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The Ascendancy of Testers

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New groups, conferences and workshops promote the traditionally neglected tester role, spotlighting the skills, tools, and principles needed to be an excellent tester on an Agile team

Historically, the role of a Tester or QA has often been post-hoc, taking place after software has been created. Testers have often held a siloed role, with teams dedicated to testing available for cheap hire offshore. Bob Martin, one of the original Agile manifesto signatories and a well-known proponent of excellence in software, observed that this was not optimal:

Decades ago, frustrated by the terrible quality coming out of development, managers created an inspection step at the end of the process. This role for QA reinforced the bad behavior of development that spawned it. Because QA was at the end, developers didn't need to care about getting things right.

Over the last few years, this gap between testing and programming has narrowed as cross-functional Agile teams put more emphasis on the role of good testing practices, building quality in using processes like Acceptance Test Driven Development and Continuous Integration. But as "Agile Testing" author Lisa Crispin points out:

Agile is pretty mainstream now, but some folks still aren’t sure what testers do. In addition, the "Whole Team" approach to quality and the idea that testing and coding aren’t separate phases still mystifies some people.

A number of groups, conferences and workshops have been created to help address this issue.

The Agile Testing group have been discussing the move from Waterfall to Iterative development, and how to handle some of the problems they encounter.

The AAFTT - a community originally created for the Agile Alliance to examine Functional Testing Tools - has been holding a series of workshops to look at Acceptance Testing patterns, the first of which was facilitated by patterns expert Linda Rising in London. The group has carried on this work, with more pattern workshops happening through the year.

In London from 12th-13th Mar 2011 you can attend the Simple Design and Testing Open Space conference and meet "real, hands-on practitioners interested in peer-to-peer learning and exploration".

The Software Test Professionals conference is in Nashville from March 22nd to 24th, aiming to "set the stage for advanced learning, networking and career growth".

StarEast 2011 in Orlando, May 1st to 6th, offers sessions with well-known Agile experts like Lisa Crispin, Dale Emery, Andy Kaufman, James Bach and Janet Gregory.

Agile 2011, from 8th to 12th August in Salt Lake City, features a Testing and Quality Assurance stage.

And finally, the Agile Testing Days conference takes place from November 14th to 17th in Berlin, with a central theme of "Interactive Contribution".

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