Schedule and Events

March 26-29, 2012, Software Test Professionals Conference, New Orleans
July, 14-15, 2012 - Test Coach Camp, San Jose, California
July, 16-18, 2012 - Conference for the Association for Software Testing (CAST 2012), San Jose, California
August 2012+ - At Liberty; available. Contact me by email:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Awards and Decorations

A little over ten years ago I interviewed for a developer job with Steve Hoek, at a tiny division of McGraw-Hill. Steve asked me if I saw myself collecting an award in five years - what would it be?

I replied that I'd like it to be some sort of industry award, but those sort of things don't really exist for do-ers. I hope I never forget how Steve replied -- he agreed with me. Those kind of things do not exist for do-ers.

Maybe they should.

Oh, yes, there are lots of problems. There are conflicts of interest. The inner ring-ers tend to get them disproportionately, without making significant or meaningful contributions to testing. Plenty of people do good work, dedicated work, for decades without doing any PR, and are virtually unknown. But I do think that a good faith effort, on balance, would be better than none at all. The Agile movement has the Gordon Pask Award; can Software Testing do something similar?

I think we can.

So I was very please earlier in the month when the folks at Software Test & Quality Assurance Magazine announced the Luminary Award. Please allow me to read the qualifications from the nomination page:

The software test and quality community will decide who receives the award, and the expectation is the community will choose a nominee with some or all of these qualities:

•A person that has inspired individuals to be better at their profession
•A person that has dedicated their career for the betterment of software testing and quality
•A person that has shown exceptional leadership in promoting the advancement of our industry
•A person that has shown exceptional ability in promoting and educating concepts for the advancement of the industry
•A person that has published and promoted the industry that has resulted in greater recognition and respect for the industry
•A person deserving of an award based on merit not particular to personality (although nominees may be very popular we want this to be about career achievements)

When I read those requirements, a few words jump out at me. Some appear on the page, others are just how I summarize the tone:.

* Testing AND Quality
* Published
* Community
* Lifetime

When I think of those words, one name comes to mind: Cem Kaner.

Why Cem Kaner? Well, he's been around a long time. In the early 1980's he got a PhD in Cognitive Psychology, and he has been advancing the cause of software as a human-driven activity ever since. After doing some programming and testing in that PhD Program. Dr. Kaner moved to Silicon Valley where he worked as a tester, programmer, test manager, documentation manager -- and get this -- he got a job at night in a retail software store while he held those jobs so he could get closer to the customer.

In 1988 Dr. Kaner wrote the first edition of "Testing Computer Software", a landmark book in the field, which he brought in two co-authors to help revise into the 2nd edition in 1993. After Silly Valley, Dr. Kaner got a law degree, practiced law for a short time, and went on to write Bad Software, one of very few books about the legal implications of defective software. In 2000 he moved to Florida where he started teaching software engineering at Florida's institute of technology, the only school in the nation to my knowledge to offer an earned minor in software testing. Some of Dr. Kaner's former students are heavily involved in the test community today.

Then there is, the source for free and open testing training materials. There is the Association For Software Testing (AST) that Dr. Kaner helped champion and organize. There is the Black-Box Software Testing (BBST) course that the AST runs for free to it's members, that Dr. Kaner helped create. There's Lessons Learned in Software Testing, the most recent book Dr. Kaner has served as lead author on. Not to mention his publication list, which would likely use up more than all of the ink currently in my printer. And I haven't even mentioned the LAWST-Style peer conferences that Dr. Kaner lead, inspired, and served as an initial host for.

That's the short list; I've tried to hit the highlights. But notice something about those publications: He was almost always the lead author. They weren't done alone; they were done as a part of a community. And he doesn't do the classic professor trick of sticking his name on top and letting the "little people" do the work: Dr. Kaner is a do-er through and through.

Now look at the dates - this is a gentleman who views career as a marathon. He started his first testing job on his resume in June of 1983, and hasn't stopped since. I already mentioned his publication list.

I don't think it takes a genius to connect the dots back those initial requirements, nor to see how Dr. Kaner is uniquely qualified for the luminary award.

Yes, I said uniquely.

When I think of a 'luminary award', sure, there are other names that come to mind, but when I think of those four bullet points, only one name passes the test. But, just as an exercise, let's talk about some of the folks who might deserve an award, just not this one:

Dr. Jerry Weinberg: Author of over forty books on computing, consulting and quality, Jerry has also ran an enviable marathon career, going back to being the test lead on the Apollo spacecraft in the 1960's! Jerry built his own special community and inspired a generation of consultants. James Bach went so far as to refer to him once as the "Prince of Testers." But that other requirement is to focus your career on quality and testing, and I'm afraid I can't say that was Jerry's focus. Consulting, certainly, and Delivery, yes, and maybe Quality, but testing is not the main thing of the main thing of the main thing for Jerry the way it is for Cem.

Dr. Paul Jorgensen: My old professor at Grand Valley, Paul Jorgensen spent twenty years in industry testing telephone switches before getting his PhD and teaching software engineering for twenty more. Paul is also the author of Software Testing: A Craftsman's Approach, now in it's third edition. Massively published, long career, testing and quality, yes, and I have great admiration for Paul. What I can't say is that he's built a community around him the way Cem has. Every one of Cem's project is collaborative, every one seems to get new people involved. Paul deserves and award for individual effort, certainly, and has done a great deal to foster community in his decades of service. I just don't think he's a perfect fit for this particular community award.

Buccaneer Scholar James Bach: Is probably the closest. James also contributed to create AST, he's keynoted at every single international test conference, he also co-authored LLST, and he's invested a fair amount of time in helping new testers get into the craft. Like Cem, his publication list is a mile long, and he's done a significant amount of training of testers, as well as doing. Yet he started later, and he was a contributor on one book, not a lead author of three. I've no doubt James is worthy of a luminary award, I'm just not sure it should be the very first one. Also, I expect in the years to come, he will become more and more worthy.

There are a few other names you could mention. Michael Bolton, for example, probably falls into the same category of James, and so do my friends Mike Kelly, Ben Simo, and a handful of others. There are also several people like Glenford Meyers, Richard Bender, or Boris Beizer who did very promising work but didn't stick around to wrestle with how their ideas were implemented in practice, to see if they worked. One thing Cem and James have done is come back to revise those ideas in light of feedback from the field - both in terms of what works, and how to explain the concept so there is a high transference rate.

Likewise, there are some agile-testing names that may be eligible for the award in a few years, but right now, I'm looking at the intersection of lifetime, published, community, testing and quality. And I'm looking at Cem Kaner.

Now I am open to other people interpreting those requirements differently, and I am open to debate. You can suggest anyone you please, and nominate and later vote for anyone you please. But I hope that, after some reflection, you will join me in nominating Dr. Cem Kaner for the STP Luminary Award within the next week. After nominations, STP will open the community to vote on the top three or four selections.

The nomination form is up on the web right now; please join me in nominating someone you respect, value, and appreciate.

Thank you!


Markus Gärtner said...

I call for Cem Kaner, as Jerry Weinberg should get an honorary award for all his life work. Sure, Jerry was part of the first testing team, he dedicated almost anything to improvements in software quality, but he's above testing on that end. He deserves more from my perspective. :)

debugger said...

You say "There are also several people like Glenford Meyers, Richard Bender, or Boris Beizer who did very promising work but didn't stick around to wrestle with how their ideas were implemented in practice, to see if they worked."

You are clearly ignorant of what Bender, Beizer, and Meyers actually did. I find it more than offensive that you denigrate their work to decorate your shallow ramblings. You owe them all an apology.

Matthew said...

On the contrary, my friend debugger!

I meant to say that those three might be considered for the luminary award, but perhaps fall a little bit short, only if because they didn't stick around long enough to earn a *lifetime* achievement award.

Bender is still active; he presented on cause-effect graphing at STAREast 2010. Cause-effect graphing, by the way, would be one good example of a test technique that might work out - I honestly don't know - but is in sore need of revision in the manner in which it is presented. As it is typically presented, the idea is too "lossy" - it doesn't have good transference.

When James, Cem, and Jerry have had ideas that don't transfer, they've noticed and revised the idea - compare James's columns in IEEE Computer to his rhetoric today, for example.

Perhaps Myer's 2004 edition of the Art of Computer Software Testing did just that, I'm afraid I don't know.

If my tone came off as insulting, I apologize. That was not my intent at all.