A debate with Rex Black on the value of schools of testing

At STPCon last week, Rex Black and I had a debate on “Schools of Testing: Useful Paradigm or Negative Influence?” The STP folks will be posting an audio recording of the debate one of these days. Along with those, here are my notes (the materials I put together to prepare for the debate) (http://kaner.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/SchoolsStpConSlides.pdf).

Not surprisingly, Rex and I found a lot to disagree about, and we found some common ground.

I think there’s a lot of potential value in having more of these public discussions. One of the key reasons that we originally proposed the idea of “schools of thought” in software testing was to clarify the differences and provide structure for discussions about those.

In the long run, the best ideas of the context-driven school will prove wrong. That’s how it works in scientific/empirical enterprises. We come up with great ideas that get replaced by better ones. (Similar note: https://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/i-dont-want-agile-back/.)

Evolution of ideas happens

  • partially through adaption (trying stuff out and seeing how it doesn’t work, or could work better), and
  • partially through the grinding and shaping that comes when contrasting ideas are pushed against each other, again and again, until a better third way becomes visible.

2 thoughts on “A debate with Rex Black on the value of schools of testing

  1. Cem,

    Thanks for your willingness to participate in the debate. I thought it turned out well and was insightful (at least for someone who has followed the “discussion” over the last while,others I talked to who hadn’t followed it much mentioned they felt a little more in the dark about the whole need for the debate).

    I also enjoyed the domain testing workshop you gave on Monday – it was eye-opening to me how deep even one strategy can be (lots more to still learn and practice).

    Coming from a background in K-12 education (relatively recently) I instantly recognized some of the same idea of “schools” in the education realm, especially in regards to assessment/standardized testing. As I think about some other fields/industries, it is interesting to see how common they really are.

    As I think about the struggle between competing schools/ideologies, I’m just not sure if there is any smooth way to have that discussion. I believe in healthy debate, that it can be lively and vigorous and yet maintain some modicum of respect between people, but “grinding” competing ideas against each other inevitably generates some sparks. They just seem like a natural by-product of this kind of progress, in spite of Rex’s desire otherwise.

    In the context of your statement about “In the long run, the best ideas of the context-driven school will prove wrong”, I’m curious as to how this happens?

    Much of the debate amidst the schools of testing that I have observed over the last 2 1/2 years has seemed to be school vs school and reinforced bunker-type mentalities for many about the “school” they belong to. I think you might have touched on some of that about those who move among schools as transmitters of ideas, perhaps they are key to this process. It is probable that I just don’t run with the circles where this intra-“school” debate occurs, but I think those conversations would be fascinating.

  2. I don’t agree with the discussion.

    On ‘schools’, I think you can’t label another group a ‘school’ (the other group can call themselves a school). I also think to be a school the other groups should be able to explain why their view is different – it can’t be a few disagreements here and there. I haven’t seen any credible opinion on why the context driven testing school is wrong/inadequate.

    Leaving that aside, there are very strong development groups and very successful companies, who have a very weak view/understanding of testing. Given their success, it seems highly unlikely that they would ever change their view of testing.

    I think focusing on the differences between context-driven and ISTQB is a mistake. Although the agile dev. community is (conceptually) weak in testing, I think they are willing to think about software development practicies (in abstract terms). Agile and related practices are a great example of that. If you really want to bridge differences, it is better to do that with groups like that.

    I think the context driven testing community has done a lot of good work in advancing the state of testing. They should continue to do that, without spending time on getting others to understand their point of view.

    As an intellectual curiosity, it’s worth looking into:
    – are there problems in software (there are).
    – how is it that everyone is oblivious to these problems

Comments are closed.