SIGiST 21 June 2011


SIGiST took place on 21 June 2011 in, as usual, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London.

The theme of the day was “What is testing?” and started with an opening keynote from Chris Ambler from Testing Stuff. In his talk he discussed whether we were guardians of quality, innovators, reporters, interpreters or problem solvers.  His conclusion was that we are all five.  In response to a challenge from Fiona Charles (@FionaCCharles) he conceded that testing and quality assurance were two different roles. After this yours truly got to plug http://www.softwaretestingclub.com to delegates and advertise the Testing Planet and local area meetups.

Like Fiona I found myself in agreement with all his other assertions but I really do feel that the role of testing is to act as a beacon highlighting issues to those who actually are in a position to make a release/don’t release decision. I do not believe testers should have responsibility for quality assurance except as part of a wider team. I am part of a Program Team myself so I have a responsibility for helping make a release/don’t release decision but my opinion is just one of several people’s opinions on the matter.

After the mid-morning break we had a short talk from ILEx on their latest on-line training courses and courseware. This was followed by a talk from Neil Thompson (@neilttweet) entitled “The Science of Software Testing”. There were a lot of slides to go with this talk but what I particularly valued were Neil’s slides and explanations on quality being value to some person(s) (quoting Gerry Weinberg) and his descriptions of Exploratory Testing being more than unstructured ad-hoc testing. I found it refreshing to be at a SIGiST conference and having such views expressed so clearly.

I think there was a lot of food for thought from this presentation and I will be looking over my notes again because I suspect I may have missed some of the points that were raised. I find the science behind how we test and the psychology of testing very interesting because it is not true that ‘anyone’ can test so how can we make ourselves better testers? I believe by understanding what makes testers tick we are likely to be able to use these insights in our own education and continuing professional development.

After Neil’s talk, Nathalie Van Delft (@FunTESTic) and Dorothy Graham (@DorothyGraham) co-hosted a Testing Ethics debate during which we debated five statements ‘House of Commons’ style:

  • You can break the law in order to meet your test goals
  • You must always tell the truth
  • You must always be able to use privacy-sensitive data to test
  • A tester may be responsible for acceptance
  • As a tester you should set aside your own standards and values to test thoroughly

It took a question or two for everyone to get into the swing of this but the debate was great fun. It was great to hear the differing views from people of differing testing backgrounds and in the end it all added up to an extremely lively debate.

After breaking for the excellent SIGiST lunch, Andy Glover, @CartoonTester, challenged us all to use word replacement to better understand a quotation from James Bach. [Added after initial publication - thanks for sending it to me, Andy: “Testing is the infinite process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous so as to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous”].

Following on from this we had a short series of lightning talks from Dot Graham (@DorothyGraham) on ‘What is Coverage?’, Neil Thompson (@neilttweet) on ‘What is Risk’, Nathalie Van Delft on ‘What Else is Testing?’ and Stuart Reid on ‘What is a testing professional?’.  The lightning talk format was great with each talk lasting about 10 minutes. I felt it really suited the after-lunch spot well because with the rapid change-over of speakers you were more jnclined to stay awake. If I were to choose two talks that I particularly enjoyed I would have to go for Dot’s and Neil’s because they are both areas that are close to my heart. Dot’s talk, in particular, struck a nerve because ‘coverage’ is such a misused and misunderstood term frequently bandied about by managers.

Before the afternoon break Stevan Zivanovic (@StevanZivanovic) gave an interesting talk on leadership in an agile context. In particular he focused on how we, as individuals, can and should take responsibility for leadership whether we have ‘manager’ in our job titles or not. He also emphasised that just being obeyed does not constitute being a ‘leader’. Obedience has no place in an agile team was one of his points.

After the break we had our closing keynote from Dot Graham (@DorothyGraham). The subject of this talk was “Things managers think they know about test automation – but don’t”. Many of the pitfalls she identified resonated with me because they are things that I am trying to avoid myself in trying to work with our developers to introduce more test automation into the business.

All in all I thought it was a great conference and I think Bernard Melson did a great job bringing the programme together. Given Bernard’s background there was a fair bit of talk of training and tester education in a formal environment which was understandable. Critically, though, it did not overpower the conference which I had feared it might, initially.

The next SIGiST conference will be in September 2011.

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3 Responses to “SIGiST 21 June 2011”

  1. Andy Glover Says:

    Hi Stephen,
    Good to meet up yesterday and nice write up of the event. Here’s the quote I used: “Testing is the infinite process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous so as to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous” – James Bach

  2. Darren McMillan Says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Sounds like it was very worthwhile attending. Thanks for sharing with us who didn’t attend.

    Cheers,

    Darren.

  3. Chris Swain Says:

    I wish I could have attended but my daughter’s birthday was a higher priority. It sounded like possibly the best of the conferences with year although I did enjoy the last one.

    Thanks

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