Nov. 1st, 2010

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So far, I've studiously avoided addressing the morass that is the certification debate, but I wanted to respond to Chris McMahon's "Ignoring Certification -- With Numbers". In doing so, I started thinking about what kind of professions we certify, the ways in which we certify, the rationale for certification, and so forth. This, however, is exactly the kind of detailed analysis that gets dragged down into the Certification Muskeg. Instead I will leave you with these three assertions:

First: We don't certify authors, yet we generally manage to figure out if they are any good or not. Stephen King didn't sit an Authors' Board examination before writing his novels. Similarly, Jeri Ellsworth didn't get a benediction from the Electronic Industry Alliance before creating the C-One. And despite the lack of an Electric Guitar Certification Council, we somehow clued into the fact that Jimi Hendrix was creating something powerful and innovative.

Second: Currently, there exists no entity with the technical or moral authority to administer a software testing professional certification. We have nothing akin to a College of Physicians and Surgeons or a Council of Professional Engineers. In no small part, this is because humanity's understanding of the field of software[n] is so incomplete and so immature as to prevent an impartial, vendor-neutral certification from existing. Without a consensus around what constitutes good testing or a good tester, how can we certify anyone as a Software Tester in the general sense, as opposed to someone who's merely familiar with how some organization thinks testing should be done?

Certifying software testers in this day and age is akin to certifying nuclear scientists in the 1890s. We need to be growing our understanding of our field substantially, not dwelling on the tiny sliver of it we think we know.

Third: It is human nature to fight the battles that are placed before us instead of looking for the ones we should be fighting. We often start coming up with answers before checking to make sure we are asking the right questions. This is a mistake of the highest order. Fighting meaningless battles is a waste of our time, energy, and karma. Our goal isn't to fight -- it's to win. Slugging it out in the wastelands of the world is a benighted thing to do and an absurd thing to strive for; far better to leave your foes in the wastelands while marching on to your objective.


[n] I would argue that this is true of software creation as a whole, and not just of software testing.

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rickscott: Bemused-looking picture of Rick (Default)
Rick Scott

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Canadian philosopher-geek who's profoundly interested in how we can collaborate to make technology work better for everyone. He's an incorrigible idealist, an open source contributor, and a staunch believer in testing, universal access, and the hacker ethic.

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