Tuesday, June 15, 2010

(12/12) All I Ever Needed to Know About Testing I Learned in Scouts

This is the twelfth of a 12 part series.

As many of you know, outside of testing and raising a family, my single biggest time commitment is being a Boy Scout Leader. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen and heard various presentations regarding a code of ethics around (teaching, development, testing, governance, fill in the blank). Each time I’ve heard or read these statements I’ve caught myself saying the same thing… “If everyone just lived by the Scout Law, we wouldn’t need this patchwork blanket of ethics rules and codes of conduct”.

My “challenge” now is to see if I really could map Testing to the Twelve Points of the Scout Law.

Note: these twelve points are those as defined by the Boy Scouts of America; while the Scout Law is similar in all countries that have Scouting movements, the wording is often a little different depending on the country.

“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent”

A Tester is… Reverent

When it comes to Scouting, one of the core principles that we teach is that there is a power greater than ourselves. Mankind has called it many different things over the eons of our existence, and has expressed it in many different ways, but there is a common thread for all humanity to have a respect for a “higher power” and to encourage those who have such faith to explore it, understand it and to practice it to the best of their ability. In my Troop, there is a  number of different religions represented, and I make it a point to encourage all of the Scouts to do what they can to understand their religion or their faith, and make a commitment to learn it, understand it, and practice it, whatever it may be. Additionally, I teach them that it is more important to live and walk uprightly and be true to their own faith and to themselves than it is to try to convince others that they are "right' or "wrong" in what they profess or practice.

So is there a place for reverence in such a calculating and analytical practice as testing? Is there a “spiritual” element to testing? I will argue that, yes, there is, and that a tester’s spiritual walk can inform their testing. This is the area that is the least likely to hold up under cold hard facts, but it is an area that I feel has been informed in ways I’ve never been able to explain any other way. I consider one who walks in faith to be one who seeks a deeper meaning, who tries to look beyond themselves to find answers. Note that I am not saying that a particular religion is required, or that one even needs to be particularly religious to do this.

For me, reverence ultimately comes down to the word “respect”, though it also incorporates elements of “sacred” as well. Is there such a thing as “sacred” things in the eyes of a true hard nosed tester? I believe there is, and I will state that my own faith has helped inform many of my testing decisions over the years. I believe that following a “true way” helps me to organize my thoughts, reach for inspiration in moments when I otherwise could not seem to pull it together in any other way, and ultimately provide a mooring that helps me to make better decisions in all aspects of what I do, not just when I test.


This brings me to the end of my comparisons of the Scout Law and what I think would be a good application to the roles that we as testers are expected to fulfill. I stated in my first post, I used the title as a bit of a gimmick, and also as a challenge to see if, indeed, there was anything that a tester would or could do that didn’t fall under some category of the Scout Law, and this experience writing about it has added to my feeling that, truly, the Scout Law really is one of the most inspired and inspiring codes of conduct that any organization could choose to follow. I don’t know if my thoughts on this (or the focus for the past two weeks) will sway anyone, but it helped solidify in my heart and mind that this is the code of conduct that I want to bring to my craft of testing.

So how about you? Are there any other aspects you would consider including? Any you would consider removing? This is a question I often ask Scouts who sit for their Eagle Scout Boards of Review. If they could take out one element of the Scout Law, what would it be, and why? Also, if they could add one element of the Scout Law, what would it be, and why? I invite anyone who would like to comment or make suggestions to do so.

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