Tuesday, October 4, 2016

It's not about debate, it's about the style and tactics welcomed

I'm in need of therapeutic writing because I made a mistake of going into James Bach's blog post and reading some of the comments. Realizing it is not enough that James misrepresents my character but that with the incident, there's a whole bunch of others who feel they now know me ('nice', 'avoids debate') feels wrong.

I've left two comments on that post myself. One that corrects the contents of the post that has not been published by now. And other that corrects something from early comments that has been published. This just goes to show one aspect of the nature of 'debate' going on: only the aspects the moderator chooses to be included are included, giving an appearance of different voices which isn't the whole picture. And it the same debate tactic is in use in twitter, when discussions ('debates') happen only between people who have not blocked the other. The need of blocking and selective publishing just emphasizes the need of being kind to one another. When we're not, we just block voices that could teach us something if we were open for it. Or, they could learn something from u.

The selective voices is one problem with the debate as it is framed in the James Bach School of Context-Driven Testing, but there's also others. Twitterverse just taught me the name of the other tactic that I think is low, 'Red Herring'. The idea with that is that when you're discussing about something, one of the debating parties introduces into the discussion something that just diverts the discussion. For me, the 'copyright infringement claim' was a clear red herring.

And then there's style. Being physically intimidating, banging tables, shouting and pouting. All of these are tactics that I see in the example debates I've endured with James and while I find them hilarious, I also find them harmful.

I believe in a debate, when it is about seeking understanding through investigating difficult questions, not when it's framed as a fight with one winner. The underlying belief system must be one where we look for a win-win. This is not a zero-sum game where the stronger idea should win. The weaker idea should be nurtured, and grow not its full potential too.

I've had my share of experiences of trying things that first seem absolutely silly and outside my view of the world, and I could have debated and discussed them indefinitely. Unit testing was one of them. Mob programming is another. I wouldn't have learned and loved either one if I did not allow for the experience to happen without understanding all the base of it.

Some things we deepen with a discussion (even a debate, if we leave the dirty style and tactics out - the argument culture). Some things we just need to try out in practice, in context and see if it teaches us anything.

I value experimentation culture over debate culture. Both include deep, meaningful discussions, but the latter too often settles for intellectually and theoretically addressing things that require an experience to make sense.

1 comment:

  1. Maaret,
    I can sympathize with you regarding "debate" via electronic means versus real human interaction. And even then at times the human interaction is a nightmare. I can only say that when I hear about this type of situation I think to myself that the other person who is being a "Bulldog" (sinks their teeth in and won't let go until the other person is defeated) is doing both us and themselves a major disservice. I respect James' work, but when he does this I think it takes away from his message and work in trying to make Software Testing a respected profession. Which is what he is striving for.

    I understand where he comes from in clarity of words and meaning, but when you get so far down in the weeds you lose the forest for the trees. I am not innocent myself, I have strong opinions about Test Automation and voice them. Sometimes too harshly, but I do come back and try to work out the situation at times. I try to be civil and in some cases it doesn't work no matter what (either their being an ass, or I am because I've become frustrated with the other person).

    I have no quick answer to this, but just keep your ground and over time it will subside. Just know that James is a person ruled by his passions, and that he likes a fight as a way to have discussion. As I said, he likes to be like a Bulldog.


    Jim Hazen