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Friday, February 9, 2018

The War of Ownership


Agency. It's the fancy new word introduced to coin an insight in a war I don't want to be fighting. The idea that it's referred to as war is the first hint that what this says has little to do with the collaborative non-violent software development we aspire to.

This is a war to say that in the kinder, collaborative way, testers don't feel safe to believe their existence is founded. They're struggling for their life as they know it. I don't feel like I want to join that war, I want the war to stop. And the way to stop war isn't my specialty, but I suspect it has something to do with finding options and making working agreements. And when the party in war isn't willing to make any agreements, the stronger wins. Newsflash: tester profession isn't winning in this war. It is taking steps further into alienating itself from the tables where decisions of future of software are made.

I'm selecting a few points on twitter to emphasize my takes, words by Michael Bolton.
"Testing doesn't make your code better. Testing doesn't make your code testable either. YOU make your code better, and YOU make it more testable, and those are fine things.
Testing isn't an abstract thing that happens. There's someone who does it. And there's two clear choices of who that someone might be in the jobs we have in the industry. It could be a tester. It could be a programmer.

The programmer is YOU in the clipping above. The programmer makes the code better., the programmer makes it more testable. And the programmer tests. The programmer makes makes the code better. And in my experience, programmers who don't test rarely create good software.

There's the other option of why it might be. The tester. It is in the tester's interest to create a clear line and separation. But the trend is to remove that clear line. Many organizations report great results blurring the lines. They aren't making everyone the same, but they are stopping man-made absolutes of lines between who does and what. They are saying everyone does what their skills allow them. Everyone learns. And that everyone learns also about testing and ways to build software that makes users awesome.
"...make explicit a central theme of our Rapid Software Testing classes and consulting work: agency. We want to help empower people; shine light on what they do; help to liberate them."
What I read in this statement is that people = testers. Testers that fit the Rapid Software Testing methodology requirements. I've been told in the past I'm not a tester (as per the RST terms at least). Yet, that is exactly the position I hold, and have been holding, hands on working with products for the last 25 years.

Empowering people by creating a clear distinction on roles that are job functions and don't need as much clear distinction in the world of collaboration would include allowing them to see world their way, and mediating. But that is not the world RST seems to serve. It serves the world that I don't see as a practitioner in the companies I work with.

I recognize I'm selective. I choose product companies. I choose agile methodologies. I choose ones that believe in empowering and listening to all their experts.
"I don't think there's enough salt"
I can notice lack of salt, and add it. I don't remove myself as an actor when the salt needs adding if (and when) I know what is the appropriate amount. I don't need to remove myself as an actor on fixing as someone hired as a tester.

When we talk of the concerns about limited time and choices that we make on splitting to roles to ensure different concerns get covered, we are using concepts from time before continuous delivery. The world has changed. Quoting Necromancer from memory: "The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed.". We don't need and can't have one true way anymore.

Software development is a process of transforming ideas into code. Which of the ideas are labeled what isn't as relevant as we think they are for reasons other than having the profession we love. What could be the ways to add meaning to this conversation that is stuck on violence and war? Isn't there a more constructive way to build a profession that draw the lines around testing for the purpose of understanding the tester?


Note added later: I did not need to read JBs article to pick up words from the title. This is not a response to his article. This is a response to the tone MB runs on twitter. 

2 comments:

  1. This post is great! Keep up the good writing and good work and everything else!

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  2. More and more I get frustrated by the existence of job titles and the unconscious effect they have on our thinking about who can and should be doing which tasks in a team. I get that they have value when it comes to job searches and recruiting (although they cause problems there as well if the reader takes only a shallow look at a resume, or a potential job description).

    Assuming an agile focus means we value individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Let's consider that titles and formal roles are tools, and agree that it's what the specific individuals in a team can bring that should determine how they contribute. At my current company, we are pushing for whole squad ownership as much as possible, but of course you can't change peoples' habits overnight. I do my best to encourage those with the 'tester' title to share their quality-related activities across their squad, and to demand inclusion in traditional 'developer' activities.

    We've all worked with (titled) developers who were incredible testers and (titled) testers who were highly skilled at development. It's silly oversimplification and reductionism to pretend people fit into boxes. People should have the agency to contribute where it makes sense -- that's freedom, and it also makes the most sense for the business as a whole.

    Thank you for this post, Maaret. It's very near and dear to my heart.



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