Sunday, October 2, 2016

My response to James Bach's explanation of the slide incident

This is my response I posted on James Bach's post on the slide incident. I cross-post it here in case people don't feel like reading all the details and want to see my picks.

TL; DR. When you're at conferences, this is place to share and tell stories. When you make it so that the one keynoter attacks the other's character (not statements), it's not safe to share and we all lose a lot.

(my short is way too long :) )


You make a simple thing very complicated with a long post. It took me over an hour to read this, and I'm not going to try to go through all your points. No one is going to read all of the stuff I could have to say about this. So I'll cover ones I find key.  Opportunity cost: this post is time away from learning more of testing, and I'm trying to educate someone who seems very stuck on his views.

I declined my right to proofread your post with the hope I wouldn’t have to be the one stopping you from being more insensitive and misrepresenting than having that slide in your talk made you. Your blog post is an open forum. Your conference talk isn’t. It has time constraint, and a topic different than our dispute. You might not care about the conference audience’s good use of time, but I do, and it keeps me from wasting their time in long defense that your misrepresentation of me would require. Thank you for finding something to apologize, but I see this as a non-apology. Instead you insinuate that tweeting you talking so that your slide is visible is a copyright infringement, and that the slide somehow had it’s place in the talk. You claim it was presented better than the words on it but I quote a participant: ““IMO, the words he spoke on the Maaret slide were way nastier than what was written. He chastised her and said if she wants to be a leader she needs to be able to handle this.” Unsurprisingly, I can handle this. And I fight for the safety of the community saying that this is not ok. What you did was wrong. Stop doing it. To me and to anyone. Please.

I was in the talk and in the context of the talk. The keynote was recorded. Don’t try to say it was private to that room. It wasn’t. And it wouldn’t be even if I did not publish the slide. Your talk was not a second talk on the role of tester. Our talks were not designed to be connected or I missed the memo. I tweeted the slide to express that a slide of another presenter is unprofessional. I tweeted it to express that I don't approve of the idea that you have the right to talk about me (not about my points) in your keynote. The many comments on twitter confirmed I was not alone with my judgement. James, you have hurt many people who just walked away. I have listened to the stories of people leaving context-driven testing, testing and even software because of you. What you do is not ok. I can’t stop you but you should stop yourself.

I have not said, even once that “you can’t talk about me without my permission”: I’ve said you can’t talk about me as part of your keynote that isn’t about me and if you want to talk about me in your keynote, you could have at least had the decency of fact-checking your claims with me. I was unnecessary to your point, and it is just misuse of your power to include me in your presentation in front of an audience who could care less about our imagined dispute. You did not use my statements, all you say is you differ from me in 3 self-centric I-statements that misrepresent my position.

You still don't see it but you haven't done your homework on me. Try reading more of my blog. You're spouting personal judgements of me based on some tweets and *one talk* you've ever sat through with me. That one talk surprised you on how similar we are, but it did not do enough for you to realize we have even more in common.

Here's examples of how you misrepresent my talk in this article:

  • “Maaret said that eliminating the testing role is a good thing” No, I did not. I said that I find a lot of value in being identified as a tester. Quoting my slide: “Tester identity helps you find community to learn with, tester skillset makes you blend into the system and overall value chain.” None of this says I’m ok with getting rid of testers. 
  • “She has a slide that says “from tester to team member” but it actually said  “From a tester to a software professional with a testing emphasis”. “She confirmed to me that I hurt her feelings by saying that” - you confirmed I was hurt with you telling me on twitter I was not a tester but this happened on Sunday, outside the conference. In the conference, I told that the two terms are synonyms to tester to me, and I use the latter as my wider identify - with testing emphasis. 
  • “Maaret has expressed the belief that no one should name another person in their talk without getting their permission first.” No, I’ve expressed that when you choose to name me, you would use things I say / state and not things that describe you as opposing to me - misrepresenting me. And that if you would want to go into representing me, you should either use statement I made, or check with me on the truthfulness of your claims that have no backing in what I said in my talk. The thing that backs up your statements is your false belief on me, because you never learned to know me, as I choose not to engage in fights but deep and meaningful discussions.
  • “Anyone who takes vocation seriously”. Implying I don’t is offensive. I’m just different, but just as serious about my vocation. Why otherwise I would take offense in you telling me repeatedly I’m not a tester (I just test for my work). I’ve repeatedly given you a reference on argument vs. dialog culture. You’ve repeatedly decided not to hear what I say on the difference of what a debate could be. Read Deborah Tannen’s book on the topic. She says it in so many words that I don’t have the energy of repeating all of it. 

And here's how you misrepresent me with the points on the slide:

1. I’m authentic and compassionate, just like you. I just want to step out of an argument based on opportunity cost and/or inability to continue without seriously offending the other. In my talk, I spoke of both points. I don’t know where you think  your evidence for lack of authenticity and compassion on me are. I think this is where we are same. We are different in caring about how our actions leave others to feel. You’re ok leaving people offended and scarred. I’m ok having a dispute, but I try to get to shake hands in the end and agree we disagree on a fundamental level without compromising my integrity. I hurt people because I’m not nice/kind, I work hard to learn to be nice/kind because it makes a positive difference in the things I care for. Being heard. Doing great testing. Contributing in projects in a meaningful way. Learning from others.

2. I think listening and understanding the others viewpoints is critical to learning. I think safety is a prerequisite for learning. If I would attack people, they wouldn’t feel safe to learn with me. Since great testing is about deep learning, I feel we are doing a disservice to great testing when we attack people in name of debate. I’m not against a good discussion or an academic debate. It doesn’t include the “aha, I got you, you’re not a tester” comments or the character descriptions. It works through statements and is often well prepared for. It’s not an act of “you now met me, I challenge you to duel in debate” but a scheduled activity that has a reserved time slot just for that discussion to take place. You’re right that we’re different, but in a different way that you think. I think with your style of attacking people, many other people than the ones you attack start to feel unsafe to learn with you. We’re losing diversity because of you. You might not care, and I can’t push you to care. That is where my “we can agree to disagree but still be kind to one another” rule kicks in. But I know you care. You care just as deeply as I do. Your experiences of why this would be relevant are not same as mine and may never come to a place where we learn to agree on this. I surely will not go on being intentionally mean an inconsiderate. It happens often enough by accident when I live by my other rule: ask for forgiveness, not permission. I do what I believe is right.

3. I don’t think excellence can be maintained without focus and energy. I was trying to state this in my talk, when I spoke of the belief of mine that new people in particular need to have one area of focus to go deep in, or we will lose on having people who can deliver the value we now recognize skilled testers deliver. I’ve had a lot of focus on being and becoming good at testing. I work as a tester in my teams. I logged on average 4 issues that got fixed for a period of 2,5 years, until I went to experiment with fix-and-forget style of helping my team learn to avoid bugs. The hours I’ve tested over the last 20 years probably exceed yours because training and speaking in conferences is just a side thing for me. I think your focus and energy does not go into testing, it goes into arguing. It goes into being available for whatever challenge whenever. My aversion to useless twitter discussions has freed up a lot of time to pair test with people, and have deep focus on complicated product problems ranging from idea to use. Implying I don’t have excellence because I don’t have focus and energy like you is just plain wrong. My choices are different, but they go just as deep as yours.

You did not fact check the differences. You did not ask clarifying questions after my talk. You did not talk to me about how you were thinking of presenting me. You chose to misrepresent me, even if with good intention of clarifying your surprise on how much you ended up agreeing me. I’ve not questioned your intention, I’ve questioned and keep questioning your execution. A slide with statements of another speaker in a keynote talk is questionable approach. The words as they were written were hurtful. You said something nice too, but most of the stuff was just bad and misrepresenting me in a place where there was not enough room for disagreement. Even though I was trying to be time-conscious, you got interrupted from the audience on second point and moved on. That was not a place for debate on my character. Or rather, your perception of my character in comparison to yourself.

Being accountable does not mean I’m available to discuss things with you indefinitely, until you’re done. It means I stay true to my words and beliefs. I’m in a discussion as long as I too get value out of it. A lot of the discussions I step out of are ones that are just not going anywhere. I stand behind my words, until I change my mind. And that is known to happen. It's called learning. Happens to me all the time. Even then, I work hard to realize when and what I've learned. I would imagine that being part of accountability in an industry where learning is a prerequisite rather than an afterthought.

I do get to say I’m not appointing myself as a leader but a learner. I speak to learn. I have every right to frame my need of speaking in public what ever way feels authentic to me. I recognize others will listen to me, and even take action following that. And I try to represent my experiences so that it wouldn’t do harm but help. Saying a leader (someone with followers) can be attacked for speaking in conferences is like saying people can be beaten up because they walk in dark alleys. You must know that bad behaviors are not the victim’s fault, but the choice of the attacker. You’re misbehaving, and it would be time to see that after 15 years of abuse of Rex Black and Lisa Crispin, just to name a few.

I will not, ever again, approve of you mistreating anyone. I will never stay silent when I see you trash Lisa. I will say I disagree on your conduct when you trash Rex Black. I will say out loud that it is not ok to call Dawn Haynes a chipmunk. But I will also say that you were lovely towards Ash Coleman while debating with her. I will say I’ve seen you be wonderful to so many new people joining testing in conferences and on your classes. I will say that you’re divided and incoherent but mostly wonderful. Wonderful people can still do bad things. I’m not accepting your bad things because you’re wonderful or smart. I will annoy the hell out of you reminding that I still haven’t changed my mind about what is appropriate behavior, and that I believe that people with your smarts could choose to change.

I’m not calling a boycott, because your voice is important to me and to many testers. I’m asking you to be who you say you are and start exercising more of that compassion by dismissing people over attacking them. By pointing out their claims you disagree with over going into their character.


  1. Maaret, is the Tannen book "The Argument Culture" ( ?

    It seems the most likely from her list of books (