The New Kid on the Block

Last week there was a big announcement in the testing community. Did you catch it?

Leading up to this announcement there was a peculiar thread of tweets that appeared to be a countdown between many well-known people in the CDT community, such as IlariHenrik Aegerter, Huib Schoots, Iain McCowatt, Meike Mertsch, Henrik Andersson & Aleksis Tulonen to name but a few.

These countdown tweets came in every day in various languages and scarcely gave a hint as to what was going on. What were these people counting down to? Other people expressed confusion. Was there some kind of testing challenge going on?

Others tried to contribute to this countdown but got it wrong, “Fünf” was tweeted, which is five in German. The reply tweet was “wrong.” So it wasn’t a testing challenge, it was a countdown to something apparently big that all testers should be eagerly anticipating.

The Final Countdown

The countdown finally reached zero on 21 August. The announcement was preceded by a flurry of drum roll type tweets until the final announcement was made at 1pm UK time.

ISST lift-off tweet

And so a new Testing Society was launched the: “International Society for Software Testing” (ISST). Why should or shouldn’t you be bothered about this? Many questions were asked throughout the day about the purpose of the society, such as its costs and aims, which I will attempt to address here, as I see them.

Disclaimer: I am not a member and as such I have no affiliation with the society.

Does the testing community need another testing society with joining fees?

We already have the Association of Software Testing (AST) and the Software Test Professionals (STP), although they have different remits. The ISST does appear on the surface to have a similar remit to the AST, which they are aware of, as it is the first question answered on ISST FAQ page.

However, does this clearly answer the question for the doubters? Apparently not, as reading through various Twitter streams many questions were raised regarding why testers should pay a subscription fee, especially when the remit does not appear crystal clear.

Why should testers pay for what appears to be the only service offered at this time, that of webinars? There are plenty of free webinars available on varied testing topics, many high quality ones are offered by EuroSTAR Software Testing Community. I’ve attended many and I would highly recommend them to other testers.

We already have AST and their remit and the services they offer is clear, so joining them is an easy decision. You have to be a member to do any of the four courses that they offer, which I highly recommend any serious tester to consider doing. They have an annual conference, CAST, which is live streamed and also highly recommended.

There are also many free testing resources out there, notably the Software Testing Cub, which is an active community of testers that shares information and resources about various testing and testing-career related topics.

Should you join the ISST?

The answer to this question is not straightforward. The ISST is a fledgling society so they are going to have a few hiccups along the way and will need to find a clear identity to stand out from the crowd. This however is where I think the ISST have made a mistake as they have not done this yet. They may actually be relying upon the involvement of some big names to attract new members, which is a reasonable strategy, but not making their remit clear from the start seems like a strategic blunder.

The ISST needs to consider stating specifically what makes them different to what is already available. What is their unique selling point? Apart from some generic information stated in their mission statement, nothing appears to be unique about the organisation.

They are Context Driven but so are the others mentioned above. They want to address the negative image that testing appears to have within organisations, but their statement is not specific enough. How is the ISST going to do this? How are they going to show that they have made an impact in this area? It’s a noble goal that I approve of, support and encourage. However stating that is your mission without a plan that demonstrates how the objective can be achieved and shown to succeed, is not sufficiently convincing.

The “Dehumanizing Testers” mission is the one statement that stands out for me. It’s the only one in my opinion that gives the ISST a modicum of uniqueness.  This viewpoint of testers has always been something that I’ve actively tried to change in every testing role. Perhaps this is down to my gregarious personality, as I’m not one for holding back from expressing my opinion. When I’ve been in situations where testing is thought of as something anybody can do, I have made my opinions clearly known. From experience I have found that the overriding opinion of testers is as stated in the ISST mission statement:

Dehumanizing testers? Regrettably, many people see testing as a simple clerical activity. Others believe that testing is a problem that should be delegated entirely to machines, in the form of test automation. You know the drill: read a spec, write a script, maybe automate the script, check the software against the script, report the results. This is not the reality of testing, which is a process of learning and discovery. Testing requires thought which is something that is sorely lacking in either scripts or tools. This is not to say that tooling is necessarily bad, just that we should put in the brain work first.

I applaud the organisation for having this as one of its goals, but I do wonder how they are going to achieve this? This goal isn’t just about educating testers, it’s about changing peoples’ opinions on what they think a tester is. Educating testers can go some way to achieving this, no doubt, but ultimately what needs to change is the recognition that skilled testing is a profession.  To do that you would need to start with the education system and create visibility around testing being a career choice, not something that people just find themselves doing and then become testers.

If the ISST can have a significant impact in this one area then that will be a huge step forward for testers and the profile of testing as a recognised career choice. I would propose that the ISST should have this one goal as their main focus and devise a clear plan to actively achieve this.

That’s easy for me to say, but how would you do that? Start in schools, work with universities and get Dr Cem Kaner’s material matriculated outside of Florida and the AST BBST courses.

Common Sense Testing:  Excuse me. Are you the Judean People’s Front?

The URL for the site has also caused a small amount of controversy, being “commonsensetesting.org” and on the FAQ page this is stated:

Advocacy of context-driven testing aimed to influence corporate management and decision makers to create more awareness for common sense testing in organizations, from the top down.

This has caused a small amount of debate as it appears to be actually undermining testing and going against its own ideals. Is testing really common sense? If so, then anybody with common sense can test. However the term itself isn’t being used with the modern understanding, but rather the Aristotelian view on what common sense is. It literally means using the senses to perceive the world and make intelligent judgements based on what is perceived rather than the common day usage of the word which is that it’s something that is loosely used to guide you through the world to not do anything stupid like put your hand in a fire.

Using common sense with the Aristotelian definition fits well with context driven testing. However I do wonder if it may not just become an argument about semantics and misinterpreted. It might have been wiser to have stuck with the original URL of “context-driven.org

Will I sign up to the ISST?

The main problem I have at this time with paying the €80 joining fee is that it’s not very clear what I’m going to get yet, except €100 discount on future conference fees and free webinars. To be completely honest, when the site was launched I nearly signed up immediately solely due to the long list of people who are on the board and founding members, most of whom I know of and respect. I hesitated however as I started reading various tweets which expressed similar opinions to those I have stated here.

Will I join? I believe I will later down the line, as and when the remit becomes clearer. I have little doubt that such a society with so many high-profile people being actively involved will most likely be a success. Although there is no guarantee, I do support the aims they have set out to achieve, regardless of the lack of clarity, but I’m not supporting with my cheque book just yet.

About the Author

Stephen Blower‘s experience spans over 17 years in various fields of testing, from video games and web applications to  internet services and software tools. He has seen things done well and not so well. Stephen blogs about his experiences in the testing field here and can also be found on Twitter @badbud65.

 

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10 Responses to “The New Kid on the Block”

  1. Mike TalksAugust 27, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    Interesting – makes me wonder if I should have thought before now about joining an association.

    Like you say – very hard to see what there’d be to get out of this for now. Again, maybe I need to ask the same about membership in general to any organisation.

  2. Chris (kinofrost)August 27, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    I think one of those Twitter streams would have been my own. I, essentially, agree with everything you’ve said. I actually went further regarding the webinars and said that putting access to a community and learning materials is antithetical to the objective (listed on the site) to “Encourage and support the development of testing skills, and of an international community of skilled testers.” because new testers, and unsympathetic companies/managers, are not going to pay to be enlightened. If that’s truly the objective then I’d love to see how it’s going to be achieved – free information/training on testing?Advertising campaigns? Scientific papers on skills over techniques in the test industry? Think tanks on contextual application of test techniques and tools? If I knew, I might join.

    I think that anyone that joined quickly either wanted the money off the (rather good, I hear) Let’s Test conference or wanted to be part of a club that supports their own ideals.There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s remember two things:
    1. You don’t need to pay to be part of a great community of testers
    2. Creating a gated community is no way to reach out to other people. We need to tear down walls between the context-driven and the factory testers, not build them, and we don’t need to remove our own opportunities to listen to our opponents. Revel in your opponent’s position. Learn from it. Extract any useful truth from it. Then use it to make your community better.

    I’m not saying that the ISST is doing this, or means to do this, but I think it’s worth keeping in mind.

    Saying that I, too, support the mission and objectives and I’m very excited to see the directions in which this will go. Frankly I suspect that the ISST themselves don’t yet know how they’ll achieve their goals, but it’s an exciting thing for great thinkers in the industry to be working on it.

  3. Stephen BlowerAugust 27, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    To Mike Talks:

    I don’t think it’s wrong to join an organisation based on others recommendations or as in this case fronted by respected and recognised individuals. However I do think it’s prudent to determine for yourself what you will gain from it, and will joining help you with your chosen goals? At the moment there is nothing here yet that will help me in my goals to be a better informed tester and improve my testing skills.

  4. Stephen BlowerAugust 27, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    To Chris (kinofrost):

    I couldn’t agree more that creating a pay wall does create a barrier with those outside the CDT community and does seem contrary to the ISST aims.

    I asked myself this question, if I didn’t know anybody on their board or the founding members, would I join ISST with its current mission statement? Would I think this is something I want to be appart off? Unfortunately at this time the answer is no.

    This is why I urge the ISST to make it crystal clear what they are and how they are going to do what they have stated in their mission statement.

  5. KiranAugust 27, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    I was not aware of IIST until I read this article. Thanks Stephen.
    At this stage I don’t think I will be subscribing to any more paid websites given the fact that there is plenty of free information out there.

    How ever, I may change my mind if the subscribed content is going to increase my productivity quite significantly.

    • Stephen BlowerAugust 27, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      I’m happy to have spread the word.

      Before joining anything you need to know why, It’s not just about what do I get out of it for my money, however when you are paying that is an obvious consideration and always will be.

      If the ISST was free to start with and didn’t have a pay wall then they could have built up their user base, detailed their USP and then gone to adding paid services later down the line. I think for me at least, that would have been a more successful model to follow.

      To reiterate I support new testing initiatives, but when they are paid initiatives then they are going to undergo more detailed scrutiny.

  6. Stephen BlowerAugust 27, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Here’s a different point of view as to why you should join the ISST from Simon Morely:

    http://testers-headache.blogspot.co.uk/

  7. Geoff LokenSeptember 4, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Cool, thanks for the write up. There’s a lot to think about.

    The advocacy thing was made fairly clear, but I hadn’t caught on to the top down approach they were going for. From what you’ve said they plan to advocate to C Level executives and employers, and let the work trickle down. That might be a good approach, but to me it’s not very exciting or terribly new.

    Like AST, it looks like a lot of people will join when they sign up for a conference, webcast, or service. That’s not a bad thing necessarily. I’m having a hard time what other kind of direct service they could offer in exchange for application — access to online resources? Discussion groups? etc? Those are, I think, better if they’re open access anyway. Letters to put behind your name? That requires more credibility and might go against their mission statement regardless.

    It’s a big world, I don’t think this group is competing with AST so much as complimenting it. We’ll see what happens.

    • Stephen BlowerSeptember 4, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      There’s an article in Augusts http://www.teatimewithtesters.com/ by the founders that goes in to more specifics as to what the ISST is aiming to achive, some of that information should be exapanded upon in their Mission Statement.

      My current issue is that the questions I have asked haven’t yet been answered in a satisfactory way. As the ISST is CDT driven they should be open to critiquing in public, at this time I haven’t seen that they have done this yet.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Is Miagi-Do a “School” of Testing? | Software Testing Blog - September 6, 2013

    […] This posting regarding “Is Miagi-Do a “School” of Testing?” was going to be posted shortly after the tweet thread started, however due to editorial issues it got delayed . However since we now have a new testing society the ISST, I think this posting becomes timely once again. You may also want to read a question I posed that was published on the Ministry of Testing. […]