My Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm, the city where Rene Descartes spent his last days, and which now hands out Nobel prizes, is also now becoming a capital of Context-Driven testing thinking. The cool kid of the North. (Oh, why can’t your brothers Germany and Netherlands be more like you?)

This past weekend I shared a room with some of the leading context-driven and anti-ISTQB testers in Sweden. This was the Swedish Workshop on Exploratory Testing, the second peer conference I’ve attended in Sweden.

The Swedish testing community had no definite form or presence that I ever heard of, before Tobbe Ryber and Anders Claesson came to my first class in Stockholm back in– when was it? 2005? 2006?– and represented their version of testing leadership.

Tobbe went on to write a respectable book on test design. Anders went on a journey of self-discovery that led him away from and back to testing, to return like some Gandalf the Grey-turned-White as an exploratory testing coach.

Michael Albrecht and Henrik Andersson contacted me a few years ago and became regular correspondents in middle and South of Sweden, respectively. Each of them is bold and confident in his craft, and innovates in Session-Based Test Management.

Simon Morley and Christin Wiedemann took my class only last year, but they earned their way to the conference all the same. Simon does his “Tester’s Headache” rollup blog and seems to have read EVERY book, and Christin is a physicist who discovered testing last year and is applying all that brainpower toward achieving her version of true sapient testing.

I actually flipped the bozo bit on Rikard Edgren, at one time. I unflipped it when I met him in person and discovered that what I thought was obstinacy was more a determination to think things through at his own pace and in his own way. He’s one of those guys who thinks he has to reinvent everything for himself. Yeah, I’m also like that.

Henrik Emilsson and Martin Jansson share a blog with Rikard. They are energetic testing minds. Somehow they seem like bounding sheepdogs to me, asking questions, raising issues, and generally herding testing ideas into neat pens.

Petter Mattson gave an experience report about introducing session-based test management into two different companies. I was pleased, although a little jealous, that Petter hired Michael Bolton instead of me to teach the Rapid Testing class. But Michael is very good at what he does. Damn him. He’s good.

I wanted to hear more from Johan Hoberg, Oscar Cosmo, Johan Jonasson. But they did ask some questions. Next time we’ll make them give full experience reports.

Christin gave an excellent report of how she thawed out the testing practices at her company using the exploratory approach. Not bad for a newbie. But the award for learning the hard way has to go to young Ann Flismark. She stood up to give an experience report about SBTM that somehow turned into a request for “KPIs” (which apparently means nonsense metrics demanded by her management). Several of us made a fuss about how that’s not really an experience report. I made the biggest fuss. Well, perhaps “brutal attack on the whole idea” would be a more accurate way to say it. Ann was pretty rattled, and disappeared for a while.  She was upset partly because she had a nice experience report planned (I’d seen her give it on stage at SAST) and decided to change it at the last minute.

But that’s a peer conference for you. It’s the fastest way to gain or lose a reputation. You have to stand and face your peers. Ann will bounce back with new and better material. She’ll be all the better for having had to pass through the baptismal fire.

[Update: Oh I forgot… I also gave an experience report. I told the story of how I noticed and named the practice of Thread-Based Test Management. My goal was partly to help everyone in the room feel like a co-inventor of it.]

I’m in Estonia, now. My mission is to rally the testing masses here and get them excited about becoming true professionals (not fake ones, but thanks anyway Geoff Thompson!). Oliver Vilson is Estonia’s answer to Michael Albrecht. 25 years old, but such ambition and intelligence!

My advice to Oliver is: look to Sweden and see your future.

Shiva is Annoyed with My Questions

A person named Shiva contacted me on Skype back in May. Then he didn’t say anything for several months, until yesterday we had this exchange.


Hi James!




I wanted to set up some time with you to chat about an idea and interest you in it…what would be a good time to chat? Would 1130 AM PST Mon work?


What is it about?


Well, I am on the advisory board of a company in China that does phenomenal work and they are very good in testing and SW dev. wanted to see if you wanted to take advantage of their low rates and high quality and make some money? Especially if you are planning to enter that business?


I run a testing company.


I know.


So… Why would I need a testing company? I already have one!


To improve your margins. Scale.


I don’t see how that would be possible. I do a certain kind of testing that requires a high level of skill. I doubt that any other testing company in the world has that skill. Well, there are a couple, but they are expensive.


That is exactly the point I wanted to walk you through as this company has a phenomenal ability to learn, get resources due to their location and yet do high quality work. It is an idea. I am willing to explore it with you if you are interested. If not, I completely understand.


I would have to see examples of the quality work you say that your company does. Is it posted online? Most companies that say they do quality work don’t do quality work at all. They do terrible work. So, I would need to see what you can do.

Also, I would need to know your training practices. I’d want to see them in writing. If you forward your training materials to me, I could review them.


Sure. Before I go forward, it would be good to have a three-way chat with their president/co-founder, myself and you and I am happy to arrange for samples for you to review – work samples, training practices.


I won’t be interested in talking unless you can show me some basic evidence that we have anything to talk about.

Let me ask you just a few questions:

– Does your test lab document all of its testing in detail? Is every test procedure and action documented?

– Do you have complete expected results documented, too?

– Do you maintain statistics on passed/failed tests? Do you graph them?

– Are your testers ISTQB certified?

Your answers to these questions will allow me to quickly assess your capability. Otherwise, I worry you will waste your time.


James, all these are great questions and I have answers that you will like but I need to think about what you said first. In my opinion, business is not just some Q&A, it is also building cross-company relationships and getting to know each other. I need to think about whether we will be a fit that way at all with each other. Please don’t take this personally but I need to give this some careful thought, or else it may not even work even though we are able to deliver capabilities.


You are right. Business is about relationships. I want a relationship with people who can answer basic questions. These are questions that I routinely answer for my clients.

I’m a testing company, too, right? You know that, right? I know what my clients demand of me, and I’m demanding that of you, too. If what you want is an uncritical client who is easily impressed, you came to the wrong guy.

I’m not taking it personally. I’m taking it as an indication that you are a bit over your head.


There is no need to be rude, James.


I’m not being rude. I’m being honest. It’s not my problem if you can’t handle that.


(Skype indicates Shiva has gone offline.)


It is not rude for a potential customer to challenge your corporate capability. That’s normal due diligence. Your job is to speak honestly and forthrightly about what you can and can’t do. Don’t dodge questions.

The reason I’m skeptical is that almost no test lab actually knows what it is doing. And there’s no excuse. Test labs ought to know how to test, but mostly I see labs much better at faking testing than doing it.