Monday, 17 October 2016

Debating and challenging.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum....” 
― Noam Chomsky, The Common Good
There has been a lot of debate, posts and discussions about what is acceptable and not acceptable within the testing community recently and it makes me feel sad and unhappy.  Some appear to have disintegrated into personal attacks and the message has been lost and to me that feels wrong.  Could things have been worded differently?  Of course and hindsight is a wonderful thing.   I am not going to go into detail of these discussions or state who was right or who was wrong.  You can form your own opinions and look up the discussions yourself.

 What I will say is we have to be careful as a community of  limiting the ability to challenge ourselves and allowing others to challenge us.  This should be done respectably  and with the purpose of trying to help us all learn without it becoming a personal attack and counter attack.  As the above quote states if we want to be passive and obedient then sure let us limit what can and cannot be said.  what is seen as acceptable to someone may not be so acceptable to others.  In the same way each individual has their own perspective of what quality is:

"quality is of value to a person" - Jerry Weinberg

I am not closed to the fact that as humans we will often disagree passionately with each other and to me that is OK, however once emotions are involved it can lead to some behaviors which  are not so pleasant. Maybe if you feel in these situations it is best to step back and think before replying.  I try to do that a lot and hence my delay in writing this post.

As individuals we will see the same thing in a different way, hear the same words differently and read into what someone is doing wrongly, hence the unreliability of eye witness in court trials. We may say things which we feel is right  at the time which has unintentional results .   Allowing time for people to explain their intentions and what they meant, is to me respecting each other.   The outcome from this maybe an apology, correction of facts or better clarification of what was meant.

I have to believe that in our community people do not deliberately try to hurt or upset others  however I feel as a community we need to challenge ourselves and others to improve our knowledge and skills.

Let us respect each other even if we do not agree, otherwise people will use this to limit what can and cannot be debated and decide for us what is acceptable to challenge.  At the same time using this to limit what we can and cannot read, listen to and who we can talk to.   To me this starts to become like 1984 and big brother.

To finish we may not always agree with each other but sometimes as the song in Frozen goes we have to

"Let it go"

If the worst thing you get from this post is having that song in your head all day then my job is done. :o)


  1. Great post John! I agree with you. Debate is needed. Emotions cloud debate though, so we should step back and think objectively. I fear that we're in a phase where "challenges" are labelled as being bad, and in turn we hit a stalemate with discussions aimed at teaching people.

    Socrates used dialect and argument for disproving people's incorrect usage of concepts in order to help them learn the correct usage regarding the true meaning of the concepts. We need to keep that in mind when we are conversing.

    But I also conscious that we should focus any challenges at "the message" rather than "the person". The person might be saying something that he or she might not know any different... If we challenge the message and show other perspectives, then that'll help that person learn (if their open to learning). If we challenge the person themselves, then that will close their ears indefinitely.

  2. Thank you for the post John. As a rule of thumb I try to work hard on solving problems, but not hard on the people trying to solve the problems. People are not the problem. Debate and conflict within a debate can be a constructive force when one doesn't make it personal. My best learning experiences in a 20 year career have been from discussions that turned into dialogues about how a software system is constructed, its architecture, the assumptions of how it works or doesn't work mashed up against another tester's or a developer's understanding. The only way to get to these moments is to be able to be secure with one's self enough to know it is okay to be wrong and admit that you are wrong. It also very important to know when you are right, but be okay with that person not accepting your view in the heat of the moment. If they are a professional and are also not afraid to admit they are wrong they will come around to seeing things your way. Office culture can help or hinder in this necessity of work relationships.