Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cem Kaner in Toronto

XP/Agile Toronto is my favorite group in our professional community. But collective singing psalms and hymns to agility is boring when overdosed. It's all the same guys and girls using all the same words, and praying to all the same names! So last week, instead of going to XP/Agile Toronto meeting, I checked out TASSQ for the change.

It was not just the change that attracted me, it was Michael Bolton's advertisement of a presenter, Dr. Cem Kaner:

Dr. Kaner is one of the most respected voices in the world of software
testing. He's Professor of Software Engineering at the Florida Institute of Technology, where he teaches courses on testing, test-first programming, software metrics, and computer-related law. As Director of Florida Tech's Center for Software Testing Education & Research, he manages National Science Foundation supported research projects on software testing education and on software-related law. Dr. Kaner is the senior author of Testing Computer Software (with Jack Falk & Hung Quoc Nguyen), Lessons Learned in Software Testing (with James Bach & Bret Pettichord), Bad Software (with David Pels), and the Creative Commons licensed (free) Black Box Software Testing course materials at http://www.testingeducation.org/BBST (with James Bach & Rebecca Fiedler). He is co-managing a new project on software testing certification that is designed to translate the free software community vision into a software testing certification context--see http://www.freetestingcertification.com.

How can one resist an opportunity to see and hear the thought leader in Software Engineering so well promoted? To top it up, the title of the presentation was "Software Engineering as a Social Science".

I was generously gratified. Cem is a thorough thinker, his exceptional viewpoints are based on profound practical experience in all areas of Software Engineering. He is a good speaker. In his one-hour presentation, Cem made a number of strong points and backed them up with metaphors, stories, anecdotes, and his personal passion. It made me learn, it made me laugh, it made me think.

Three points are jumping on me from my notes:

1) The traditional school of testing was designed as an attempt to compensate the deficiencies of traditional school of development. The advancing of the agile development that makes developer's work more exciting, brings excitement to QA departments, too. The higher quality of agile development reduces the amount of monkey tests prescribed, and shifts the focus of testing from finding coding and functional bugs to testing the design. Testing becomes creative, it becomes investigate, it becomes more contributing to the face of the product. Testers works cooperatively with developers to make a difference, rather then to "play the roles".

2) Hiring a tester remains a challenge. Cem argued that his students are hired as testers with higher salaries. Good for them and for his school, they got a reputation. But I don't see it being an industry-wide trend. The prevailed perception is still that the testers are "closer to the tale of the cow". Too many organization treat still keep testers in slavery. Few exceptions only confirm the rule. It'll take time, and something else, to overcome the perception and build up respect to the trade of a tester.

3) One can just read a bug description and tell with certainty whether it is going to be fixed. Don't need to look at priority, don't need to know the product, just read it, and you can tell. Poorly written bug reports nullify the probability of fixing the bug. Hey Mrs. Tester, you are SELLING your bug! Do a good job! Write it down well!

Some of the points above came from Cem's presentation, what came from the beer session after the presentation, and what came to my mind as an afterthought. Too late to sort out, but all rights protected.

Finally, it was different to be in the audience of all different guys and girls using all different words, and praying to all different names! I liked to see more people passionate about software development, though in some different way :-)

Turned out they do it this way over and over again, just like Agile community. But it was a good bet to hear their hymns right from the prophet.

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