Almost a year since our previous article Software Testing Debate Becomes Open Warfare and we have another outbreak, again featuring accusations, a Petition, blogs, social media and a split between old school and new school. As before, there is a deeper issue underlying the debate.

On the surface, the debate is about ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 Software Testing, which was supposed to be “an internationally agreed set of standards for software testing that can be used within any software development life cycle or organization” but has run into some criticism since the initial 3 standards were published in September 2013. James Christie brought this to a boil at the August 2014 Association for Software Testing Conference, CAST 2014, with a presentation titled: “Standards – Promoting quality or restricting competition?

An auditor himself, James believes that ”standards are a good thing” but is highly critical of software testing standards, particularly the ISO 29119 series.  Two initiatives resulted from the CAST 2014 presentation: a petition made by the International Society for Software Testing ( ISST) and a professional Tester’s manifesto.

For an overview of the international commotion stirred up by this controversy, you need look no further than the amazing collection of resources provided by Netherlands tester Huib Schoots, see  ISO29119. The resources include links to the Petition and manifesto, The Standard, Blogs supporting the petition and Anti petition & pro ISO29119. Tempers flared over a Professional Tester Magazine “book burners” analogy, generating its own section : Reactions to “book burners post“. (Yes, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 gets a plug in Re-evaluating the “book burners” accusation.)  Further sections, covering both sides of the argument, include Mentions on (news) sites, Discussions, Older blogs, Videos, Slides, Recent Posts and Recent Comments. The resources are also available by Categories, e.g. Agile (6), Coaching (2), Conference (19), Context-Driven (29) etc.

The Mentions on (news) sites section includes international coverage, e.g. Standard väcker ont blod (bad blood)– Computer Sweden (Swedish) and Veel controverse over de ISO29119 standaard – (Dutch).

Blogs supporting the petition include contributors from international software testing gurus Cem Kaner and James Bach. Cem was a Senior Member of IEEE, recognized for his work on their standards and had even been appointed by Congress to the United States’ Election Assistance Commission’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee at IEEE’s request. (TGDC wrote technical standards and much of its work was guided by an IEEE standard that Cem had worked on.) Cem left IEEE in 2010 or 2011 “as a protest against a software engineering standards process that I see as a closed vehicle that serves the interests of a relatively small portion of the software engineering community.” And here we get to the deeper issue underlying the ISO 29119 debate. Cem notes that “Context-driven testing developed as the antithesis of what is being pushed through ISO. They represent opposite points of view.”

James Bach notes that “A standard for testing would have to reflect the values and practices of the world community of testers. Yet, the concerns of the Context-Driven School of thought, which has been in development for at least 15 years have been ignored and our values shredded by this so-called standard and the process used to create it….Some of the most famous testers in the world, including me, are Context-Driven testers. We exist, and together with the Agilists, we are the source of nearly every new idea in testing in the last decade.”

Another significant contributor is Michael Bolton, whose DevelopSense Blog: Frequently-Asked Questions About the 29119 Controversy  is both informative and entertaining, including a link to the classic Joel Spolsky Martian Headsets rant.

Keith Klain, who played a key role in last year’s software testing warfare, also chips in, quoting  Jacob Bronowski:  “Dissent is the native activity of the scientist, and it has got him into a good deal of trouble in the last years. But if that is cut off, what is left will not be a scientist. And I doubt whether it will be a man.”

Last year’s article closed with the thought that  “the real question is whether this saga is just a small skirmish in a larger battle, not just about software testing but about the whole software engineering life cycle.” That also applies this year, not just to the use of standards throughout the software engineering life cycle, but to adapting the life cycle to meet the current and emerging opportunities and challenges from innovation.