Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In Support of Context-driven Principles

There's been a lot of talk about varying "schools of thought" as of late, and this seems to have touched a few nerves today with an announcement made by Cem Kaner regarding the Context-driven School of software testing.

This announcement has caused a bunch of "bounces" and comments from various people in the testing community. Is Context-driven testing dead? Is the Context-driven School of Software testing dead? What does it all mean?

For me, it brings me back to the recent discussion of "Is Testing Dead?", and I feel like I have the same answer I had to that. For me, the answer is "no, but things will likely not go on exactly as they had before"... and frankly, I think that is entirely OK.

I have often found these discussions tend to get political very fast. Just like with philosophy, we often have little in the way of disagreement with the underlying core of a philosophy, the "principles" that guide our vision. What we usually end up having is debates on the implementation, the "whats and wherefores", and that tends to be a lot more contentious. In my world view, there can be many implementations of principles, and we can challenge, debate, and consider them all we want to. To borrow a line from Gamaliel, a rabbi mentioned in the New Testament:

"And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nothing: but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:38-39).

The point I get from this (and yes, this is specifically religious and borderline "out of context", but not completely, so work with me here...), is that we can argue all day long about the implementations of things that are ultimately cults of personality, or we can look more deeply at the principles that make up the movement. For me, I care a lot more about whether or not the principles are correct than I do if one or another thought leader looks at it from one angle or another.

This is fresh and new, and I will guess there will be a lot of comments on this going forward, both today and in the future. Will this be disruptive? Perhaps. Will it be damaging to the cause of context-driven testing? I don't think so. Too many people have shown the value of the context-driven principles, and they will stand the test of time if indeed they deserve to. Many people find tremendous value in them. Many people still believe in standardized best practices. Ultimately, time will decide which approaches will stand the test of time, and which will be enshrined as guiding principles in the future. I know where I'm placing my bets... how about you?


Jokin Aspiazu said...

Well, somehow we all need to do our own journey, and to seek for guidance and advice is a very human nature.

So if you think that you will be a better tester if you learn about context driven testing, well, then go and learn. And if you feel like getting a ISTQB certification might help you, well, then go and learn how to get it.

Because doing both things, you'll be walking by your own path, and this is a true benefit you will get out of it.

I don't find Mr Kaners words as any bad thing, after all he is only testing his own values, and just wondering that he might be wrong, but he would not know until some years from now.

He is just being aware about his level of ignorance, and that is OK for me.

As for me, I can't wait to meet Michael Bolton in London to get a RST class, whatever the context driven school might be death or burnt or whatever.

I got things to learn, and he got things to teach. If this might be worth or not, I might know after some years from now, :D Just as Mr Kaner

Mark Crowther said...

I'd kind of guessed this had already been the case for some time. When you have strong thought leaders like James Bach and Lyndsey, Michael Bolton, Kem et al they will eventually diverge on something that's been around for a good few years now.

I would hope the plugged-in members of the test community are on board with Context Driven by now.

I see it as just another tool in my kitbag. Sometimes I need to use predictive/prescriptive approaches, sometimes I can use Context Driven approaches and other times my focus is on BDD/BDT type approaches.

Roll on the next wave of thinking! James, James and Michael along with Gojko literally shifted my brain patterns - roll on the next thought leader!

Michael Larsen said...

@Jokin and @Mark, we should absolutely not put ourselves into an ideological silo. It does not serve us well as testers and I have little patience for "ideological purity" in most things. I believe there is a value to constantly questioning and looking for new knowledge and new approaches. Context-driven methods are very good for a whole host of applications. Everything in its context and all that, which means dogmatism runs against the whole approach, right :)?

Petteri Lyytinen said...

We all have our own, unique paths to learning and understanding and, as I wrote in my own blog response to this subject, I see it as a good thing. Variety (and controversy) can push us towards improving by forcing us to see (and hopefully understand the value of) new angles we hadn't thought of before.

I went borderline religious and full-on philosophical in my own blog post where I think I said everything I have to say about this subject so I won't repeat it all here. :)