Four more presentations

“Adapting Academic Course Materials in Software Testing for Industrial Professional Development.” [SLIDES] Colloquium, Florida Institute of Technology, March 2008

The Association for Software Testing and I have been adapting the BBST course for online professional development. This presentation updates my students and colleagues at work on what we’re doing to transfer fairly rigorous academic course materials and teaching methods to a practitioner audience.

These next three are reworkings of presentations I’ve given a few times before:

“Software testing as a social science,” [SLIDES] STEP 2000 Workshop on Software Testing, Memphis, May 2008.

Social sciences study humans, especially humans in society. The social scientist’s core question, for any new product or technology is, “What will be the impact of X on people?” Social scientists normally deal with ambiguous issues, partial answers, situationally specific results, diverse interpretations and values– and they often use qualitative research methods. If we think about software testing in terms of the objectives (why we test) and the challenges (what makes testing difficult) rather than the methods and processes, then I think testing is more like a social science than like programming or manufacturing quality control. As with all social sciences, tools are important. But tools are what we use, not why we use them.

“The ongoing revolution in software testing,” [SLIDES] October 2007

My intent in this talk is to challenge an orthodoxy in testing, a set of ommonly accepted assumptions about our mission, skills, and onstraints, including plenty that seemed good to me when I published them in 1988, 1993 or 2001. Surprisingly, some of the old notions lost popularity in the 1990’s but came back under new marketing with the rise of eXtreme Programming.

I propose we embrace the idea that testing is an active, skilled technical investigation. Competent testers are investigators—clever, sometimes mischievous researchers—active learners who dig up information about
a product or process just as that information is needed.

I think that

  • views of testing that don’t portray testing this way are obsolete and counterproductive for most contexts and
  • educational resources for testing that don’t foster these skills and activities are misdirected and misleading.

“Software-related measurement: Risks and opportunties,” [SLIDES] October 2007

I’ve seen published claims that only 5% of software companies have metrics programs. Why so low? Are we just undisciplined and lazy? Most managers who I know have tried at least one measurement program–and abandoned them because so many programs do more harm than good, at a high cost. This session has
three parts:

  1. Measurement theory and how it applies to software development metrics (which, at their core, are typically human performance measures).
  2. A couple of examples of qualitative measurements that can drive useful behavior.
  3. (Consideration of client’s particular context–deleted.)

3 Responses to “Four more presentations”

  1. Aaron Hodder says:

    The idea of software testing being a social science is very interesting. I studied psychology at university, and now find myself a software tester. I see a lot of parallels between the different schools of psychology vs the different schools of software testing. I see the recent emergence of post-modern methods such as social deconstructionism, and critical social psychology, mirroring the recent emergence of exploratory testing as a mainstream testing method. Both are more of a qualitative approach vs a quantitative approach.

    For example, using psychometric tests, you have a person follow a questionnaire, answer a whole heap of questions, add up the results, and voila! You get a result. Without ever having necessarily met the person. This is similar to the scripted approach to software testing where you can write your scripts, achieve 100% coverage based on your requirements document, and voila! You get a result. Without ever having actually interacted with the application.

  2. Reid says:

    Are you going to publish the gorrila videos with the white and black teams playing basketball? Those videos really drove home one of you points. Great presentation at STEP.

    [Nah, I’ll leave them for people to find. They’re more useful in group presentations than watched on your own.

    — Cem]

  3. Rob Lambert says:

    Excellent presentations here as usual. Being a communication specialist myself with a background in social sciences I find this social aspect of testing extremely interesting. I’m also currently working on some concepts and theories regarding testing and communication. My line of thinking is very close to your work here and I’m very keen to find out where you take these ideas in the future as I think you ‘have hit the nail on the head’ with your ideas here.

    My theories are very much based around Context, Audience and Purpose in testing. If you assume everything we do in testing is essentially a piece of communication then Context, Audience and Purpose become the most important aspects a tester should be looking at. If you can think about the communication and the social aspect of testing then I think you have the basis for catching some very important defects.

    All the best with these ideas and theories and I look forward to finding out some more about them in the future.
    P.S – Are you intending on coming to the UK to do any talks and sessions? I know myself and the company I work for would be very keen to attend any. Your blackbox testing course is essentially the cornerstone of all our testing here!

    All the best with your work