Bursting CDT Bubbles

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

Conference season has started again, and I’ve made some rounds giving talks at QAI QUEST in Chicago and STAR Canada in Toronto. I had a great time at both talking about problems with bias towards software testing (both positive and negative), and what we and the industry do to support them. But despite all the great conversations I had with colleagues and people I met for the first time, it became clear to me that the context driven community needs to do a better job getting the word out.

More often than not, my questioning of ideas that the CDT community take for granted as open for debate (test case counting, DRE, detailed test scripts, etc.) were causing gasps of horror and stares of disbelief! The big problem was that they are all accepted as settled law – almost beyond the realm of questions. This reaction seemed to confirm a point in my talk that the majority of testers on the planet are not working on sexy agile projects using cool techniques and tools. No, the majority of testers work on mediocre projects, with unenlightened teams, run by “operational test managers” who don’t use new technology and probably made them get “certified”.

The CDT community (and frankly, all the leaders of the testing world) owe it to those people to burst the bubble we tend towards and get religion! Form some connections! Get out there and join the fray! Now, I’ll give exemptions to the war horses of the the CDT movement, especially James Bach, Michael Bolton, pretty much the entire AST BOD  (and some select members) and the Let’s Test folks. There are some other notables I will undoubtedly miss off that list (anyone here), but for the rest of us? Really?

I’ve recently taken some shrapnel for participating in a public debate on Twitter about testing metrics/certifications and threats to their validity. The point was made (by multiple people) that maybe we should just stop fighting and agree to disagree. Nope. No way. I want to be “in the arena“, and I may get kicked around in the process, but for too long bad ideas about testing have gone unchallenged and its time to reinforce the front. I believe that the context driven community has the best ideas about how to manage and execute software testing and our community is truly an open forum for debate and exchanging of ideas.

Following people on Twitter is great place to start. Keeping up with the STC or attending CAST should be on your short list of ways to support the “skilled testing revolution”. Be we should be going further. There are loads of conferences where hard questions need to be asked and ideas challenged. As the AST likes to say, put the “confer” back into the conferences! Start a blog – or maybe comment on a colleagues. Any way you do it, start hammering away at these unchallenged ideas! No one is going to give it to us, we’re going to have to take it. I understand its difficult, but its so worth it, and as I’ve said multiple times this year already: changing culture is hard – but we’re gonna do it anyway!

Now what are you going to do about it?

“The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between the great and the insignificant, is energy — invincible determination — a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory.”Sir Thomas Buxton

9 thoughts on “Bursting CDT Bubbles

  1. As usual, interesting post
    I’m active on the STC and Twitter, I’m going to AST and yeh, sometimes I do think I am listening and preaching to the choir. But I have taken some diversions into some discussions on LinkedIn and just found it all very depressing and incredibly tiring trying to debate issues on there. I’ve read about people walking out of talks at conferences – are you suggesting they should sit through 40 minutes of tedium and wrongness so they can ask questions at the end ?

    and where do the non-CDT crowd hang out, have I just been selective with the blogs I read and the people I follow on Twitter? Having worked with non-CDT testers none of them were active online so how do we go about reaching them?

    • Yes, thats exactly what I am suggesting…and yes, that sucks for us! It takes twice as much work to change an environment and unfortunately for us, the culture in most testing organizations stinks. I think some fronts need to be revisited and some new ones need to be opened…as for finding them, I don’t have all the answers, but demonstrating that debate is welcome is a great start…

    • I think PK makes a great point… non-CDTers not being online. There are a few… mainly on LinkedIn… that will argue (yes, argue) in various groups, but that does get depressing and boring very quickly. I prefer to talk about this, rather than go back on forth in text while many points are missed (whether genuine or through ignorance). But as you say, we need to push through that pain.

      Most of the non-CDTers I know aren’t online, and if they are it’s because they’re looking to connect for possible opportunities.

      Having said all of that, there is a group of us active here in Oz/NZ. We have meetups, peer conferences, and before you know it we’ll have an even bigger conferences. We blog, we battle on LinkedIn… yes, we get tired; even depressed at times. But then all it takes is a tiny bit of motivation (such as this post) to get us all rallying again.

      I think we just need to accept there will be times when we think it’s a hopeless battle… and at those times remember to go looking for that little piece of motivation which will set us straight.

      Great post Keith, and one of my goals for the year to come is to get you over to Oz/NZ so we can be motivated once again!

    • We all seem to see the same things here. The people I see that are active online, are predominantly CDT testers, but I did start my tester contact list by going to CAST. Many of the testers I know by other means are either interested in listening to me talk about testing, or just don’t seem to care all that much. How do we motivate the disinterested masses? Am I the only one who sees a sea of people testing every day, the majority of whom show little to know interest in connecting with others, or advancing their skills and profession?

      I absolutely agree with Keith that we should continue to challenge ideas that CDT testers disagree with. Keith’s recent debate on Twitter about certifications is a great example of how it can be done.

  2. I guess the very point of a CDT type approach is that there should be no “sacred cows” and doing something “because we’ve always done it” is not good enough.

    I had an interesting time at Kiwibank – it’s a challenger brand, so where it’s competitors offer services with charges because “we’ve always done this”, Kiwibank always asked “why?”.

    It brought the same approach to software development. Suddenly “because I’ve always done it like this” wasn’t good enough. I had to be able to sell the important bits and let go of other sections. I became a better tester for it, certainly more engaged with my business unit.

    I know CDT seems to be notorious for metric resistance – and from that gets a reputation that CDT people are “anti-reporting”. But that couldn’t be more untrue. The CDT people I know are more about giving a realistic report on what they have covered, hoping it will generate debate and questions and help deliver testing which has real value.

    Given a status of being 90% through sounds nice, and it’s comfortable for people to work with. But it gives no indication of what testings and tests have been performed – 90% of an invisible and arbitary set of scenarios? 😉

  3. Great post and call to action. I want to draw your attention to WeTest Workshops in Wellington. This is a meetup group Katrina Edgen and I set up to find the people fighting their own battles on the ground and to be able to share their stories. As David mentioned above, there is a community of CDT testers in Australasia and in a few short years have created OZWST and KWST. Snowflake by snowflake we’ll try to get this avalanche started. Looking forward to meeting you at CAST

  4. ” Any Philosophy, no matter how perfect,works only for a finite period. That is the law of nature and cannot be avoided .” , Testing organizations fail to understand this and still wants to continue with the old ideas .

  5. Great post Keith, and this seems to be the right place for me to make the following comment. Coming out of STAR Canada, I was struck by a horrible thought. For a few days I listened to a chorus of beautiful minds share, learn, listen, debate and challenge one another in a wonderful environment. And then it hit me, “Crap… my C levels would interpret this as lack of direction and clear vision.”


    As you mentioned recently, the very nature of a great tester is to question, and then question yet again. Yes we attempt to help protect value, but we challenge assumptions, and (Well, I am paraphrasing as Michael Bolton here from memory so my apologies if I miss his mark) we are not there to reassure, but rather we explore, discover and through this we often create discomfort.

    So I step back and I look at what (based on my experiences) a CFO wants: Predictability. Repeatability. A known path.

    Our very nature is to continue challenging, and learning, but to a C level, that might be perceived as lack of direction. Indecision.

    To me, this may be the biggest hurdle we face. The C levels will like the story and the promise from static/prescribed approaches SO much more, that we not only have to tell a compelling story ourselves, but we need to compete with every gantt wielding soldier of prediction and estimation associated with the projects we work on. Their stories and promises “sound” better up front. And, to them we represent a wildcard and we may even look as though we have no plan simply because we do not have a template to follow.

    I would love to have at this point said “I have an idea”… but really, I don’t. I am still thinking about this. Clearly demonstrating the value takes time, but I am starting to think that we need to think about communication in several different languages as it relates to different stakeholders. Not everyone will be willing to listen and learn. And yes… it is hard, but we’re going to do it anyway 😉

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