Saturday, July 31, 2021

Vote Testers!


The Association for Software Testing board elections are happening shortly. Terms are two years long but staggered so that half of the board is up for re-election every year. I've just finished my first term and I've decided to stand again, for a few reasons.

First, and accuse me of whatever cheesiness you like here, I truly believe in the AST's ethical code and mission:

The Association for Software Testing is dedicated to advancing the understanding of the science and practice of software testing according to Context-Driven principles.

It's important to me that I remain a practitioner of testing, and I roll my expertise and experience into the context when I practice. 

Second, and with another helping from the cheeseboard, the AST is emotionally significant to me. When I started testing it was the organisation that Lessons Learned in Software Testing led me to, and its Black Box Software Testing courses helped to culture and mould my intuitions about testing and how I wanted to test.

Third, and onto the coffee now for the business talk, I feel like I have unfinished work that I want to complete.

Next week there are hustings and the candidates have been asked to provide answers to a handful of questions. I thought I'd publish mine here as I did for a similar set after the 2019 elections.


How do you intend to promote diversity within the AST? How could AST promote diversity, of all kinds, within our own organization and within the wider testing and technology

All AST members, including the board, sign up to a code of ethics  which requires us to respect the diversity of cultures, not to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, age, disability, national origin or other factors, and to consider whether the results of our work will be used in socially responsible ways.

When I answered the same question two years ago I said I would "encourage AST to seek out people who do not already engage with it and find ways to help them to engage. This might be by making AST relevant to them, by moving AST geographically closer to them, by making AST financially accessible to them, or something else."  

I think I have been able to work towards that:

Black Box Software Testing

Please share your vision for the future of the AST's BBST program.

The recent move to partner with Altom for the provision of the Community Track of Black Box Software Testing is wonderful for multiple reasons. It brings back together the two major forks of BBST, it clears up the confusing relationship between them, and it provides shared resources for the teaching and maintenance of the materials. 

On top of that, it preserves everything that's great about BBST: the depth, breadth, and quality of the material; the small cohort approach; and the dedicated and knowledgeable instructors. In the immediate future I'd like to see us continue to doing everything we can to help that to work well.

In the longer term there have been conversations around broadening the education offerings from the AST to include, for example, something on exploratory testing or automation. We recently ran a course in partnership with Rob Sabourin and I think more of those kinds of partnerships could work for us, because the cost of creating, running, and maintaining courses is high and we have limited resources.


What do you think the AST board has historically done well, and what do you think needs to change?

With only a small number of volunteer staff, I think the board has done extraordinarily well to keep the organisation running.

CAST, our conference, is a significant part of what AST is and is known for, and not having CAST in 2020 was a major setback for us. We redirected our CAST energy into more smaller events and we've put something on every month instead, experimenting with different formats like Fika, a super-short and sweet mini-CAST, and even next week's online hustings for the 2021 elections.

A significant challenge for AST has been that it can seem dry, dated, and distant, and the value of being a member can be unclear. In some respects we shoot ourselves in the foot because, while we are a member organisation, our mission is to promote testing in the world and we've tended to err towards making everything we have available to anyone who is interested.

However, despite that difficulty, I support the policy. I want the AST to make a difference to the world generally, to engage with people outside of our organisation, and to grow the testing craft everywhere.

Future of AST

If you are elected to serve on the board, what is your vision for the future of AST and what do you hope to accomplish as part of the board?

At the first AST board meeting I attended I presented a paper called Why Be A Member of the AST? In it, I compared the value we offered, how we communicated our value and where, and I started thinking about what our various activities cost us versus the value they brought to us and our membership. 

Together we then worked on being explicit about what the AST stands for, what we think our members want from us, and what we want from our members. 

Those activities naturally exposed places that we thought we could do better but it also helped us to prioritise activities to improve on them.

For the last two years I've been working through tasks from that list, incrementally improving what we do and how how we do it. To give some examples:

The next major task for me is to make the cost of entry to AST more equitable.

For the AST more generally: I think there is a place in the world for a non-profit testing organisation advocating for high-quality, ethical, context-driven testing. We need to find better ways to help our tribe to find us, better ways to communicate what we stand for, why we think it is relevant and valuable, and why it's worth helping us to achieve it.

Conflicts of Interest

Please describe any current initiatives you participate in that might affect your ability to serve on the AST board, and serve the AST membership.
I don't have any.


In what ways have you supported the mission of AST?

In lots of ways! I've mentioned some of the things I've done while on the board already. Here's a few examples of stuff I've done outside of AST that I think align with our mission:

  • I blog weekly (for the last ten years) from a context-driven perspective.
  • I am the organiser of the Cambridge Exploratory Workshop on Testing.
  • I speak about testing at work, in the local community, and at conferences.
  • I strive to demonstrate good work, done ethically, according to context-driven principles.
  • I invest time in helping others to test.
  • I invest time in helping myself to improve my testing.

Image: Wikipedia

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