The “slide” Incident and Public Debate

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

As someone who regularly references “thought leaders” in our industry and quotes papers, presentations, and blogs about software testing published in the public view, I generally don’t have a problem with calling things as you see them.  I also don’t believe you need to write your slides defensively or worry about misinterpretation to the point of obscuring your message, but if you are going to call someone out by name, you will (and should) be held to a higher standard of communication.

I posted the following to a couple blogs that have been written about the “slide” incident, and I have been asked about it multiple times, so I felt it was better to just write my thoughts here.

“To be clear, I wasn’t at the conference, but from social media and a Skype chat with James I think I understand the context for the slide and have multiple problems with it and how it was presented.

1) There is so much room for interpretation in the way the slide is worded it reads like an attack on Maaret for being inauthentic, not compassionate, etc. basically the opposite of everything listed (which are bad traits) – if insulting her was not the intent then it was very poorly worded…

2) Unless the two of them were debating, I think it’s very poor form to do that at a conference in that way, meaning making commentary on another keynotes presentation part of yours – UNLESS you both discussed and agreed the content beforehand so they knew it was coming (it sounds like she did not). There was no opportunity for her to respond in the same public way…

3) Unless I’m missing something, her keynote was not addressing James specifically, just generically her thoughts on learning/testing, so for him to respond directly as if she was addressing him is inappropriate/excessive and as well could have been done verbally during the Q&A portion of her keynote…

4) Finally, the whole thing feels so context unaware which frankly, is what bothers me the most about all of this. I cannot see ANY benefit to putting that slide, with those words, at that conference, about Maaret, with their history with each other, in the age of social media…unless he was deliberately trying to start a flame war – it seems beneath everyone’s position in the community…

I strongly believe that we should hold people in our industry who present themselves as “experts” or “thought leaders” to a higher standard of accountability – especially in public discourse. But it is my understanding this not the status Maaret claims nor seeks.

An apology is required.”

As I said, I wasn’t in the room so I can’t comment on whether or not it was abusive, but at the very least it was poorly thought out, executed, and received. Bottom line: The point that will be made won’t be the intended one when delivered with such bad behavior. As well, out of respect to the paying customers the conference organizers should have taken action to stop it and get the talk back on topic. This type of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated at a public conference unless it is designed into the rules of participation and moderated strictly.

As a community, we can do better than this…