Bach’s viral blog post entitled “How Not to Standardize Testing” has made him one of the outspoken faces of the movement, and he doesn’t mince words when describing the standard and the so-called faction behind it. “The imposition of a ‘standard’ by one faction of the testing community, apart from being illegitimate, has the potential to allow them to control who gets to call themselves a tester,” he said.
“It’s important to note that this ‘standardizer’ faction has not been able to win on the merit of their work. They could make their ideas public and promote them at conferences and in training just like the rest of us. I have no problem with such de facto standardization. If these ideas gained acceptance naturally, that would be perfectly fine. Now they want to change the rules of the game by declaring their ideas the official way to do testing.”
Bach outright refutes Reid’s claims of openness and consensus in the ISO 29119 standardization process. According to Bach, WG26 engaged in a deliberate exclusion of the context-driven school of testers. They did this not by blatantly barring them, but through what he called a “structurally exclusive” process designed to ignore dissenting opinion while a small group of individuals make decisions.
The direct confrontation between Bach and Reid dates back to 2006, when the two debated during Bach’s keynote speech opposing certification programs at the inaugural CAST conference.
“Stuart [Reid] was in the audience and he objected, so we decided to reconfigure my talk into a debate format,” Bach said. “I was struck by Stuart’s reluctance to answer the actual points I made. I would say some things, then he would speak as if I hadn’t said anything, then I would answer his points, then he would again speak as if I hadn’t said anything.
“We continued the debate privately at a pub later on. He claimed that there were 35,000 ISEB [Information Systems Examination Board] certified testers, and that constituted evidence that it was a good program… It took me 30 minutes to get him to admit that his ‘35,000 happy customers’ argument had not a shred of scientific basis. It’s the sort of argument a politician makes.”
The criticisms from Bach, the Stop 29119 petition and the ISST have not gone unanswered. In response to the petition, Reid picked out several quotes from its mission and comments to dispute head-on.
“There is a misconception that standards tie users to rigidly following processes and creating endless documentation,” Reid said. “We have tried not to restrict testers in how they perform their testing. The standards require compliant testers to use risk-based testing, but do not restrict testers in how they perform this activity.”
Reid also directly addressed context-driven testing and its place in the standard, specifically mentioning ISO 29119 co-editor Jon Hagar as a context-driven tester who ensured the working group considered context-driven perspectives.
“I fully agree with the seven basic principles of the ‘Context-Driven School,’ ” Reid said. “To me, most of them are truisms, and I can see that to those new to software testing they are a useful starting point. I also have no problem with context-driven testers declaring themselves as a ‘school;’ however, I am unhappy when they assign other testers to other deprecated ‘schools’ of their own making.”
The masses chime in
The Stop 29119 petition embodies prevailing dissent toward the standard, but by no means does it end there. Aside from comments in the petition discussion, recent debates have emerged in places like the Software Testing & Quality Assurance LinkedIn group, on Twitter under the #Stop29119 hashtag, and on the uTest forums of Applause, the largest online crowdsourcing community for software testers. Most testers seem to fall on the dissenting side.
“[ISO 29119] embodies a dated, flawed and discredited approach to testing,” testing consultant James Christie wrote in a uTest blog post. “It requires a commitment to heavy, advanced documentation. Such an approach blithely ignores developments in both testing and management thinking over the last couple of decades. ISO 29119 attempts to update a mid-20th century worldview by smothering it in a veneer of 21st-century terminology. It pays lip service to iteration, context and agile, but the beast beneath is unchanged… This is not a problem that testers can simply ignore in the hope that it will go away… We must ensure that the rest of the world understands that ISO is not speaking for the whole testing profession, and that ISO 29119 does not enjoy the support of the profession.”
Yet when approximating the opinion of the majority, the outspoken opinions of a few must be taken with a grain of salt. For every one of the 1,047 or so signatories of the petition, there are more than 336,000 ISTQB-certified testers who haven’t. RBCS’ Black believes this is a silent majority.