Software Testing Schools: All we need is world peace.

At a conference last month Julie Gardiner did a “lightening talk” about the so called schools of software testing (STAREAST 2016 lightning talks). In Julie’s talk, she advocated that the test industry needs “world peace” between what some call the “schools” of software testing. This call arises from debates I have been witness to, some negative postings to social media, and a certain amount of “ranker” between members of the software test community.
For those that don’t know these test schools by name, I currently classify them as: the test process school (a focus on written standards, certifications and defined test practice concepts), the quality assurance school (a focus on checks, audits, and policing that project plans/procedures are followed), the academic research school (a focus on research and a belief that test is a technology problem that can be solved by tools and techniques), and the context-driven school (a focus that test is a human intensive intellectual activity and that the approach to testing will be different for each effort with no “best” practice). There may be other names or divisions that some might choose. These are my names because some of the names used originally and more recently are not all that complementary to members of a school. A bit of reading and research will enlighten you about each school, the identified characteristic, and membership.
At conferences when the subject has come up, I hear “regular” testers (not affiliated consciously with any school) say “I do not care about school classifications. I just want to do a better job of testing”. However, in part this is why each school’s classification exists, because what each school puts forth are in part their answers to the desire of “doing a better job”. The approach of each school can be 50% or more in common with other schools while the real differences can be subtle, these differences are out of the scope of this blog posting.
I do agree with Julie in large part. The testing world needs “world peace” and what I would classify as civility. The test industry needs communication, discussion and even debate between the schools as all mature (we are a young profession). On the topic of being civil, name calling and glittering generalities solves nothing—let’s leave that for the current U.S. political contests. We are a profession, and disagreement–while a healthy part of discourse–should be considered with professional curiosity. We do need “test world peace”.
Julie proposed having the “all schools” school which could be comprised of people that move back and forth in the schools, while learning and helping each other be better testers. I agree as this has been mine and Julie’s practice for years. This has earned us the “privilege” of becoming a target of some members of schools who brand us various non flattering names, which I will not grace here. Name calling and personal attacks are unprofessional and certainly not peaceful.
Julie, I, and the many possible members of the “all schools” camp, would love to have you join us, but you really don’t need to if you just want to “get better at testing”. We support, discuss, learn, and hopefully advance each school we travel to and within. I regard the “all-schools” camp as a step in world peace, yet recognize that each school still has room for improvement. There are good and not so good testers in each school. Wanting to have exclusive membership in a school where members must adhere to the “rules” of a school to be a member in good standing sounds like an ideal that I would violate. There are schools in music: such as: classical, rap, blues, jazz, rock, and many others. The artists I most like and respect are those musicians who know the rules of a music school, play in that school but may then violate many of the rules by playing within another school. They and I recognize that it makes them better musicians while not being stuck in one genre. I think professional testers can learn from their example.
Come join us or not, but don’t listen exclusively to any negative rhetoric coming any school. This has been just one testers opinion.


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