Isn’t it better to try and change something than settle for mediocre?

At EuroSTAR last week it was sad to see a “them versus us” culture still thriving in the software development community. I thought things were changing, especially with the on-set of Agile heading mainstream but it seems not.

I got embroiled in a conversation which stole an hour of my life. An hour in which I heard the virtues of “them versus us”. An hour in which this “Test Manager” extolled the positives around an “Independent” test team, who “distrusted” everyone and treated programmers with “contempt”.

It boosted Testers morales apparently. It made the team function as it should; as a separate, impartial and hated department. A department who would ruin projects. But it was never the Test Manager (or teams fault), it was the project teams or management.

I got the following vibe:

 

The Testers were frightened of the Management.
The Management didn’t like the Programmers or the Project Team, though they could live with the Testers.
The Programmers were indifferent to the Project Team but were terrified of the Testers and hated the Management.
The Management were seriously affected by the Programmers terror of the Testers.
The Project Team were nervous of the possibility of a Management – Tester alliance, spurred on by the indifference of the Programmers, and they shared everybody else’s dislike of the Management.
Or something like that.

Releasing software seemed to be a constant struggle for this chap. Testing was always an after-thought.

This was a scarily common theme and the blame was always put on other people.

Is change that difficult?

Isn’t it better to try and change something (relationships, approach, team, people, environment, structure, etc), than settle for mediocre? What are your thoughts?

EuroSTAR roundup

It’s been a mad few weeks so I’m looking forward to getting back to normality again, both at work and at home.

Here are some thoughts from EuroSTAR 2011:

I was attending EuroSTAR 2011 with a different lens on my views as I sought out fresh and interesting glimpses at where we are heading as an industry. I was sadly dissapointed. There were some interesting things happening but it was mostly a very common story.

A theme seemed to emerge from the event around the future of testing with both Gojko Adzic and James Whittaker suggesting there would be no testing phase, James even going so far as to say there would be no testers too.

Other than that, it was business as usual. Metrics, certifications, Best Practices, Agile Testing and an interesting “people” theme too. Nothing too controversial and an all round good conference, but very little to really inspire me that our craft is changing.

I mostly agreed with both Gojko and James in their prediction of the demise of Testing. It become so talked about that Paul Gerrard organised an open forum on one evening to discuss where Testing is heading. It seemed though, that all of this talk about the future of testing relied on us all having a unified agreement of what Testing actually was. And you know how hard that is. 

There were a few things though that gave me great insight and hope that we are still changing.

  • Michael Bolton was talking about dashboards and reporting for Exploratory Testing. 
  • People were aware of what Exploratory Testing was and many were practicing it.
  • Agile wasn’t as scary to many as at most Testing conferences.
  • Adam Knight was talking about Specification by Example and people were intrigued.
  • UTest were talking about 10 emerging technologies to change testing. This talk was the only talk that felt like it really shone a light on the future of testing. I mind mapped it here (and below)
  • There were one or two cloud test tool vendors who stood out for pushing the boundaries of tools and their uses. SOASTA and CloudFlex (by Intechnica) were two highlights for me. 
  • There were a growing number of Software Testing Club members at the event.
  • The Testing Planet feedback was immense. Many thanks.
  • The evening socials were busy with people talking about the conference.
  • The Test Lab was there.
  • There was a talk on mind mapping.

I actually walked out of one talk with a number of other people, because of the loose comments being made, the assumptions being driven from some research and because it had a general feeling of us versus them (test v programmer). It felt wrong. But hey, it seemed like a popular session for many.

I actually added some mind maps of the talks here for public consumption:

http://xmind.net/share/rob_lambert/

 

There was a common thread of being embarrassed about being a Tester and a general need to prove yourself with little consideration for the team. I just wish that we’d stand proud of what we do and show respect for the industry and the teams we work in; it sometimes feels like we just concentrate on the “good old days of Waterfall” and the stereotype we have created for ourselves. There is vastly more going on in the industry than many even realise. Wouldn’t it be great to stand tall and talk about it; share it and learn from it.

One thing became evidently clear from EuroSTAR. The future is mixed and uncertain and unknown – but we knew that already. That’s no different now to 1 year ago or one year from now. But I genuinely believe in the future we will rely more and more on communities of Testers. 

 

It was a good conference though and it felt more balanced than last year, but it still felt heavy on metrics and best practices. But what an excellent choice for next years Programme Chair – Zeger Van Hese – awesome choice in fact 🙂

Standards emerge. People will experiment. Will I see this trend at EuroSTAR?

One of the observations I’m seeing a lot in the Testing community is the desire and passion to experiment with ideas. This is not new, there have always been people exploring and experimenting with ideas, from test case production to test reporting.

But it feels to me like it’s becoming more mainstream to experiment; this could be the knock on effect of people moving to agile ways of working, but I suspect it’s because the old standards and best practices weren’t/aren’t working for people anymore. 

As companies and teams strive to deliver greater value, exceptional service levels and game changing products they are also striving to do this delivery in ways that work best for themselves.

It’s no longer acceptable to apply a “standard” or “Best Practice” to your work. Work is becoming diverse, information based, lead by ideas and innovation; as such there’s few formulaic ways of solving problems.

Instead teams are experimenting, finding what works for their context and pushing the boundaries of what has been done before. It feels good to be writing about this. It feels good to be part of Software Testing right now as we strive to find out why we are drawn to testing, why it’s becoming increasingly popular and why the nature of testing is changing.

I’ll be at EuroSTAR this week with a specific lense on my views. I’ll be seeking out new tools, techniques and approaches. I’ll be chatting to people who are pushing the boundaries and doing new and interesting things. I’ll be looking to expand my views on Testing and looking at how other people are solving hard testing problems.

So if you’re at EuroSTAR this week and fancy chatting about what you’re doing..I’m all ears. 

I believe people are settling down in to their own way of working and letting their own standards emerge. This takes time, patience, a keen eye for details, an environment for rapid change and a willingness to admit when things aren’t going well or when ideas didn’t work.

It sounds like a growing number of people aren’t pushing for standards too quickly (if at all) or looking to set hard and fast rules of standardisation. And this feels positive.

I’ll no doubt write about some of the cool stuff I’ll see at EuroSTAR 2011. It looks like a really good lineup.

Agile Testing Days, Conferences and some thoughts

I’ve been lucky enough to attend Agile Testing Days in Germany for 3 years now.

This year they moved it from Berlin to Potsdam (not too far from Berlin). Unfortunately I didn’t get much chance to see Potsdam, but it looks like a beautiful place to visit with sightseeing in mind.

As usual Jose and his team create an amazingly welcoming and friendly event. The food and drink is top class and the entertainment is excellent. It seems to be one of the few events I’ve attended where there is as much emphasis on socialising and having fun, as there is on the speaking. Almost everyone I talked to said the same thing; the talks sow the seeds but the true learning happens during the conversations at the social events.

The Keynotes were great, the sessions were brilliant and as usual the Test Lab was great. I managed to stay around this year and catch some of the Open Spaces which appeared to work well.

One of the keynotes that really got me thinking was Michael Bolton’s talk. During the talk he talked about science and testing science using scientific methods. When he moved to social sciences though was when I really started to make some notes. I think this is going to be an amazing area of learning for many testers. The field of social science is vast but there are pockets of interesting work going on. It’s the start of potentially the new direction for testing; a direction where we look at what it is that we do when we test, how our work affects people and how we can use social science research techniques to aid and understand our testing.

Expect to read a lot more about the social sciences from many sources.

I’ve been writing about tech in society with a group of people interested in ethnography and social change through design and I intend to fold some of that work here, so expect a slight change in direction as I bring my blog more in-line with my current work, ideas and main social science interests. It will obviously still be about testing…….

But that’s the point. Testing is changing (or we’re looking at it differently)

At Agile Testing Days I saw how other people were altering their outlooks and approaches, and this gives me a warm fuzzy feeling; it feels like we’re talking less about the “good old days”. (which I believe weren’t as good as many people think)

And when you come away from a conference feeling like change is in the air and people are ready for the challenges, then that’s the sign of a good conference.

I’ll be at EuroSTAR conference next week. I’m looking forward to meeting many people who are already doing some really exciting things in the Testing world.

I’m still processing my notes from this weeks Agile Testing Days, no doubt I’ll have loads more next week too.