CAST 2011: Are Testing Schools a good idea?

At CAST 2011 Doug Hoffman and James Bach invited to a debate on whether or not Testing schools are a good idea.

Doug Hoffman and James Bach were introduced as close friends since several years. Doug raised the question whether the ideas of having different labels for different approaches in terms of schools of thought. James explained that the whole underlying concept of the testing schools in the Kuhnian sense was the purpose to label the different ideas floating around.

Doug and James discussed different viewpoints on why we have labels like cats and dogs for different things. They soon went on to the idea whether it’s a good thing to label other people with a label that we created. James conquered that what other schools like the factory and its most prominent member the ISQTB of course rejects the idea of different schools of thought because it works against their main motivation.

James made the point that the idea of creating a system of different schools of thought refers to fundamental believes. Just as in religion you can’t be part of one school of thought for 60% of your time, but stick with another school for 40%. You’re not muslims in the morning, and in the afternoon and evenings you’re more Lutheran.

Doug’s main point was that inflicting labels to other people could tick them off and shut down communication. James’ counter-argument to that was that they don’t label themselves. So, what other choice does this situation leave him besides finding a label to refer to them?

James pointed out that there are fundamentally different paradigms in the different schools to leave them unlabeled. James described the outcome of a discussion between Cem Kaner, Brian Marick and him on the school concept. They concluded that we as context-driven testers would get more work done if we had ways to describe what distinguishes us from others. Despite discussion what the right way to test actually was, we should rather describe what we do differently to others.

The discussion then continued to the point where James and Doug found out that they had different contexts where they apply their particular testing strengths. While James tries to avoid factory testing, Doug said that he works with factory testers from time to time. Doug makes sure to let others know about the difference in their particular belief system. By making them aware of the differences, he eventually gets to convert them to context-driven thinking. James stated that he’s upset with doing that for most of the past decade, and tries to bring the context-driven testing momentum forward instead.

By distinguishing these different goals for context-driven testing, Doug and James could lie out different principles and different contexts where they apply context-driven testing. They follow different missions with their individual pursuit. Integrity and ethics are individual in this sense, but to bring the craft of testing forward, we need both at the same time from my point of view.

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3 thoughts on “CAST 2011: Are Testing Schools a good idea?”

  1. The religion analogy makes the whole thing really interesting. I think also that is what makes it hard for folks to be labeled as a member of a specific school. For example, I think that there are folks who identify with the values in both the Factory and Quality schools. So when that individual is identified as Factory, they don’t think that defines them completely.

    If anything, I think the religion analogy is not such obvious splits as Lutheran/Muslim. It might be more like the concept of “Christian” where you have Lutherans and Methodists. The two organizations follow similar, but not identical beliefs. Neither exactly wants to be called the other, but both of them see themselves as examples of the greater category. They also may object strongly to one or another of the other groups beliefs, but share a large number of other beliefs.

    I know that from the Agnostic point of view, the strong convictions of both groups seems strange; each having the deep belief that they are the ones who are right and the paths they choose are ultimately the only way. And those groups see the agnostic/skeptic as a threat to their shared common beliefs.

    I don’t actually disagree with the schools concept, but I am sympathetic to folks objecting to being labeled when that label doesn’t match their self-image. It’s also possible that my concept of the schools isn’t the same.

    Thanks for the post. I wasn’t able to watch this one. I just caught the tweets.

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