(Inspired by Technology, delivered by Humans)
Last week I attended EuroSTAR 2015 in Maastricht, Netherlands. During the conference I presented a short SoapBox session, entitled “Not so much a TESTHuddle, More a Test Cuddle”. The context for the title comes from the EuroSTAR community initiative – the TESTHuddle. The concept of the TESTHuddle is an initiative whereby software testers can come together in a metaphorical huddle and share personal experiences. This post is my perspective on how that huddle has spurred me into action.
As a little bit of background, I recently won a competition to be the EuroSTAR 2015 TESTHuddle Community Reporter. Fundamentally, this meant that I was invited to EuroSTAR 2015 to publish five Blog posts over the three days of the conference. Additionally I have published a Preview/Taster post and I’m currently drafting a Post-Conference “Wrap Up”. This article is NOT an “official” EuroSTAR 2015 post, but is a reflection of my personal thoughts and feelings.
Several of the conference Keynotes focused their presentations on the near future (nominally 2030) and how technology is going to influence and shape it. They then presented their views on how software testers need to position themselves in order to meet the various technology (AND associated human) challenges over the intervening period. My 10-minute SoapBox session focused on one of these challenges – that of the importance of a strong and united software testing community.
I used the opportunity to tell three stories – one happy and two sad. Two of these stories were very personal, while the third described a scenario that has been playing out (predominantly through social media) but spilled over into the EuroSTAR Conference during an ISO 29119 standards information Track session. I will provide a short summary of each of my stories and then present my hopes and dreams of how a committed and united software testing community can make a difference.
The Happy Story: About 15 months ago I used my Blog to support a crowd-funding initiative to raise money to get a software tester from New Zealand, Kim Engel, to Let’s Test Oz. We had about four weeks to raise the money as the conference was taking place some 6 weeks later in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia. Kim had been having a tough year and was struggling with cashflow issues. To cut a longish story short, we raised the NZ$5,000 required in just over a week and as a result I wrote a second Blog post entitled How a Test Community became a Family. My Blog post lauded the (predominantly) CDT community for their humanity and support and how I was enormously proud to be (somewhat peripherally) part of that community. This was my first truly personal experience where something I believed in came to fruition via the power of social media.
Sad Story No. 1: Just over 2 years ago (or maybe it was 3 – time flies!) I was invited to speak at an ANZTB Conference in Canberra, Australia. I spoke (coincidently) about the increasing influence of social media on the software testing community and how I was experimenting with Twitter and analysing the changing role of LinkedIn on our careers.
During my talk I provided anecdotes to show how many of us are having fun with our Twitter handles and I suggested that a member of the audience (who was, and still is, following me on Twitter) should change his handle to something a little less conservative. I actually suggested a handle that was a little bit saucy. Most of the audience (including my “subject”) laughed at my suggestion and so I moved on, sharing a few more anecdotes and leaving the stage happy with the outcome.
Unfortunately, less than 24 hours later, I received an email (but no phone call) from the Program Chair of the conference saying that I had overstepped the mark with my Twitter handle suggestion.He said that he (and various other faceless ANZTB luminaries) had no choice but to ban me from speaking at all future ANZTB events (including a proposed talk I had already prepared for the following week in my home town of Melbourne).
As far as I am aware, I am still persona non grata with the entire ANZTB administration (like I care, if that is how they treat their members!). Anyway, my response to this was to write several Blog posts describing what was (IMHO) a very petty decision. Interestingly, these Blogs are still the most popular Blogs I have written, with the first of them receiving almost 1,000 hits within the first 24 hours of being posted!!
Sad Story No. 2: A few years ago the ISO 29119 standards began to emerge for comment. These standards (and many of those associated with them) have over the intervening period been the subject of an inordinate amount of ridicule and abuse. My personal views on these standards are irrelevant in respect of this post, but for the record, I have quite a few issues with the standards and believe that they are currently in need of improvement. However, this isn’t surprising as an endeavour of this sort is incredibly complex and fraught with significant challenges. Incidentally, some detractors believe this complexity is a good enough reason to not develop such standards.
What I am most dismayed about though is the constant vitriolic abuse that has been levelled at the authors and various other people who have been involved in / associated with the preparation of these standards. I believe that this behaviour reflects very poorly on the software testing community as a whole and on some individuals/groups more specifically. I’m also stunned that intelligent people (some of whom I personally admired prior to this scenario playing out) should castigate and vilify fellow professionals, just because they have a different belief system. If we were professional sportsmen and women I’d level an accusation of bringing our sport into disrepute towards those responsible!! Anyway, my point here is that this situation is reflecting very poorly on all of us right now and I personally find this state of affairs very sad.
So, there you have it, three examples of how our software testing community is currently functioning (and dis-functioning). Now, to the crux of my message and the dream I have for the future of our community.
Technology is increasingly ingratiating itself into the lives of all humankind. The rate at which this is happening is almost frightening, even for someone like myself who has been writing and testing code since the early 1970’s. The challenges associated with the ever increasing speed of technological change (as described by some of the EuroSTAR Keynotes) requires a concerted focus from all of us within the software testing community. If we are fragmented and isolationist, in our approach going forward, we will fail to meet the challenges we are destined to tackle.
With this in mind, I have setup a new Twitter account (@ThefutureofTest) as a vehicle from which to promote my ideas and beliefs. I will also be launching a new website and considering a crowd-founding campaign in order that I may be more effective in my pursuit of my goals.
I am not overawed by this challenge, nor am I so idealistic as to expect this to be an easy task. I believe in the power of diversity and community and because of this, I intend to channel as much of my time and energy as possible into this endeavour over the coming months and years. As a completely independent software testing professional I have no employer to ask permission to do this. Nor do I have a close and binding affiliation to any single group or sub-culture within the current global software testing community (that will unduly influence my actions).
I expect to receive plenty of flack for taking this stand but, despite this, I am prepared to risk my professional reputation and standing. The worst case scenario is that I will fail in my quest and slink away into retirement. On the up side, if I am successful, the software testing community will grow in stature and we will be in a far better position to tackle the technological (and therefore human) challenges of the future.
If you are interested in joining me or want to know more please feel free to contact me via my (newly minted) Twitter account – @ThefutureofTest. If you’re not on Twitter, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I believe
Dateline: Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, Tuesday November 10, 2015