Sunday 24 August 2014

An Open Letter to Professional Tester Magazine

Dear editors of professional tester magazine

It is not often that I get a strong enough reason to become political and reply to some editorial pieces within a published article.   It is against my better nature to enter into debates which one side attacks another side but unfortunately your recent articles have been on mind for a few days and I feel the need to reply to the following articles on your website.

I feel the only way to express my disappointed is by use of social media, I 'had' a great deal of respect for your magazine and your in-depth reports and wide variety of articles, sadly that has diminished.

My concerns were raised upon the publication of the article about 'Book burners' in relation to the campaign instigated at the CAST conference to 'suspend' the publication of the ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 software testing standards by means of a petition and enable some open debate on the validity of these standards too the software testing profession. NOTE the wording it says suspend it does not say as your article states 'suppress' which indicates that these people signing the petition wants to "forcibly put an end to." That is not the purpose of the petition. Its' purpose is to allow those who will be impacted by these standards a voice and  input.  That I feel is fair enough for any democratic process and hence why I proud to sign this petition.

Now let me get to the part that really got me annoyed.  The use of the term "Book burners".

  • Did the author of this article understand what this term means?  
  • Did they understand how much of an offensive term this is?
  • Was this term deliberately chosen to ensure controversy?
  • Was the author naive in choosing this term without understanding it meaning?
I have been attempting over the past couple of days to attempt to answers these questions and at one point I felt it was just me being over sensitive. Then the second article was published about 'PT independence is questioned' in which the author appears, to me, to take the higher moral ground and attack some within the testing community for making some assumptions about linkedin and comments being deleted, which they quickly retracted and apologized for once it was understood as a bug within linkedin.  This did not stop the author of the article stating that the comments made were deliberately false and meant to damage the reputation of the magazine.  I can understand how the magazine editors must have felt,  however this was an opportunity for the editors of the magazine to also apologize for their attack on some within the testing community by the use of the term 'book burners', sadly none was forthcoming.

To clarify the term 'book burner' is used against those who are attempting to suppress freedom of speech.
 Book burning can be emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime which is seeking to censor or silence an aspect of a nation's culture - Wikipedia
Can you as authors of the magazine see the irony of using this term against those who are attempting to make something open and debatable rather than hidden behind closed doors?

Another ironic aspect is that those within the testing community who I engage with are amongst those who read a wide variety of books even those books that they may disagree with.  They are also writers, publishers and authors themselves to so use such a term is so derogatory and offensive to many of these people.

All I ask from this open letter is to acknowledge that using the term 'book burners' just may have been over the top, unjustified and offensive to those with the software testing profession who care about testing. 

To end this on a positive note I do intend to continue reading your magazine and will not encourage anyone to not read it or avoid it, since that serves no purpose.  I look forward to many more great articles from your magazine and hopefully some will be edgy and promote debate so all of those within the testing profession can be encouraged to learn from all the diverse views that this profession has. 

your sincerely

John Stevenson
A professional tester

If you care about the future of software testing please look at signing the petition to get ISO 29119 suspended and enabling a debate on its content by going here -

Also have a look at the professional tester manifesto here - and if you agree look at signing this too.


  1. I abstained from signing both. Standards don't scare me. Not saying that they scare you or anybody else. I just see the whole stop campaign as a knee jerk reaction by the CD school of thought because "their methodology didn't get included" -- this is a quote from James Bach by the way. I view the campaign as an attempt to not only polarize our community of testers but also to gain more followers.

    Regarding the professional testers manifesto, since I abstain from signing it, does that mean that I'm not a professional tester? Do you see the problem there? It is in fact polarizing our community by forcing folks to take sides.

    The above is my opinion based on my observations.

    1. Hi Freddy

      Many thanks for your comment. However I am unsure if you got the main point of this article. It was not about who may be right or wrong regarding software testing standards. It was about the use of words 'book burners; in an article that to many can be offensive. Some standards can be useful,a standard metre, a standard litre of water. To quote Matt Heusser 'The standard size of a AA battery" What happens inside the battery is not standardized. Another example if you take the standard words about for metre and litre whilst I am typing these 'standard' words into this comment it is informing me it is incorrect. This is because the American spelling says they should be 'meter' and 'liter' So what has happened to the standard there?

      With regards to your second point, I did not sign the agile manifesto does this not make me a member of the agile community? I may not publicly have signed that manifesto but I believe in it and the underlying principles and if I could sign it I would.

      Nobody is 'forcing' people to take sides, not from what I can see, all people are doing is saying hey have you seen this and how it could impact your work.

      To end this reply. I am not a follower, I have my own mind and I have my own opinion. Has this campaign as you put it been put in place to polarize? I do not think so it has been put in place to provide information to those who matter in the same way as we do when testing software.

    2. Greetings John,

      And there lies our disagreement. From what I have observed since I have been following this debacle, and from my research it is my opinion that this was a planned action by the CD school to gain more followers and make a stand against what they view as "the factory school".

      If you follow social media (LinkedIn, twitter, etc) you'll see evidence of "book burning" attitude there. You'll also see plenty of polarizing attitude from many of the leading figures in the CD school of thought. Notice I said many, not all. But a large majority seem to be inline. I can provide many links if you like.

      BTW I understood the context of your letter. What I misunderstood was what you just cleared up for me, and I thank you for that. That is that you are a free thinking tester that does not follow any one school of thought. I am the same.

      Regarding the tester manifesto, even Cem Kaner did not subscribe to its principles and did not sign it.

      Thanks very much for allowing my opinion on your web space.


    3. Hi Freddy

      To clarify what I feel could be an assumption:

      "It is my opinion that this was a planned action by the CD school to gain more followers and make a stand against what they view as "the factory school".

      I was fortunate to listen to the talk about standards by James Christie at ExpoQa in Madrid and at the time it made me think a great deal of what standards are and how they do not appear to align with software development.

      I was at CAST in New York when James made the same talk. There was no pre-planned action beforehand. It was a spur of the moment, call for action based upon the conversation in the room at that time. People were asking what can we do? Suddenly an idea came to start a petition, it was not and has not been done with the intention of gaining more followers. It was done to make visible something which has in main been done by a few select people behind a closed pay wall. The intention has been and still is to say to people are you aware of what impact this may have on your professional career. Quite the opposite of the book burners label that spurred this article.

      I do follow the conversations on twitter and I am not aware of any remarks being made that follow your thoughts that people which to suppress freedom of thought, ideas or beliefs.

      Yes Cem Kaner did not sign the manifesto but he did sign the petition against the standard, there maybe something in that.

      Maybe I need to write another article, I have concerns with attempting to standardize creative and critical thinking in human beings much in the same way the signatories on the agile manifesto broke away from software development standards at that time (v-Model/Waterfall)

    4. I wasn't at CAST, but saw the talk on YouTube. As well as the many other interviews that followed. Something didn't smell right, this was pre-planned. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but why not just say that? Why the theatrics? One theory is to make it look like real spontaneous opposition. I don't buy it.

      As I said before, standards don't bother me. Mainly because they don't affect the majority of us. There has always been friction between those two schools. It's a shame what's going on now, because like in any school ground fight, the innocent bystander almost always gets hurt as well. And this saddens me.

      I'll provide you some links later in the evening when I have more time. If you'd like.