Blog: Black Box Software Testing Course in Toronto, June 23-25 2010

In 1996, I was working as a program manager for Quarterdeck, which at the time produced some of the best-selling utility software on the market. I took a three-day in-house training class that quite literally changed the course of my life. That class was the Black Box Software Testing course, by Cem Kaner.

Unlike anyone else that I was aware of at the time, Cem was writing and talking about a different kind of testing from what we were used to. Most of the books and testing models that I was aware of talked about things like timely, complete, and unambiguous requirements; they talked about process models; they talked about how, if you didn’t get what the books said you needed, you should refuse to test. They talked about testers as the gatekeepers of quality. Other books talked about test techniques in an abstract and largely mathematical way. All focused on some notion of functional correctness. Very few, if any, focused on value to the customer, and the idea that software testing was a very human part of software development, itself a very human thing.

Cem’s book, Testing Computer Software (written with Hung Nguyen and Jack Falk), was different. It was a book for testers who were working in environments where no one else followed “the rules”, the so-called best practices that were neither best nor practiced in real life. The BBST course took the same tack. Cem didn’t preach that we were quality gatekeepers; in fact, he demolished that myth. Instead, he offered an approach that was much more skills-oriented than proces-focussed, pragmatic rather than Platonic, and investigation-focused rather than confirmation-focused. In 2002, Cem released a new book (with James Bach and Brett Pettichord) called Lessons Learned in Software Testing. That book was strongly interconnected with the BBST course material (which, by then, credited James Bach with co-authorship). In that era, Cem began to release videos of the course lectures online, along with presentation slides, course notes, self-quizzes, extra material, reading lists, and references. Portions of the online BBST course are now being offered in an instructor-led form by the Association for Software Testing for its members, with more and more classes being added each year.

Now, after 15 years of continuous development on the Black Box Software Testing course, Cem is coming to Toronto to deliver a very rare live, public, version of the class, June 23 through June 25, 2010. He says, “The Black Box Software Testing course takes an explorer’s view of the core issues in software testing. We look at the primary test techniques (tests based on scenarios, risks, specifications, or attributes of the data under test), at the challenges of identifying and credibly reporting failures, and at the management challenges of adapting your practices to the project’s context (for example, regulatory or market requirements).

“Supplementing the course is a rich collection of multimedia instructional materials, available free, online. This gives us the freedom to tailor the course to the preferences of the students, leaving some topics to the videos, buying time for more activities, discussions, and exercises in class.”

The class is being sponsored by TASSQ, the Toronto Association of Systems and Software Quality. I’ll be there in a support role.

You can sign up for the class via the form at http://www.tassq.org/pdf/registration_form_black_box.pdf. If you mention the promotional code BLG, you’ll be able to register for the Early Bird Rate of $1400 through May 21.

Many thanks to the eagle-eyed testers who pointed out that the title of Lessons Learned in Software Testing was not, in fact Testing Computer Software as this post once erroneously claimed.

Want to know more? Learn about upcoming Rapid Software Testing classes here.

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