Pradeep Pulls The Tail of the ISTQB

Pradeep Soundararajan got threatened with lawyers when he criticized Testing Experience magazine for being under the thumb of the ISTQB (for those who don’t yet know, the ISTQB are the guys who want to prevent you from getting work as a tester unless you first pass their silly test. They also plagiarized my definition of exploratory testing, while subtly changing that definition to alter part of its fundamental meaning).

The editor of that magazine could have said “Look, we believe in the ISTQB. That’s just how it is.” Instead he hinted that he would sue Pradeep if he blogged his criticism. Pradeep blogged anyway.

A couple of authors of testing textbooks have threatened to sue me, in the past. I don’t know what they think they were accomplishing by that. I just turned around and blogged about them. It’s not illegal to criticize bad work and the people who do it.

The ISTQB is not part of any community of software testers. They are a business that ignores the rest of the testing world while pursuing their own agenda to line their pockets and promote themselves with misleading advertisements. That’s my opinion, which I have reached through a variety of experiences and investigations as part of being in this craft. One of those experiences is the time that the ISTQB approached me to run their American operation. They spent 30 minutes telling me how great it would be to take advantage of the American market for certification, before they realized I thought it was a terrible idea. After that, I guess they decided that I’m not qualified to have an opinion, since they’ve never paid attention to me since.

I once read Rex Black’s own advertising (promoting ISTQB certification) as part of a keynote speech at the CAST conference– his exact words, mind you– and after reading it I explained why I thought it was misleading. Rex then demanded the return of the money he paid to sponsor the conference.

You might think, yeah, well, of course he should get his money back, until you remember that this was a conference dedicated to free investigation of testing ideas, and not a get-out-of-criticism-if-you-pay-a-fee show. CAST is a free speech zone.

I hope that testers will recognize these opportunists for what they are and begin to fight back. I’m glad that Pradeep is doing just that.

Tawney Gowan: A New Colleague is Born

I’m well known for promoting philosophy. By philosopher, I mean someone skilled in the exploration, analysis and clarification of meaningful ideas and the processes by which we arrive at those ideas. Since software is made of ideas, that sounds like testing to me. So, if you want to be an excellent all-around tester, I think you need to think like a philosopher.

(Of course, I have critics who dispute this, but there’s a funny thing– in order to form a coherent argument against my point of view you would have to do philosophy, and that very process would tend to undermine your credibility. Kinda like beating someone to death to prove that pacificism is best!

If you really believe you don’t need philosophy to be a tester, a more effective move would be to refuse to argue. Just use coercion and manipulation to get your way. This is what most of the certificationists choose to do. The harsh light of reason and open debate is a kind of acid to them.)

Promoting the practice of philosophy in daily work is a somewhat lonely job, because our schools manage to turn it into drab and awful subject. I persist for only one reason: I have a drive to be an excellent tester, and I want to help other testers be excellent, too. Otherwise, I would have given up long ago.

Enter Tawney Gowan. Tawney is a somewhat hyperactive young woman from Montreal who attended my STAR East tutorial called “How to Teach Yourself Testing.” She’s been a tester for a few years, but she recently went back to school to study the history ideas. After the class, she came up to me and complained that my citation of Thomas Kuhn’s theory of paradigms in scientific revolutions was out of date. I was tickled that she had an opinion on that, since so few testers have read anything about it.

After a few minutes of hearing her rant, I thought I would buy myself some time. So I asked, “Can you put together a reading list of the things you think I need to stufy?”

She replied, “I already have.”

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I just think this is cool. It’s the kind of service I need from a colleague. I hope that Tawney stays in testing and starts a blog.

Here’s to testers who are fearless learners!

Nervous About Wolfram

Take a look at the screen shot, below. This is from my first five minutes of playing with Wolfram/Alpha. Do you see what’s wrong with it? I’ll tell you in a minute…

Wolfram/Alpha is the new search engine that isn’t so much a search engine as a find-interesting-ways-to-analyze-data-and-show-it-to-me engine. It’s a closed system, as far as I can tell. It does some cool things. But I don’t understand how they will keep up with the data quality problem.

This worries me because the output from Wolfram/Alpha looks authoritative. I want to be able to trust it. But look at this slightly disturbing problem. I searched for Francis Bacon, but instead of getting a page about the various Francis Bacons of history and having an opportunity to disambiguate, I got the output, below. As you see, it combines information from two different men: Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St. Alban and Lord Chancellor of England under Elizabeth I, and Francis Bacon, the painter. Furthermore, there appears to be no way to focus the search. Adding search terms that should distinguish between the two men appears to do nothing.

This tells me that there isn’t a lot of data in the system, yet, and that the data that is there may be mangled in ways that I may not notice unless I already know the thing I asked to learn about.

At least with Google and Wikipedia, it’s a relatively open system where I get a variety of results. So, beware, folks.

That said, I’m going back to playing with Wolfram/Alpha some more… Because it’s cool.

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