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This is in continuation to the previous post, which discussed the views of various testing experts against concept of Schools of Testing. In this post, I would publish the views, which I consolidated from software-testing yahoo group and SQAForums. I could not find corresponding web page links for the authors of most of such views. So, I would mention just the names. If as a reader, you know more about the person, whom I am quoting, please let me know, I will edit the post to include a link to the corresponding web page.

SQAForums The background of this discussion is the thread which was started on this forum with the title Caner’s Schools Of Software Testing Article by Corey Goldberg


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Linda (alias “ljeanwilkin”) one of the moderators – “I’ve met thousands of analysts. I don’t think I’m particularly optimistic (those that know me would agree), and I don’t think I’m particularly wrong either. Most people do what they can with what they’ve got and may lean one way or another based on their situation. Did you read some of the replies of other very experienced resources here? They’re saying the same thing I am. There’s a school of “whatever works” out there and many of us belong to it. There’s a reason (as Mr. Kaner’s article pointed out) that most QA/QC people do not want to be “typed” into a specific school. All I know is that I haven’t signed any manifestos, and I don’t plan to join any cliques . It limits me.” “I encourage everyone to read and consider everything, try things that make sense in their own environments, and to use and make up their own minds. There are kernels of Good Stuff everywhere and to limit yourself to one school often means closing your eyes to more tools for your toolbelt. I think such typing encourages people to shut down their minds, rather than opening them.”

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Jake Brake one of the moderators, also supports Linda and says – “Will it change what I do? Perhaps it will in terms of me affiliating myself with a particular school – the school of solutions. I really wanted to blurt my buffers on this topic. Linda already did that and I think her responses speak well for me” =======================

Walen – a member at SQAForums, says- “In my experience. most of the time it is the attitude of the management of the shop that will direct what “school” people are in. Most tester types will keep their mouths shut and not argue. At my last location, the testers I’ve worked with tended to take the approach of “I’ll do whatever the boss tells me to until it is proven to be a stupid way of doing things. Then I’ll do it my way, because by then the project will be in a state where no one is paying much attention.” At my current location, a small group of exceptionally bright people use a group of approaches, depending on which developer or development team worked on the project or phase they are testing. I’m pretty comfortable with that approach.”

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Software-Testing Yahoo Group

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Alan A. Jorgensen – “…And I am one of those critics. I think that having a taxonomy of testing ideas is good, but the division into schools smacks of some of the same ideas that fuel prejutice, i.e., dumping someone under a label with a presumed set of associated properties. … So if you must create “schools” please clearly state 1) The precepts predominant in each school as well as precepts that overlap with other schools and 2) A “member” of a school does not necessarily adhere to nor advocate all of the precepts in that “school” and may well embrace precepts exclusive to other schools.”

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Rikard – “I really like Pettichords presentation Four Schools of Testing (although I only have read it) and think that it can generate a great deal of understanding about the testing community, and your own ways of testing. But there is a big risk of segregation, and I have seen some examples on the web where the schools are used to classify testers. This is not good, and could give a less open testing community. Isn’t it more fruitful to say “I think you rely too much on process” than “You belong to the Quality School and our ideas are divergent.”? Most testers would agree that you can’t really do good testing without analytical content, cost-effective routines, improving processes, or skilled employees, and in that way everyone is encompassing the main idea of each school in some way. So the notion of schools could rather be seen as key areas that you depend differently on on different occasions, and an important aspect is to not rely too much on one area. So maybe we should only use the schools as a tool to enhance ones own understanding and not beyond that? And rather talk about Five Pillars of Testing: Content, Process, People, Tools and the Unknown. Of course proclaimed schools should continue to enhance their view of the software world, but there is no need to put tags on the rest of the testing community.”

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Rikard, while suggesting not to do over-usage of the term Schools of Testing, leaves a remark – “By not over-using the schools of testing, I was hoping our school could be improved by making us less hostile to the testing community.”

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John McConda a member of the Context Driven school, while trying to understand Rikard’s remark, beautifully touches upon an additional perspective – “I believe that at the heart of what Rikard is saying is a tendency I see in myself, to question “Why can’t we all just get along?” Having come to the Context-Driven school myself after being frustrated with rigid rules in testing, I have the tendency to want to include everyone in this way of thinking because it makes much more sense to me. Having tried and failed to talk in these terms to various managers and apathetic testers though, I can say that it is very difficult if not impossible to persuade members of other schools of this “radical” approach to testing, more because of ignorance and apathy than any other reason.” ———————————————————————————-

The views in this category will be concluded in the next post. As mentioned earlier, to make the length of the post manageable to be read, it has been split into three posts. This is the seventh post in the series “The Big Fight – Schools of Testing”. For my previous posts on Schools of Testing, you can check the posts under the Schools of Testing Category.

Rahul Verma

www.testingperspective.com

6 Responses to “The Big Fight – Schools of Testing – Views Against and Additional Perspective – II”

  1. James Bach

    I appreciate how you put all this together, Rahul.

    It seems to me that some people can accept that there are different and mutually exclusive ideas in our field, and some people just can’t accept it. Another way of looking at the schools idea is that it gives us an orderly way to have irreconcilable disagreements.

    If it wasn’t for the schools concept, instead of saying “BJ Rollison talks as if he belongs to the Analytical School” I would have to say “BJ Rollison is a fool” or words to that effect.

  2. Cem Kaner

    Hi, Rahul The idea of interpreting the evolution of the field in terms of “schools” came as a response to a problem.

    * If someone doesn’t perceive the problem, s/he won’t perceive the value of the idea.

    * If someone doesn’t want to admit that s/he perceives the problem, then the idea of schools will be threatening, something s/he will attack

    When I used to help people build test organizations, back in the 1990’s, I sometimes tracked the backgrounds of people who applied to become test managers. More than half of the people who were experienced enough to make me take their resume seriously turned out to have not read a book on testing, and not taken a formal course on testing, and not gone to any conferences on testing. Talking with colleagues today, I have the impression that the situation is about the same. More people have taken short courses, but these are often certification-exam preparation courses that oversimplify the field to help the student prepare for a short test that probably asks more about your memory for simple ideas than about your wisdom, your insight, or your skill in the field. These courses prepare the student for the answers expected on the exam, not for the complexities of a field in which people disagree about even basic answers.

    People who are not widely enough read in the field are not yet confused by the fundamental disagreements in the field. They don’t (yet) need and won’t (yet) appreciate a model of the field that helps them sort out the disagreements that they don’t (yet) see.

    Let me give an example — domain testing.

    Most testers know what domain testing is, but as a reminder of the terminology, the general idea is that if a variable can take on a large number of possible values (the domain), it is useful to partition the domain into subsets and sample one or two values from each subset. We often call the subsets equivalence classes and we often select boundary values, the largest and smallest members of the subsets, as the cases that we test.

    * Is domain testing primarily a black box testing technique or a glass box (white box) one?

    * Is the primary purpose of domain testing to check the input filters for a variable or to provide a structure for driving the program through a large number of paths?

    * Can you do domain testing with any variable or just with variables whose values range in a definite order, from smallest to largest?

    * Can you do meaningful domain testing on Boolean variables (logic variables whose values are 0 / 1 or True / False)?

    * Is a domain test complete when you supply a boundary value to a variable and confirm that the variable properly accepted (or rejected) this value? Or does a proper domain test require you to continue your test until you actually use the variable, with this value, to do other work (such as print a report or display a window) that depends on the value of this variable?

    For each of these questions, I can think of at least one tester I respect who would give me one answer to the question and a different tester I respect who would give me the opposite answer. And if I said to one of them that s/he was wrong, s/he would say back that s/he knows full well why and how we do domain testing and would then explain the answer.

    In some years, when several graduate students to ask to join my lab and have me supervise their research, I give them a reading assignment. They read descriptions of domain testing by several famous authors (such as Boris Beizer, Robert Binder, Ilene Burnstein, Lori Clarke, William Howden, Paul Jorgensen, my book, Glen Myers, Tom Ostrand, Elaine Weyuker and Lee White) and then they try to give a single coherent description of domain testing. These students struggle and fume. Several give up and leave the study group (and thus, my lab). It is very hard for some of the students to become comfortable with the idea that well-known, well-respected people in the field flatly disagree on the definition and purpose of the single most widely taught testing technique. Some of the students who stayed with this task evaluated it, at the end of the year as the hardest and most educational project they did in any course all year because it forced them to confront the fact that they would have to make and justify their own judgments instead of being able to rely on The Famous Person Who Is Always Right.

    Bret and James and many of my other colleagues have read thousands of pages of material on testing, been to many courses and go to many conferences. We see basic disagreements all the time.

    Each of these views reflects the knowledge and wisdom of a respected teacher in the field. It is not my place to arrogantly say that one view (mine, for example) is Correct and the others are All Wrong. My task is to gain insight into their approaches, and perhaps increase the richness of my own basic knowledge of this important part of the field.

    As I study the differences and similarities in the writings, I realize that very often, a difference between two scholars in their basic definitions is just a first indicator that these scholars also differ in many other ways.

    We proceed naturally from this recognition of the fact of principled differences to the idea of a school when we realize that groups of people often think in similar (but not necessarily identical) ways and reinforce each other’s point of view (within the group).

    Much of the resistance to the idea of schools comes from people who do not recognize the deep differences among leaders in the field. I don’t mean interpersonal differences. I mean conceptual differences, how we conceptualize the field of software testing and the activities within it.

    In many cases, this resistance comes from people who have not had to study the field so broadly that the differences have forced themselves into the consciousness of someone who was not looking for them.

    In other cases, we see testers who insist that they are pushing The One True Way and that everyone else is an idiot. For them, there is no need to discuss schools. Some long-established members of our field hold this point of view. Obviously, I think they are mistaken.

    — Cem Kaner

  3. Rahul Verma

    Hi James,

    Thanks for appreciating my simple efforts.

    It’s my pleasure that you took time to leave a comment in my blog. Being a fan of your testing literature, I feel great about your visit to this blog.

    You have correctly pointed out that the concept of schools comes handy when discussing about how different testers think differently about testing. This is one of strongest points in favour of the concept.

    I have some other thoughts as well to add to this discussion. I am in the process of penning down my own thoughts on the concept. I will write them in a single post, which will appear towards the conclusion of this series as My Final Thoughts.

    As far as I have observed in different places on the web, you are very frank when you express your views. So, I will look forward to your views for that post as well.

    Thanks again for visiting.

    Rahul Verma.

  4. Rahul Verma

    Hi Cem,

    Thanks for visiting my blog and sparing time to leave a detailed comment. I have already read your blog post addressing the need for schools (that has been referenced in earlier posts), and this comment goes one step further in explaining the same. I am sure that your comment will be as useful to the readers of this blog as I found it.

    I am in the process of understanding this concept. Being totally new to it, it’s difficult to digest, I confess. Conceptually I am in favour of it, but there are other things which distract me. I will express all such thoughts in my post My Final Thoughts. It’s quite natural, that there might be many things in that post, which should be re-thought and re-analyzed. I look forward to your comments on that post, pointing all such areas.

    We could have known each other much earlier, but things did not work out. If you can recollect, you must have got a proposal from Applabs Technologies, India (from Geetha Narayanan) for your research work related to evaluation of testing material at testingeducation.org. Actually, I was the person who started that initiative in that organization, when I got your mail as a part of software-testing yahoo group. Geetha and I were supposed to work on the same. But I guess things did not work out. And now I have joined another organization.

    All this is to say, that I am a reader of your literature (for the matter, who won’t be!). I own your bestsellers and I frequently read your writings on the web. If you find any contradicting thoughts in my blog, please take them in a positive way. Ultimately, whatever I do, I do in the quest of being a better tester.

    Thanks again for visiting.

    Rahul Verma.

  5. Linda Wilkinson

    Linda WilkinsonIt’s difficult to get some self-proclaimed “Contextual School leaders” to accept the thought that one can be as experienced as they, read prolifically, be excited about innovation/experimentation and STILL disagree with them.

    Go figure.

    I personally don’t know anyone “threatened” by the concept of schools, although there is no doubt in my mind some leader wannabes would use it to typecast the “haves” from the “have nots”. There’s already more than a little arrogance out there; I personally don’t plan to support anything that feeds it. I’d like to suggest that one of the human traits I’ve observed is that really bright people dislike being put into little boxes. This would explain the general aversion to this idea by many professional people.

    In addition, many of us do not have problems relating to our peers, regardless of their backgrounds or methodologies. Perhaps the issue is not “recognized” because the majority of the field has no issue. The fact that two “experts” can disagree or have opposing views is no big deal, nor is everyone who writes articles or books automatically an “expert” in anything, other than, perhaps, creative writing. Nor do we require “schools” to refrain from calling someone who disagrees with us a fool in public domains.

    My own feeling is that “the best and the brightest” are also the most adaptable. They can function well under any circumstances and use their experience to pick and choose what will work best in a given environment. It may be “QA Gigantus” full of RUP or TPI red tape and it may be “QA Lite” with nothing but a few notes on a beer napkin.

    On QAForums, we’ve agreed that if there MUST be a school, we need to start the School of Joe. Everyone welcome.

  6. Rahul Verma

    Hi Linda,

    Good to see your comment. I am happy to lend this space for a healthy discussion on the concept, which brings out different perspectives. That’s the basic purpose of this series of posts.

    Some of the points mentioned by you are an extension of the discussion which was going on the SQAForumns..I clearly remember the discussion about the School of Joe there.

    There is much to say, I am waiting to write my thoughts in a post to come.

    In general, as of now, what I can say is that no idea is completely bad or good. Different people might think differently about it. What eventually matters is freedom of thought. Everyone should be free to think positively or negatively about any idea and his or her opinion, though debatable, should be respected on the human grounds of freedom.

    I liked some points in your discussion in the thread and in your comment. You will see these thoughts reflected in the posts to come.

    Till then, keep visitng and sharing thoughts.

    Rahul Verma.

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