Saturday, October 1, 2016

An exemplary debate

I got a chance to see a really good debate as part of the Test Master's Academy: one by Ash Coleman and James Bach.

The structure of the debate was insightful. First, both presented their opposing positions in the discussion. That was followed by a very short round of replies to the other's position. Then the debate took a pause for both positions to collect arguments for the position with the audience that split nicely for the views. Finally, the debate continued with replies and arguments until it was time to close.

Ash Coleman was wonderful and articulate. She defended her position from personal experiences coming into testing just five years ago from a chef background, that perhaps we're looking for the mindset instead of the deep skills when hiring new testers, and that approach could widen the door.

James Bach was calm, clear and explained his position well. Spending years in deep learning of what testing is about and how you could be better at it, the ideas of anyone can be a tester seem wrong. That there is such testing that requires deep knowledge and expertise, that a new tester couldn't do unsupervised.

The end conclusion was that perhaps the disagreement is less of a disagreement, since Ash is talking from the perspective of wider views in the intake to the industry, whereas James is considering more heavily the excellence and ability of whoever is in. We all come from somewhere, and having a baseline of abilities to build on helps us on our growth path.

If you would have watched that debate, you'd feel comfortable being a part of it. James was kind and considerate. Ash did not need him to be that, she rocked her arguments knowing she is doing well in her tester position now. Both parties brought insightful perspectives into the discussion.

The debate had been prepared for. It had mutual learning in mind. There was no shouting on top of the other. The views were more opposing before preparation, and the dialog increased understanding of where the parties came from.

There's more depth into that debate that couldn't be handled within timeframes. I have many open questions, like "If nowadays really anyone can start coding and making software products, why wouldn't we want to allow the same for testers?" and "What is this fear I'm sensing of becoming obsolete if the world does not understand the uniqueness of testing skills?" but I'm happy to leave them for a different time.

I can find two things to criticize to make this more exemplary:

  • It shouldn't need the pre-debate debate to feel safe
  • The use of time between the opponents could be more equal especially in the end where just a hint of explaining for the other was emerging. 
If a debate looks like this, who would not be up for it?