CAST 2011: New cool things

At CAST 2011 James Bach held the second keynote at the beginning of day 2. He was talking about some new cool things in the software testing world and future directions of the context-driven school of testing.

James started his keynote with an overview of great trends in software testing. Among these trends are the collapse of the factory approach to software testing, the death of quality, politics, the Agile revolution, and the intersubjectivity revolution.

The software testing factory was collapsing in the 90s already. Outsourcing gave it a brief reprieve after that. James told a story of a testing factory he consulted with a few years ago, where he told the team to drop the test case metrics completely. The team was struggling with that. When he went out with the upper boss in the evening, he got the same statement from him. Test case metrics do not contribute to anything in software testing, and this was what their boss also recognized referring to post-traumatic stress syndrome, etc. You just should her the courage to drop stupid metrics. James said that the factory model of testing is collapsing because the factory model does not work at all. Though outsourcing gave the factory approach to testing a reprieve, you can’t keep it from falling down. Companies either open to solutions or they set themselves up for lowering the quality standards. Right now James notices a trend of the rise of ceremonial software testing. Ceremonial software testing is not at all better than Possum testing. If you find yourself doing testing without knowing why you do something, you are doing Possum testing with high ceremony in place. Using paper to pretend that you follow a certain maturity model is one of the poor implementations of that.

James referred to his blog entry quality is dead from some time ago. Comsumers are currently trained to accept bad software and failures. We are currently in a software security crisis based on this. There is a highly refined ability to shift blame to other people. Software users are currently used to bad quality software, so much that James still claims quality to be dead.

Referring to politics, James explained there is a new ISO standard coming up. The folks working on this new standard are subject to ignore criticism that comes up alongside. Maturity models also contribute to the politics in software testing right now. Referring to Europe James claimed that the ISTQB (I won’t link to them on purpose) currently intimidates software testing on the other continent.

James complained about the Agile revolution, meaning pretty much Scrum. Agile folks seems to just move cards across walls, and that’s pretty much everything that’s up to most teams claiming to be Agile. Instead people should strive to work constantly on their skills, and thereby hone their particular craft. There are some folks in the Agile world who do that, but way too few in number.

On the intersubjectivity revolution, James states that other subjects to look for in software testing include quality assessments, personal credibility and trust, ethical codes, storytelling, dialectical culture, heuristic culture, the new rigor. He gave an example of three level based quality assessment like he expected our testing reports in the last night’s testing competition, and like he uses when teaching testers on test reporting. In the intersubjective space, storytelling is a large topic. James would like to see the new rigor applied to skill development, so that we work constantly on improving our skills in whatever our profession may be.

On Learning Testing, James explained that face to face education in software testing is a different way to coach tester. The dice games that Michael Bolton and James use are an example for that. For remote training sessions he referred to the Black-box software testing course from AST. Additionally James and others offer test coaching sessions through Skype. Anne-Marie Charrett and James are currently in the progress of writing a book about that. James stated that testing exercises are currently providing a new innovation in the software testing space. Among the same are Testing Dojos as well as Weekend Testing. Especially the latter is highly interesting to see aspiring in the more structured Indian testing landscape. James’ final point on learning testing is test framing. He referred to a blog entry from Michael Bolton on the topic. As with anything in testing, test framing had been around before James and Michael had a conversation about it, but they were able to put a name to it.

Along the line of teaching testers, we also need to work on teaching teachers on software testing. James raised the topic of coaching software testers. He should some of the work in progress from the book Anne-Marie Charrett and he are writing on remotely coaching testing over Skype. She provided kudos to Anne-Marie on the amount and professionalism of the work she had created in their exchanges so far. Regarding coaching the coaches James spoke about corporate-level testing professionalism. Skill studies and game film analysis and testing narrations sum up the upcoming things on teaching software testing teachers.

Relating to Rapid Testing Management, James explained that session-based test management is currently crossing the chasm. I found this a bit of a pity since the ideas are more than ten years old. Thread-based test management is another topic upraising on test management. Testing playbooks wrap up the new topics on test management.

James referred to a bunch of new testing heuristics, which I was unfortunately to note down. I look forward to some of the description coming up on that, maybe interested in trying them out in a testing dojo.

James mentioned that regulated testing is currently subject to gentrification of context-driven testers. At CAST 2011 there were a bunch of talks on medical software testing lead by context-driven testers. One of these examples was the talk from Griffin Jones.

James noted some cool tools for software testers coming up. Especiall he mentioned Shmuel Ghershon’s Rapid Reporter as a great tool for session-based test management. GoTo Meetings, type with.me, Mindmapping tools are other cool tools on the same thread.

James closed his talk referring to the book “Tacit and Explicit Knowledge” and reading a passage from it.

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