Taking a break from the old routine

I’m a regular on many of the testing forums and mailing lists and I’ve noticed recently a very worrying trend. That is that many testers simply cannot appreciate different ways of working. Their way is a Best Practice. But it’s more than that, it’s not just about Best Practices but the vitriol in which they are delivered.

I see posts on forums asking for help on how to solve a problem. The responses are usually stories of success of working X way to which someone replies with Y way. Then someone chips in with Z way and pretty soon the whole thread is hijacked in an argument over which way is better. Mine, mine, mine.

Some of these threads are extremely useful where people learn a new way of approaching a similar problem. Other threads though have a slightly more sinister feel to them.

Now, I’m not one to hold back and I often respond with critical comments to posts but I like to think I never tell people how they should do something…my way. I can offer help, suggestions, stories, advice, mentoring and guidance but I can’t *tell* someone what to do. I have no best practices that will work for other people, just some honest suggestions from experience that could work.

However, when answering forum posts many testers don’t appear to consider the fact that there are thousands of testers out there, all working under different methodologies or interpretations of methodologies, time frames, technology, budgets, skills sets and software development life cycles. Some are working in highly structured environments, some with helpful programming teams, some with middle managers bean counting and some with processes that are old, destructive or wasteful. But it’s their environment and it’s their problems they are asking for help with. So let’s help – not dictate and ridicule.

Over the years I’ve created many many many Best Practices for myself. In fact, every time something goes right, it’s a best practice. Yippee. I have also developed some worst practices too. Boo. And along the way forums, user groups and mailing lists have been enormously helpful in helping me forge my way through my testing life. However, the time has come to stop visiting certain testing groups, forums and sites. To stop subscribing to some LinkedIn and Yahoo Groups; the job feeds are taking over and too many articles have Best Practice in the title.

The sad thing is, the resources are the ones I’ve long been supporters of. Resources that have helped me enormously in the past. Resources that have become the main staple of the testing community. And it’s a shame they are becoming hunting grounds for the Vitriol spitting testers pushing Best Practices.

If the negativity and anger included in some of the replies on these sites is the routine (which it appears it is), then I’d recommend we take a break from the old routine. Unfortunately for many of these forums, this seems to be the action many testers have taken too. No longer are people going to sit through a barrage of Best Practice suggestions, people calling other peoples suggestions ‘stupid’ and people leaving sarcastic comments like ‘maybe you didn’t read the question correctly’. We are not finding it helpful.

There are far too many new testing forums, groups, projects and communities who are there to help. Who still have a community feel. Who still serve the community they are part of. Communities who help testers and grow the community. Whose members don’t try to out-do one another, push their Best Practice as the only solution and degrade and belittle anyone who doesn’t agree – although no forum is ever immune to this, but some forums have a much lower rate of angry testers and vitriol Best Practice pushers.

Now let me clear something up. I’m not talking about people who offer criticism, constructive feedback, honest statements and points of views – sometimes in a heated way – this at times can be healthy – very healthy. I’m talking about people who pick apart other peoples ideas for fun, who say that other ways can’t work, who are so hung up on terminology that it’s painful, who actively take it upon themselves to counter argue forever despite real world success stories, who simply can’t understand that people work in different ways, who have black and white views on automation and who plainly abuse and call people stupid (believe me – it happens quite a lot – and a lot worse sometimes).

And I do sincerely hope that these testers who can’t appreciate contexts come to understand that the testing community is complicated, multi-threaded, diverse and evolving. It’s made up of people with no experience, some experience and a wealth of experience. And in a world where collaboration, community and learning are becoming more valuable it seems alien to be abused for posting on a forum a real and genuine question, problem or response. Sure there are “better” ways of working but there are very few absolute “best” ways of working.

But I’m not going to end of a low note. Nope. For every one of the negative, bullying and belittling testers, there are a thousand welcoming, positive and helpful testers. Testers who are happy to help. Testers who give honest opinions and feedback. Testers who understand that their way may not be the “best” way. Testers who are happy to improve, learn and share knowledge.

And that is a really great thing. In fact, it’s a truly great thing. It makes me glow with pride.

10 thoughts on “Taking a break from the old routine

  1. “So let’s help – not dictate and ridicule.”Well said!

  2. Good points, well made. A world of “collaboration, community and learning” is exactly where I wish to live and work!You may say I’m a dreamer, but (thankfully) I’m not the only one. As some bloke from Liverpool once almost said…A.PS: Rob, I expect that those to whom your message is directed may probably be too busy blogging elsewhere, but the rest of us thank you 🙂

  3. Andy,Thanks for the nice words. I suspect you are right..I don’t believe that a world of “collaboration, community and learning” is impossible. Some of the none testing social media groups I’m involved with have this working well with regular local meets, good online resources and a collaborative feel.Rob..

  4. Totally agree and it’s good to see some new-blood (and also some old-but-good-blood) turning up more and more in many places with positive and constructive exchanges.I guess (and hope) that this will be a case of natural selection, where the “my-way-experts” will stay with their groupies in their kingdoms, and let the rest of us communicate and build by exchanging and learning. Great post!-joel

  5. Hi Joel,Thanks for the comments. Natural selection is a good way of looking at it but I still reckon there will be bad eggs. It’s inevitable… :(ThanksRob

  6. Well, this is Joe, not Joel.  But you are welcome anyway.   -joe (not Joel)

  7. Joe,I think Joel did leave a comment after you Joe. I’m confused now 🙂 Ta.Rob..

  8. The best way to quiet the angry tester celebrities – don’t buy their books, don’t pay to go to conferences where they speak, etc. They want you to challenge them in public. Don’t give them the satisfaction. As for my comments that you link to in your blog entry – keep the feedback coming! Positive or negative. I’m the first one to admit that I don’t have all the answers. Opinions – yes, answers – not so much.

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