Monday, 11 July 2016

A community discussion

A while back I put out a tweet request:

I spoke about the responses to this tweet during my talk titled "A Community Discussion" at Copenhagen Context. Somewhat ironically I've been reluctant to share the feedback that I received in writing. There's been exchanges in the testing community recently that makes me feel now is the time.

I had a lot of responses to my original request on Twitter. About half tried to explain context-driven testing rather than the community. Those who did speak about the people and environment gave responses like:
  • A bunch of supportive, challenging and engaged people full of questions, support and understanding.
  • Warm and welcoming, literally the best thing that I've come across in my career.
  • People who insist on a human perspective on testing
  • A community of people who constantly asks the question how can we be (test) better?
  • A group of people not restricted by a so called set of best practices and a one size fits all approach
  • A world-wide support network of people who share the same fundamental principles as me

I also had a lot of responses via private channels. Direct messages, email and skype. In many instances they were from people who no longer felt that they were part of the community. They gave responses like:
  • The Cult/Church of CDT due to the rhetoric used by CDT to describe their heroic and righteous fight against evil
  • The Test Police because they feel the need to correct the terminology and thinking of everyone else regardless of whether they share the same world-view.
  • They are an academic think-tank that is out of step with modern business needs
  • CDT is RST, it’s all just RST stuff, RST is the new best practice
  • If you don’t beat your drum to the CDT Rhythm they’ll beat you down hard
  • The Anti-ISO group, The Anti-ISTQB people, the Anti-anyone not CDT people etc. 
  • Not a safe place to share and explore

Are you surprised by this?

I was surprised by the stark polarity in what was shared openly and what was shared privately. I was surprised by who responded and who chose not to. I was surprised by specific individuals who held different opinions to what I had expected. However, I wasn't surprised to see these two views emerge.

What bothers me is that these two viewpoints seem to be a taboo topic to have a conversation about. 

On Twitter there has been activity that feels like warfare. Grenades are launched from both sides, loud voices shout at one another, misunderstandings create friendly fire, and when the smoke clears no one is sure what the outcome was. 

What I wanted to do in my talk at Copenhagen Context was start a dialog. I talked about an inclusive context-driven testing community by sharing the model I created almost two years ago. I suggested some ways in which we could alter our behaviour. I was part of an Open Season discussion where those present shared their views. 

Since then?

I continue to focus on making the New Zealand testing community as inclusive as possible. I believe that WeTestTesting Trapeze and even this blog are making a difference in spreading the ideas from the context-driven school without the labels. I strive to be approachable, humble and open to questions.

I hope that I am setting an example as someone making a positive difference through action. My personal role model in this space is Rosie Sherry, who is the "Boss Boss" at Ministry of Testing. I observe that she has her own style of quiet leadership and a practical approach to change.

But the wider conversation is still adversarial or hidden. I'd like to see that change.

What are your thoughts?

T-Shirt print from Made in Production


  1. Hi Katrina,

    I'm glad you wrote this article!

    In my experience the nz testing community is a great example of an inclusive and welcoming community. I think you've played a massive part in it and I thank you for all you've done.

    However, I have always been wary of identifying with or engaging with the wider/global cdt community because some views are too dogmatic and the style of some public discourse doesn't sit well with me.

    Prominent members of the cdt community appear to have adopted controversial positions as a marketing strategy in order to differentiate themselves as consultants. While it may make for good business for them it hurts the community.

    It's a shame because there are many good ideas which come out of the cdt community and the wider testing community would benefit from these ideas being circulated and discussed in a less confrontational manner.


  2. "Context Driven" school of testing is a rather bad label. It's polarising and doesn't describe the essence of this School.
    "Context Driven" school of testing is a community of testers who share ideas of Jerry Weinberg and Cem Kaner.

  3. Hello, Katrina!
    Thanks for sharing your opinion on that question. Unfortunately, I think it's true. The reason why I started sympathizing the CDT community is because it felt liberating from the "dogma" of the classic school saying "you should do this". Nowadays, I see more and more CDT testers to speak in the form of - "don't do/talk this, but rather do/talk this, my way" which isn't even close to freedom and in favor of subjective opinion about testing.
    I really like the way everything in CDT has to be pass the test of many questions and discussions, but there should be reasonable boundary between constructive criticism and pure hate against anything different.
    Again, I like to remind Keith Klain's advice - to approach other people's opinion, when we enter a discussion, from the perspective a of a teacher or a doctor and try to explain why we think it's wrong, rather than mock and judge.
    Thank you, Katrina!

  4. You say you continue to make the New Zealand testing community inclusive as possible. However, my experience working with you is the opposite. Our clan found you cliquish and arrogant, and you did little to interact with or "coach" us in any way.

    1. ... said the anonymous commenter.

    2. Hi Anonymous,

      I'm sorry you had a bad experience with me. I appreciate receiving constructive feedback and would welcome a few more details about our interaction along with your thoughts on how I could improve.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog.

  5. Hi Katrina,

    Love your work. I for one have found the Auckland testing community super welcoming and inclusive - I wish I'd gotten involved earlier.
    If anyone's reading this and hasn't been to a WeTest meetup yet, I really recommend getting along to one!

    As for the wider CDT community - I see tweets and comments from some CDT folk from time to time that sound harsh or mean. My view is that when this happens, that's their personality type coming in to play - they're what you might call a "blunt" or "straight-up" type of person.

    I think some people can find this kind of personality jarring or offensive - especially here in New Zealand where I find it's not very common - and I wonder if that could be a factor?


  6. The CDT community IS a demanding community and it is sometimes uncomfortable, abraisive or plain wrong. But we also have to see how much it has brought tesing forward in the last two decades. More so than any other group.

    This has been achieved by vigorous discussion and building of communities. And yes, every community in this world will have those that fit and those that won't. And every community will have people that you don't like and those you do. And every community will have twitter shitstorms because 140 characters are just an invitation for misunderstandings.

    BUT these are discussions and don't confuse individuals with a community, no matter how representative they may be. If you think they are wrong and bad, then replace them. If you have a better argument there are few communities that will support your idea as much as this one.

    And RST is NOT(!!) CDT. This is also explicitly stated by those teaching RST. There is an expectation for a set of methods in RST but that is NOT CDT. Please don't confuse the two.

  7. Nice post. I agree with the positive feedback that you received but I empathise with the negative ones as well. I've definitely heard a fair amount of anti-ISTQB and anti-ISO comments in the CDT community. Some valid and some probably require more thought and some that are just wrong.

    When I'm involved these chats, discussions, debates etc I often spend time reflecting on the experience and appreciate the fact that what people are expressing are personal opinions which often are biased and full of inconsistencies. It's also important the realise that people don't have a single view and views are often nuanced.

    At the end of the day I try not to judge them and the community too harshly and hope they do the same for me.

    Oh...and I agree with you Katrina that I wished our conversations in general would be less adversarial. It's not a competition or a cult. We are just here to share and learn and in my case have a few beers.

  8. I dared to disagree publicly about one element of CDT with one of the leaders and was promptly blocked on Twitter so I can never see his tweets again. Don't care because I always found him to be arrogant and self-righteous but it speaks loudly to the hypocrisy of open exploration and understanding context, doesn't it? Unfortunately, a leader that behaves poorly reflects on the whole community. And the community reflects on the belief system that unites them.