same idea.

Dateline: Thursday February 7, 2013; Bagshot, Surrey, England


3 thoughts on “Sabre Rattling & Software Testing Dogma

  1. I think I’ve seen and read some of the tweets/blogs that might have prompted this post

    I am a bit confused about the message though – you don’t want it to happen but you also say that ” if you have an idea that fails scrutiny you will have to understand that I am going to keep digging until the idea runs out of steam or a re-work is commissioned.” – whats the difference between that and the recent outbursts ?

    and ” if your software never fails and your customers love it then you have great process” – really ? so if your process takes 6 testers, 2 test leads and a test manager 3 months to do what 2 testers following a different process can do in 2 weeks then you have ‘great process’ ?

    Hope my comment doesn’t come across as too negative 🙂

    • Phil,
      Thanks for the comments/questions, I’ll try and address them.

      My mention of scrutinising ideas is related to ensuring that due process is followed. Ideas should be encouraged but they should also be challenged and verified in a supportive and caring environment. Maybe the structure of my post does not make this clear. On reflection I could have presented this case better; what you’ve done in providing your feedback is exactly what I was talking about. You have scrutinised my comments and provided well thought out and supportive feedback.

      With respect to the process question. I left this paragraph vague on purpose to see whether anyone would challenge it. I’ve been trying to generate more feedback to my Blogs by making assertions that I wanted challenged. So, of course efficiency and effectiveness are central to sustainable processes. Budget, time, resources, scope, risk, expected outcomes are all basics in process development.

      My main aim this week was to see how much feedback I could get and see how many would accept my assertions. As I say on my Home Page, I want people to question and challenge me. I’m very appreciative of the time you’ve taken to read and comment on my Blog and I hope that you’ll continue to do so.


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