Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The context driven testing community

At the recent Let's Test Oz conference, James Bach presented a model of the context driven testing community. His diagram showed the community split across three levels of engagement where an "inner circle" contained those capable of deep intellectual exchange; committed innovators and philosophers.

James talked about the community in his signature blunt manner, with straightforward language of cliques, pretenders and lobbyists. He assigned the task of niceties to a greeter, the friendly face of welcome, and coupled these people with guides, who identify and elevate people with potential.

James spoke plainly of an exclusive and elitist culture; by definition 'a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society'. I believe that James is comfortable in this type of environment, which is similar to the way that he described the ISST on Twitter earlier this year:

My concern is that this rhetoric of exclusion and elitism creates the impression that the context driven testing community is actually a crowd, a commotion, or even a cult.

I believe the community has grown beyond a central clique. I would like to see it represented in a more inclusive way. I see a group of people that are interested in furthering their professional skills; where intent rather than commitment is the ticket to entry.

As such, I'd like to see us adopt an inclusive model:

If it looks a bit like I turned things inside out, then you're on the right track. Let me explain.

Someone with no knowledge of context driven testing is likely to encounter a leader of the community first. These are the people with the greatest reputation and professional presence. To a newcomer, these leaders may appear to be offering a lone dissenting opinion.

Consequently, the leaders of the community are not hidden at its center. They are the public face of context driven testing, and most likely to be approached by those who are eager to learn more. I am certain that James is dealing with more enquiries about context driven testing every day than I am!

Rather than expecting a greeter to welcome people, a path should be marked so that anyone in the community can simply direct the newcomers to this route. I believe there are a common set of first steps that any person with an intent to learn more about context driven testing may take. These should be known and accessible.

This model suggests six ways that people become involved with the community:

  • Readers - start reading testing articles and magazines, e.g. Testing Trapeze
  • Followers - subscribe to context driven testing blogs or follow the Twitter accounts of people who are active in the community
  • Viewers - watch a testing presentation or conference talk online
  • Event Attendees - participate in a local testing MeetUp group or attend a testing conference, e.g. Let's Test 
  • Students - attend a training course on context driven testing, e.g. Rapid Software Testing
  • Inexperienced Practitioners - try a new testing practice in your workplace, e.g. visual test coverage modelling

Newcomers should feel from the very beginning that they have walked into the middle of an inclusive environment. Rather than joining the outer edge of an intellectual clique, they are in the midst of a sphere of possibility. This model offers clarity in the growth and progression that is possible within the context driven testing community.

Commitment and reputation are implicit in the layers of the model. From the center, where people are consumers of information, a person may progress to participating in the community with an active voice.

Contribution is naturally associated with challenge, as by expressing an opinion there's a chance that others will disagree with it. The community ethos is that "no one is entitled to an unchallenged opinion". I simply suggest we move the challenge from our doormat and place it at a point where people are better prepared to respond appropriately.

Finally, the strength of the community is wider than researchers, philosophers, and innovators. Those who are truly committed will naturally aspire to the highest levels, but in a variety of contexts. There are many opportunities, and most of those who operate at this level will happily assist others that want to develop as leaders.

The context driven testing community should articulate the ways in which people can join, market the opportunities for personal development, and encourage newcomers to grow the craft. Creating an inclusive model of the community is a first step in demonstrating the nature of a group that has grown beyond an elite club.


  1. It's interesting because when James did his talk on the CDT school, I thought of just that, a school - or rather a University.

    The Physics & Astronomy Dept at the University of Sheffield was on the cutting edge of the subject in the country. But was it's job to do research and advance the subject, or to take charge of new minds and develop them? I honestly don't know. Different members of staff seemed to have different priorities.

    There were certainly physicists there who were advancing our field, and regularly published. But they looked terrified when an ungergraduate said "hi" and asked a question - or lord forbid they needed to give a series of lectures (I had one physics lecturer who said "you'll have to excuse me, this is the first lecture I've ever given" and promptly fainted.

    In CDT we also have the dedicated teachers and tutors, who have a real flair for student engagement. And also the students who have been around a while, and are willing to befriend the new arrivals.

    I kind of like that "University model" - when an undergraduate arrives they can get limited time to some senior physicists, maybe a tutor they can contact a bit more often. But the network they get the most support from is their peers - their fellow students, the slightly older students that get paid to help out at the labs, and the postgraduates they seem to bump into at coffee.

    I think in Wellington a great community has come into effect - it was drifting together for a while, and WeTest has helped give it a home and a forum. It's almost tempting to look at things like WeTest as the "splinter cell" recruiting of CDT. It's an own autonomous entity - not necessarily purely CDT, but a lot of the ideas seem to come out anyway - and yet part of the larger test community.

    Interesting thoughts anyway Katrina.

    1. @TestSheep: Isn't the effect of Bach's model of the CDT community to build an ivory tower? By placing researchers and theorists in the center and the uninitiated and uncommitted at the flanks, Bach indeed seems to be recalling the social structures that compose academic disciplines. To be clear, the structure I most recognize in Bach's model of the CDT community is of the humanities in the U.S.

      The humanities relishes in the exclusivity of its academic communities. I would not say that it thrives as a community though. Arbitrary lines in the sand get drawn between the uncommitted and committed; some voices are allowed a platform while others are actively muted; creative, thoughtful, supportive people are pushed out due to unsustainable circumstances (lack of job security, exploited labor, social isolation, high pressure to achieve, structural poverty... the list goes on). Does CDT's community mirror this? Maybe it does. Should CDT's community mirror this community? I hope nobody is saying that. Academic communities and others that value their ivory towers and relish exclusivity are toxic and harmful to everybody outside the tower.

      I will concede this - as a disciplinary domain, the humanities are thriving. Scientists and engineers are learning the consequences and the power of their words in science writing classes. Engineers are inspired to innovate and collaborate with non-technical parties. Software testers are compelled to think about their work as both social and technical. I'm not sure that I would credit this blossoming of the humanities disciplines to the thought leaders and philosophers and researchers who occupy the tower at the center of the academic humanities though. My experience is that those folks are clamoring to keep the tower from crumbling and that's it.

      Academic communities, I think, are deteriorating, but disciplinary domains seem to be flourishing due to more prevalent cross-disciplinary work in professional domains and collaboration between those outside of academia. Katrina, I think the model of community you propose here is a hopeful one and, honestly, one that I would prefer to be party to.

    2. @rh

      Ah - the riddle that is James Bach. He says he wants to concentrate on the philosophy of testing, but then he spoils it all by going around giving free tuition to people...

      It's interesting - I was really inspired by this model when it went up. When I saw it, rather than 3 discreet levels, I saw a continuum of levels, with people following their own path through it. Most importantly people don't just communicate within their own peer level, but also into and outside a bit.

      As mentioned James Bach is inundated with many requests of "hey Mr CDT man, teach me testing". I actually hear more about this from the people who he's taught who said how much it changed their thinking to testing, over from James himself.

      But I seem to remember that James will coach pretty much anyone if they can get the schedules to work, but he is looking for commitment. Notice in his slide "committed students" share a border with "researchers" and so communication between them is plausible. Is James really sitting in an ivory tower if he says "look, I'm willing to coach you ... but I'm looking for some commitment here"?

      What I came away from that keynote with was a sense of empowerment though (if you ask me where I am, I'd say committed student). The message I got from it was CDT is about more than just a few people - don't rely on the James Bachs, Anne Marie Charretts and Michael Boltons to put out this message to the larger testing community. They are visible beacons and thought leaders of the community, but it also relies a lot on personal interactions. In my development as a tester I've been greatly influenced by my peer group and their experience that I've worked with on projects, and that's led me to building a tester network for over a decade.

      I felt from the keynote those peer relationships and interactions are important, and we need to not just rely on the core leaders of CDT, but to be beacons of the values ourselves in what we do, and through our interactions with other testers and our customers.

      But as said, that's what I felt. You can give the same speech to multiple people, and they'll all walk away with slightly differing ideas on the what the message was. And that's human nature. Katrina has come away asking "how can we make this model more inclusive?", and I've felt in a different way "how can I be more inclusive?". But it's definite that inclusivity, and a need for it is in everyone's minds.

    3. To your first point - yes, I realize the irony of reading of Bach's model as one akin to a university or academia. I did not wish to direct my comments at the nature of the person and instead wanted to focus on the community model and the rhetorical implications of that model. To that end, there is definitely some connective tissue missing in my comments. :)

      The foundational idea behind my comments is that the words we use and the models we create to describe our communities have material implications for the people who are part of those communities. I think that we should be careful about subscribing to models of communities that are fueled by a rhetoric of exclusivity where buy-in, commitment, and initiation are the modes by which people must move through the continuum of the community.

      If such a model is meant to draw attention away from the thought-leaders, why is that group represented at the center, insulated and isolated by the outer echelons? Perhaps it is meant to empower people, but does Bach's model as it is represented here actually have that effect? I'm not sure it does. It reflects an academic discourse community and the discipline that informs it. From my own experience in the CDT community (largely on Twitter over this year), it's not an accurate depiction. This community is approachable and exuberant and I think the models we use to represent it should reflect that.

      In an academic context, the term discipline seems pretty benign, but in all other contexts, discipline refers to training people (or oneself) to obey a code of behavior. That training may be done using negative reinforcement like punishment or with positive reinforcement like affirmation through initiation. A person obeys the code of behavior by buying in and demonstrating commitment to those in a position to initiate. (Should be noted that I am loosely paraphrasing Foucault's 'docile bodies' bit from _Discipline and Punish_.)

  2. What this model seems to be missing out on is James' outer circle - and people completely outside the circles. While I like the idea of being inclusive, I would not want to be inclusive as in "agile" - the form and substance versions completely intertwined so that none knows what it includes.

    I find from my experience that pretenders, shallow practitioners, ambassadors exist, in addition to people who have not yet made up their mind on whether skill is relevant over processes. The model seems to be missing out on the colleagues I've worked with for 20 years who don't believe in putting skills in the center. They are not students or newcomers to context-driven, they find often that changing their belief system would threaten something they've achieved by now - usually a business.

    How would you include that in the model?

    1. @Maaret Pyhäjärvi: On one hand, I wonder why include people who are not in the community in the model of the community? On the other hand, I read Katrina's label - unadorned with adjectives - make no assumptions about level of commitment, initiation, or buy-in. This, I think, is to this model's credit. A viewer or an event attendee could be someone who has a passing interest or somebody who is enthusiastic about CDT. And, I wonder, is it not possible for a student to be a speaker? Or a community leader to be a follower? It would seem that the identities in the community are contingent and contextual themselves depending on the goals and desires of the community members.

      Perhaps I am wrongly inferring this from the design of Katrina's model, but these roles seem flexible. So flexible that individuals could be wearing more than one hat at a time depending on the circumstantial contexts they occupy at a given moment.

    2. Thanks for your comments. Racheal's reply is absolutely what I intended, and expressed much more eloquently than I could have written it myself. I wanted a model that was flexible, and removing the levels of commitment, initiation, or buy-in was certainly part of this. I was also reluctant to label people that I felt were outside of the community altogether.

  3. This is a great article, Katrina. As someone new to the testing community, I think you are right on target with how the structuring and building of the community should look.

    An inclusive model is more inviting for all types of people and fosters an environment of elevation, collaboration, and growth. With this model, anyone despite current ability, knowledge, or commitment can gain from the community what he/she needs and in due time give back to the community.

    The exclusive model is rather contradictory to the term community. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a community is "a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals." This definition, in no way, indicates that restricting or limiting people is part of building a community. Moreover, exclusivity makes the group seemingly impenetrable from a newcomer’s or outsider’s perspective.

    If exclusivity is what James is after, then he is building a gated community and it’s up to other thought leaders to build up a community that will thrive.

    The ultimate question is:

    How do you build a community of thriving, eager, and inquisitive minds if your primary objective is to get newcomers to drink the Kool-aid and close the community’s gate?

    1. I agree broadly, but there's something I feel I need to address:

      ""a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals." This definition, in no way, indicates that restricting or limiting people is part of building a community."
      It actually does. It implicitly excludes those that don't share common attitudes, interests, and goals.

      "How do you build a community of thriving, eager, and inquisitive minds if your primary objective is to get newcomers to drink the Kool-aid and close the community’s gate? "

      I don't believe the primary objective is to get newcomers to drink the Kool-aid at all. It's more, "hey what's your flavour of kool-aid? If your brand of kool-aid is that testing's role is to ensure consistent rapid delivery of software, the agile-testing school may be your community. If your brand is that testing is to ensure that written requirements are verified, and you value repeatability, then the factory flavoured Kool-aid is for you. If your brand is to help stakeholders make decisions by giving them quality-related information of a nature that is valuable to them, and you value tailoring your approach to your customers, then the CDT branded kool-aid is your flavour."

      But if I walk into the CDT school, and start talking about factory flavoured kool-aid, of course they will say "Sorry, we only serve this flavour".

      Inclusiveness and Exclusiveness are two sides of the same coin. You can't have one without the other. Like light and shadow. As soon as you identify some common set of something, and draw a circle around it and give it a name, there necessarily will be things on the outside of that circle, regardless of how large you make that circle. So yes, by definition there is exclusivity.

      Finally, there's no 'ONE' community. For example, the testing communities I belong to are:
      The Broader Testing Community
      The System Testing Community
      The New Zealand testing community
      The Wellington Testing Community
      The Assurity Testing Community
      The WeTest Testing Community
      The Context-Driven Testing Community

      I feel like I'm on the fringe of:
      The Agile testing community

      We have to be careful not to reify the word Community. Community describes the feeling of belongingness one feels when surrounded by others with a common goal, value, or interests.
      So, my perception of the CDT community will be different to everybody else's since everyone's values and interests are made from such a rich tapestry of influences. So, I don't feel a part of the European CDT community for example, and THAT'S OK! I feel like I'm on the fringe of the North American CDT community and THAT'S OK TOO. I feel a strong part of the Twitter CDT community, and I feel central to the Australasian CDT community.

      I wonder what constitutes being 'welcome' into the CDT community? I'm really interested in knowing what people perceive the community to be, and what feeling welcome in that community would look like.

      I'm only slightly joking when I say that I define someone as being in the CDT community if I can have a conversation with them about testing that doesn't involve the word "test cases". When I say "I'm a CDT tester", to me that's a signal that you can come and talk to me about oracles, heuristics, exploratory testing, and that when we use certain words like "test cases" or "automation", we have a similar world view on their place within the testing practice.

      I acknowledge that this has turned into an unstructured ramble

    2. Thanks for your comments. Rachelle, I think it's interesting that you see the primary goal of exclusivity as "drink the Kool-Aid and close the gates". By contrast, I felt that James' sought exclusivity to be part of a group of people that were prepared to aggressively challenge one another, creating an electric exchange of ideas that is often only possible in a small close-knit environment. My concern with this model is when it refers to the entire context driven testing community, and not James' clique within it. To grow the community I'd like to see the thinking change to an inclusive view.

    3. Admittedly, I could have completed more research before commenting. Thankfully, the perspective that I had after reading this and writing the comment afforded me the ability to engage in conversation about my impression. I had the great pleasure of communicating directly with James on this topic.

      Due to that exchange, I have a better understanding of James' desire for exclusivity and what he intended by it. I still do not think that the model he uses is effectively conveying his idea and that yours may be more on target, especially from a newcomer's perspective.

      I have many takeaways from the conversation that this blog post sparked and will engage you all again soon with those thoughts.

      Thanks again!

  4. [Part 1 of 2]

    Interesting model and great post Katrina, it's fascinating to read other people's thoughts on this.

    Advance warning, I wrote a trademark long comment, so TL;DR:

    - I like both models but for different purposes;
    - I don’t necessarily see James’ as elitist or exclusive;
    - Personally I probably align more with your model due to how I see my position in the community.

    Read on for the full fat version…

    I'll start by saying that I like your outside-in model of the community. This inversion neatly reflects the fact that it is very much the "leaders" of the community that are most visible, and are the ones who - even if they do so unconsciously - actually attract new people and draw them into the fold.

    Both James and Anne-Marie Charret mentioned in the keynote that they saw themselves not fitting the role of "greeter" or "guide" because it doesn’t fit with their conception of their personality or style, and because they are more interested in pushing the field forwards. And yet there were many people in that room who felt they HAD been brought into the community, in some way or other, by James or Anne-Marie.

    So this is something I think your model has over James’ – it represents that the people pushing the envelope of the field are also the ones on the outer edge, grabbing people’s attention and encouraging them to join - sometimes actively, and sometimes passively.

    However, I don't feel that the interpretation of James' model as building an ivory tower, which comes through at times in your post and in some of the previous comments, is strictly accurate. I can see how it could be interpreted that way, but I don’t think that was really the sentiment James was going for.

    Instead, I think James' model is simply meant to highlight that there are varying levels of involvement in the context-driven testing community, and to give some examples of the activities that might occur at those levels. Though there are lines and different colours in the model, I don't read these as walled communities that wouldn't interact.

    Instead, I think it acknowledges that there will naturally be more interaction between those people who sit at similar levels, but this doesn't prevent people from moving between levels (based on their current situation and commitments), or from people in different levels from interacting and working together (maybe through coaching or mentoring, or co-authoring an article etc), or for people from some levels to move to others (as they become more confident and more comfortable contributing and developing ideas).

    [Continued in next comment - turns out there is a 4096 character limit on these comments!]

    1. [Part 2 of 2]

      I wonder if the prominent interpretation expressed here of James' model as one which is primarily exclusive is a result of the outer layer of his model actually representing those who aren't really in the community. That boundary between the light-blue and middle-blue sectors therefore probably IS an excluding boundary - it's the line in the sand between "them" and "us". This leads others to see the other boundary (between middle-blue and dark-blue) in the same way, but I don't interpret the model in that way.

      As such, I like that in your model you haven't represented those who are not in the community. This neatly avoids creating confusion between hard and soft boundaries, and allows the model to be perceived as more consistently inclusive, while also giving your third layer more accessible appeal to newcomers who can relate to that kind of passive participation and feel a sense of involvement that will encourage them to forge on to the deeper, darker levels.

      Overall I see a similar intent reflected in both models and this reaffirms two things two keep in mind when discussing abstract models like this:

      1. All models are heuristic and open to interpretation. So comparing them isn’t necessarily useful unless we also understand how the model is being used. In this sense, I think the primary difference is that James' model seems to look at the community from a secure position within it, and with a focus on developing the ideas and concepts that it is centred on (an objective James openly stated in the keynote). In contrast, your model is looking at the community from either outside or nearer the edge, and appears more concerned with growing the community by attracting and encouraging potential or newer members to join and contribute.

      2. I am at some sub-conscious level projecting my understanding of the community - how I see it - onto both models. In other words, I am using the models presented here as a mould with which to give structure to my pre-existing ideas about the community, and this biases and informs the opinions I have around each. This happens to all of us and so, to some degree, we will use any model that we are presented with as a new lens through which to see what we want to see.

      I guess what I’m getting at with those two points is that it’s not the model that is important – though I like both, and both are useful in giving form to and communicating ideas – but the fact that you are engaging with it and have ideas about it.

      I like what Aaron mentioned – there is no one community, the idea of “community” is an abstract, personal thing. By creating your model you have defined your vision of the CDT community and how you want it to be. James has his model too, and his may be slightly different but it’s how he sees it and wants it to be.

      You and James each share in the CDT community, and I think this is reflected by the considerable commonality and shared ideas between the two models. Their differences highlight your differing positions and objectives within and for that community, and so both are potentially useful to a range of other people.

  5. Been thinking a bit on this overnight. Talking about models is all nice and all - but typically any model we have tends to be a set of rules for describing what we see.

    James model although we can say perhaps "I wish it wasn't" is a model of how life and community (pretty much any community) really is.

    Katrina's model is more aspirational, "wouldn't it be nice if ...". I guess the challenge for Katrina (and us all) is again, "what has to change in the way we behave to support her model"?

    1. I'm curious why you perceive Katrina's as aspirational? There are several things I like about Katrina's model that I think makes it more reflective of reality:

      The thought leaders and researchers are at the edge. They are pushing the state of the art of testing outward. Secondly, whether James wants to be a greeter or ambassador or not, he is. He is the highest profile member of the community (in my perception) and certainly one of the biggest drivers of the new ideas and innovations the CDT community adopt.

      But I like James' model if we think of the community as being a group of testers who have gravitated towards the writings and lessons and research of a core group of testers.

      But maybe a galactic model is more appropriate:

      There are billions of galaxies in the universe; the one we live in is the Milky Way Galaxy. Let's call the galaxy we are trying to describe within the universe of testing as the CDT Galaxy.

      Perhaps we can think of the galactic centre of the CDT galaxy as being a gravitational well of certain values and principles. Over time, this gravity well of ideals captured many people within its orbit. You could consider this cloud of testing dust to be the CDT community.

      But some of this testing dust coalesces into stars. Yes, these stars orbit the galactic centre, but they are now solar systems of their own which have their own gravity wells.

      ISST could be considered to be star, AST could be considered to be a star. Katrina may disagree with me, but WeTest could be considered to be a (very) small star. Perhaps even the strongest personalities within the galaxy could be solar systems in their own right. Each of these systems is both a member of the larger CDT galaxy, but also can be considered an isolated closed system in its own right collecting its own swarming cloud of matter. Within each solar system you now have planets, comets, asteroids, and moons. A given heavenly body could be considered to be part of a planetary system, a solar system, a galaxy, or the universe. And each would be correct depending on how you modeled the system.

      The more I think of it, the more I like this model; every atom in the universe exerts a gravitation force on every other atom in the universe. Just like testers.
      But generally, it's only ever really useful to look at an object in terms of its largest gravitation effect. When we calculate the force of gravity on Earth, we don't take the mass of the sun into consideration (most of the time) for example. And so it can be for the testing community. I can consider myself part of the solar system, but I can say to the person next to me, "Do you consider yourself part of the solar system?" and they could justifiably say "No, I'm part of the Earth system".

      Which may what be happening here. James Bach can be talking about the intense gravitational forces and heat that's happening in the supermassive blackhole at the centre of the galaxy. Meanwhile, Katrina could be the solar star that has many hospitable planets teeming with wildlife orbiting her. I could be the comet that is in a massive orbit that takes me through many solar systems and close to the centre of the galaxy from time to time, and back out again.

      Each is a legitimate particle in the galactic system, but each has a vastly different perspective on what that system is, or looks like.

      No wonder all this talk of orbits feels like going around in cirlces sometimes: This is how I feel sometimes with this: http://i.imgur.com/Kahu83O.jpg

    2. Some interesting discussion there Aaron, and thanks for making me sit down and think and explore this idea a bit more.

      I'm actually going to take a bit of a step back and think about the bigger picture of this. We have two models - James and Katrinas.

      Now to ask - why is having a model important - why are we even talking about this? I know for myself as a scientist, "models" are important they (as discussed in the link below) provides us with a representation of a reality (from observation) or a concepts which allows us to understand and predict ...


      Which one feels the closer to the reality we have? And which would we prefer to be the actual model? If there's a difference then it's a rallying call for us to change our behaviour and ask how we should be acting. If it's the same, then maybe just carry on "as you were"?

      In a way as I've mentioned, I felt "inspired to action" by James model. Simply because it put the onus on each of us "you may not be one of the central core, but you have a valuable role in your work in growing the community". As such anyone who says "I agree with the CDT principles" has a monumental responsibility because when you say that, you've nominated yourself as an ambassador for the community.

      But Katrina's model really says we can just step back - James Bach, Michael Bolton and Anne-Marie Charrett are our ambassadors on the high frontier. If someone wants to find out more, they'll contact them, and be referred to us in due course. So really James, Michael, Anne-Marie good luck, you're our recruiters, so get recruiting! ;-)

      Yes - I'm in some ways straining the models to breaking point here. But whether James model or Katrinas, in many ways the model we prefer doesn't matter. But what the model makes us feel we need to be actively doing within the community is vital. And it's this action and activity which gives our chosen model any form of value.

    3. @Aaron Hodder: Really enjoy your celestial metaphor here. I like to think of things as being sort of nebulous - having a shape, but one that's in flux and perhaps appears differently depending on where you stand in relation to it.

      @TestSheep: I think I have to agree to disagree with you. I value the alternate POV you pose as a sort of thought challenge that helps me think through my own ideas. The kinds of models we subscribe to affect the kind of activities we are obliged to engage in. For that reason, it absolutely matters what model is serving as the framework for our individual visions of the community. But, I think, perhaps that I just have to chalk this up to an epistemological difference between us. :)

      Fwiw, one of my co-workers (@vsComputer on Twitter) pointed me toward CDT and has been as much a mentor to me as he has been a fellow student in this community, I think. Bach and co. are points of reference, but the person who I discuss (philosophize? strategize?) the critical work of testing for my team and my company is work that I do with my colleague. That context is the one in which I have learned and studied. I don't think this story fits into Bach's model at all. I don't want this story to fit into Bach's model, personally, because that would be as if I was back in grad school and ... that's the last thing I want.

  6. Hi Katrina,

    Great thoughts there, thanks for publishing

    You hit the nail on the head with.... "I simply suggest we move the challenge from our doormat and place it at a point where people are better prepared to respond appropriately."

    I feel that the Context driven community will grow stronger and it's mind-set will be exercised wider if we have a direct path that -

    a) Encourages & welcomes people who don’t understand CDT, or are curious about CDT , or are potential business consumers of CDT, or are practitioners of other schools of testing, to come & interact with leaders of the community to get a first-hand experience of how and why CDT is more effective for an organisation’s testing needs. We need engagement before we prove why we are better at testing practice

    b) Provides opportunities for the leaders of the community themselves to reach out to novices, curious gawkers , up & coming practitioners and business leaders.

    Your model could be misinterpreted as providing an easy intellectual entry into the community but I feel that is a better way to grow ....."grow from centre...grow the nucleus" rather than through exclusion of intellectual prowess

    And above all the direct path to the “centre” also puts the onus onto the leaders directly to grow the core nucleus by creating more leaders (because ultimately new leaders will grow the community rather than just the meeters and greeters )

    Above all, for me as a test practitioner embracing divergent views & needs comes much before than challenging whether someone has the ability to intellectually match my own skill set and aligns with professional mind set.

    Thanks again for such a thought provoking post Katrina.

  7. All I have to say Katrina is: Bravo Zulu!

    From an outsider looking in I must tell you that until now that I just read your post I always looked at the CDT school of thought as a cult (yes your assumption is right that many folks look at it as a cult) that unconditionally followed its leader who himself was not tolerant of anybody with a divergent view and was quick to send them packing.

    I am glad that I was wrong. Mainly because in our profession, being so closed minded is certainly a negative and can be detrimental on many levels. I have always been of the opinion that _ALL_ testers are context driven. Whether they know it, or not. I have also always been of the opinion that one does not need to join a specific school of thought to prove this. Especially when the elitist model that James was pushing turned all of us regular folks that do not subscribe to schools off from the CDT and aided us in discounted it as a cult.

    I'm happy to see your model and hope that it gets implemented. It does seem more inline with the real world and at the same time it makes sure that your community will grow by giving folks like me a positive perspective on the CDT community.

    Thank you and warm regards,


  8. Katrina:

    I was glad to see your suggestion of a model of the context-driven community that emphasizes the nature and values of a community.

    Every person sits at the center of their world. You are at the center of your testing community. I am at the center of mine. We look at the world through the eyes that sit in our own heads and we see what we see.

    We each have our own biases and our own preferences. We pay attention to some people, and to their research, their practices, and their views. We ignore others. It is useful to read summaries of a field's work with that in mind. Adding the words "that I am aware of" can illustrate the point. Consider the following assertions:

    * All of the significant advances in the field [that I am aware of] over the past 15 years have come from this small circle of people

    * I am the most competent researcher [that I am aware of] on exploratory testing in the entire world

    * Everyone [that I am aware of] who is an honest, reasonable person hates this standard or this certification

    * Everyone [that I am aware of] who promotes this other view is dishonest or incompetent.

    Along with carrying the message of the original speaker, statements like these carry information about the nature of the speaker. They can reflect on a speaker's scholarly care and competence, level and breadth of knowledge, bias and the degree to which bias dominates her or his analysis, and on the importance to the speaker of self-promotion and denigration of others.

    When someone tells you that they, and a few friends, live at the center of the universe, it would probably be a mistake to interpret that as useful information about the universe.

    When someone characterizes a community like ours in a way that centers it around them, I think two important possibilities should be considered:

    (a) Maybe the characterization is inaccurate

    (b) Maybe it really has become a broken community

    I think that context-driven testing exists to encourage us to look at the world through many eyes. Similar-looking problems arise in many different situations. Our approach, as context-driven testers, is to wait a little bit before applying the usual solution to the common problem. We stop and ask whether that usual solution (that "best practice") will be desirable and effective in this situation. The values that many of us espouse as central to context-driven testing place the people in those situations in an important role. The beliefs, skills, perspectives, values, and preferences of the people in these situations are important parts of the context. In two contexts, we might solve what seems to be the very same problem differently because the two different solutions are better suited to the two different groups of people in those contexts.

    In the context-driven community, at least in the one that I thought I was helping to form, the members of the community are important. The diversity of perspectives is important. The recognition of our diversity seems central to who we are and how we think about things. The authoritarianism of an elite central group seems to be what we were protesting against, not what we were advocating for. There is a place for people who believe that the field's knowledge and wisdom rotates around them: the ISO 29119 drafting committee.

    For the rest of us, there should be many different models of the social structure of our field that reflect the many perspectives of the many people who are valued members of it.

  9. @Katrina:
    Thanks for the re-hash of JB's pic. I noted the things that bugged me in the presentation but didn't have a clear picture yet. It sure didn't look like what you put up but I like your approach more than what I had planned. The things I see are the following:

    * Putting the "onion" inside out gives the appearance that those in the know are embracing the newcomers.
    * The people in the outer ring are also those mostly seen by the public and the divide is like a huge wall. Not because it should be defensive but because the knowledge level is so massively different.
    * You put the Entry-arrow just right. I think this is the actual issue our community is facing. It is not easy getting "in" or even finding where the entry really is. (By the way, I think we did sort of get that right here in Wellington. There is a clear way that is obvious to most testers. I think that is the main reason that the CDT community here is so disproportionately strong. Sydney with Sydney testers is coming up the same way now)
    * You also try to use inclusive terminology. The whole point of the slide is to define how we grow and sustain a community. That cannot be done if we scare off potentials by using terms (that might be correct) but offend.
    * You have also dropped a whole "class" of people from the original. Those are the people that are outside of the community (including those that think they are in but aren't). We could put them in the picture but I think it is better kept out and maybe to another slide. This slide should focus on what the community IS and not what the testing community at large is.

    I think the whole #stop29119 has done a lot to fuse us into a more coherent community. This poses a problem as -like Cem says above- we actually don't want to be centrally led/controlled. The whole of CDT though revolves around personalities. This is mainly due to the fact that CDT so far is still a comparatively new development without a mature and wider community. So I think what we are doing now will pave the way for a growing community that eventually will rely on the growing body of knowledge more than on a center or personalities.

    CDT is not really something that can be taught and scaled at an ISTQB-like level. It cannot be verified by a check-box test either. It is very much a craft. What we're doing here is trying to make it easier for outsiders to find the right access to the community so that the 1st thing they see is not the high knowledge-walls but a way in, where they can be safe in the knowledge that the body of knowledge supports and protects them and their choice of testing.

    Things I would suggest:
    * The "Greeter" is missing from the picture. He/She should be in layer 2, where the Arrow points.
    * You could re-arrange the image so that the positioning of each feature makes sense. e.g. teachers, Keynote Speakers,... closer to the newcomers and researchers,... at the other end.
    * The whole clique concept is a good one too. Not sure yet how to display that here. Might be too much for just one slide.

  10. Hi guys,

    I see a lot of people with great thoughts reading this blog, so I would like to take the opportunity to ask for your advice. For a while, I've been thinking of starting a Testing Community in my country, since there is none. I know a lot of testing professionals are located here, but there is no knowledge and experience sharing - which is my main goal. Do you have any practical advice? What should be my first steps? How did you Community started and how it grown?


  11. ^^ So, what country would that be?

  12. @Oliver: I don't think that this is relevant, but I'm going to answer: Serbia. We have a big number of IT companies, which are mainly doing outsourcing, so the services QA people provide are very diverse. I would like to create a Community where we can discuss trends, problems etc.

    1. Hi Mirjana,

      I'm excited to hear that you're interested in creating a community in Serbia. I wrote about one aspect of how we got the community started here in New Zealand, which was by asking a lot of people to help / attend.


      In terms of practical advice and first steps. Think about what you want your events to look like. Think about who you'd like to attend them. Think about when these people would be most likely to be able to attend (for us this was after work in a central city location). Once you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, then start action.

      A good starting point is to find a venue. Start small and, if possible, free. Pitch the community of your imagination as a reason for sponsors to provide a room for you to meet in. If you find a particularly generous sponsor, and we've been lucky in this regard, then you could ask them to fund food and drinks for attendees also.

      Once you have a venue, find your first speaker. You may want them to do a full presentation, or a short experience report, or lead something hands on. For a first event, try to find a strong topic with broad appeal. At this point you don't want to restrict the market for your new community too much.

      With a venue and a speaker in place, schedule the first event. Give yourself a long lead time for this, I'd suggest 4 - 6 weeks. This gives you time to start asking people to attend, for them to put it in their diary, and to encourage them to ask other people too. Hopefully you can fill the first event and then the lead time for future activities will become much shorter.

      On the night, be sure to take some photos. Afterwards write a short report with the photos and share it with your sponsors, so that they'll want to continue to support you!

      That's how I'd suggest you begin, I'm sure there are many other ways to get a new community up and running. I hope this offers some useful ideas though.

    2. Hi Katrina,

      Thank you for the advices. I'm glad that my ideas pretty much match your advices. I have found a free venue, and though of the attendances and aimed audience. Since I have a "co-organisor" - a colleague who is an international speaker at conferences, he will help me out with lectures and presentations. Our plan is to think it through by the end of the year, and then start with the action. Before the actual meetup, we are visiting other IT meetups in our city, just to feel the pulse of the IT community. Also, the idea is to have a presentation on testing on different developers communities, and explain them why testing is important and what are the benefits of using different testing methods and approaches. Noways, what I here at those presentations are mostly- "instead of just clicking through, you can automate your test using this and that and you will always know is your code green or red", and I'm sick of hearing that - developers seems to think that they don't need testers because they can write automated tests by their own. And I want to change it, or at least make them think about testing more.

    3. Fantastic. It sounds like you are well prepared. Good luck! :)

    4. Thank you! Fingers crossed :)

  13. "...where intent rather than commitment is the ticket to entry...."

    Intentions are ridiculously cheap. Everyone has an entire 20 volume set of encyclopedias in their heads, full of unrealized intentions. Intent gets you exactly nowhere. Intent gets you 25 years of telling yourself that, one day, you really are going to learn how to play the guitar.

    Commitment, on the other hand - particularly *demonstrable* commitment, is extremely expensive. It's painful, its messy, its often awkward, embarrassing, and utterly without glamour. But commitment gets you incremental progress toward a goal. It gets you the $100 Spanish acoustic junker in the pawn shop window. It gets you 12 months of scales and spider exercises and positional fingering practice. It gets you a duet recital at your local 4-H club where you accidentally flub your opening, and sound like a 5th grader. And after years and years and years of repeating this process, commitment gets you paid gigs, and then students, and then people asking you your advice about music.

    Everyone always wants the romantic movie cut, directly from the guitar purchase, to the roses flying on stage. That is what "intention" is. And it's everything that testing is not.