Blog: A Response to Anne Mette Hass

In response to my earlier blog post, I received this comment from Anne Mette Hass. I’m going to reproduce it in its entirety, and then I’ll respond to each point.

I think this ‘war’ against the ISO standard is so sad. Nobody has set out to or want to harm anybody else with this work. The more variation we have in viewpoints and the more civilized be can debate, the wiser we get as times go by.

There is no way the standard ever wanted to become or ever will become a ‘kalifat’.

So why are you ‘wasting’ so much time and energy on this? What are you afraid of?

Best regards,
Anne Mette

PS. I’m likely not to answer if you answer me – I have better things to do.

And now my response:

Anne Mette,

It may surprise you to hear that I agree with many of the conclusions that you’ve given here. The trouble is that I don’t agree with your premises.

I think this ‘war’ against the ISO standard is so sad.

I agree that it’s sad.

It’s sad that a small group of people and/or organizations have decided unilaterally to proclaim an “internationally-recognised and agreed standard”, hiding behind ISO processes and implicitly claiming it to be based on consensus of the affected stakeholders, when it is manifestly not.

It’s sad that the working group has proceeded to declare a “standard” when the convenor of the working group has admitted that it has no evidence of efficacy. Those who claim to be expert testers would raise the alarm about an inefficacious product, would gather evidence, and would investigate. The “standard” has not been tested with actual application in the field.

It’s sad when the convenor of the working group treats “craftsmen” as a word with a negative connotation.

It’s sad that those people producing the “standard” have so stubbornly and aggressively ignored the breadth of ideas in the craft of testing, preferring to adopt a simplistic and shallow syllabus that was developed through a similar process. (“The ISO 29119 is based on the ISTQB syllabi, and, as far as I understand, it is the intention that the ISO 29119 testing process and testing documentation definitions will be adopted by ISTQB over time.” —Anne Mette Hass,

It’s sad that members of the Working Group would issue blatantly contradictory and false statements about their intentions (“There is also no link between the ISO/IEC/IEEE Testing Standards and the ISTQB tester certification scheme.” —Stuart Reid,

It is sad that ISO’s reputation stands a chance of being tarnished by this debacle. It’s not that the opponents of 29119 are opposed to standards. There is a place for standards in physical things that need to be interoperable. There is a place for standardization in communication protocols. There is no place for standardization of testing when the business of technology development requires variation and deviation from the norm.

War is a predictable response when people attempt to game political systems and invade territories. Wars happen when one group of people imposes its beliefs and its way of life over another group of people. War is what happens when politics fails. And war is always sad.

Nobody has set out to or want to harm anybody else with this work.

I’m aware of several people who worked on the ISTQB certification scheme. They entered into that with good will and the best of intentions, hoping to contribute new ideas, alternative views, and helpful critique. They have reported, both publicly and privately, that their contributions were routinely rejected or ignored until eventually they gave up in frustration. This was a pattern that carried over from the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge, the CMM, IEEE 829 and other standards.

Some people have asked “If you don’t like the way the standard turned out, why didn’t you get involved with the development of the standard?” This is the equivalent of saying “If you don’t like where the hijacked plane landed, why didn’t you put on a mask and join us when we stormed the cockpit?”

Even for people of good will who stuck with the effort, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Whatever your motives, it is important to consider reasonably foreseeable consequences of your actions. On Twitter, Laurent Bossavit has said “ISO 29119 may be software testing’s Laetrile. Never proven, toxic side effects, sold as ‘better than nothing’ to the desperate and unwary. And I do mean ‘sold’, at $200 each chapter. That’s de rigueur when selling miracle cures. (More on Laetrile:” Similarly, I’m sure that Jenny McCarthy meant to harm no one with her ill-informed and incorrect claims that vaccinations caused autism. But Jenny McCarthy is neither doctor, nor scientist, nor tester.

Here’s what we’ve seen from the community’s experience with the ISTQB: whatever good intentions anyone might have had, a lot of money has been transferred from organizations and individuals into the pockets of people who have commercialized the certification. Testers have been not only threatened with unemployment, but prevented from working unless or until they have become certified. And ISO 29119 plows the soil for another crop of certification schemes.

The more variation we have in viewpoints and the more civilized be can debate, the wiser we get as times go by.

I agree with that too. I’m all for variation in viewpoints. The trouble is, by definition, the purpose of a standard is to suppress variation. That’s what makes it “standard”. I, for one, would enthusiastically join a civilized debate (please inform me of any point at which you believe my discourse in this matter has been uncivilized), but it appears that you are dismissing the idea out of hand: I refer readers to your postscript.

There is no way the standard ever wanted to become or ever will become a ‘kalifat’.

I agree there too. The “standard” doesn’t want anything. My concern is about the people who develop and promote the standard‐what they want.

So why are you ‘wasting’ so much time and energy on this? What are you afraid of?

I don’t think that anyone who is opposing the “standard” is wasting time at all. I’m a tester. It’s my job and my passion. When someone is attempting to claim a “standard” approach to my craft, I’m disposed to investigate the claim. Notice that the opponents of the “standard” are the ones doing vigourous investigative work and looking for bugs; the development team is showing no sign of doing it. When you ask “why are you wasting so much time and energy on this?” it reminds me of a developer who doesn’t believe that his product should be tested.

I’m not worried about the “standard” becoming a caliphate; I’m concerned about it becoming anything more than a momentary distraction. And I’m not afraid; I’m anticipating and I’m protesting. Specifically, I’m anticipating and protesting

  • another round of dealing with uninformed managers and human resource people requiring candidates to have experience in or credentials for yet another superficial body of “knowledge”;

  • another round of bogus certification schemes that pick the pockets of naïve or vulnerable testers, especially in developing countries;

  • another several years of having to persuade innocent managers that intellectual work cannot and should not be “standardised”, turned into bureaucracy and paperwork;

  • another several years of explaining that, despite what some “standard” says, a linear process model for testing (even one that weasels out and says that some iteration may occur) is deeply flawed and farcical;

  • the gradual drift of the “voluntary” “standard” into mandatory compliance, as noted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (the second last paragraph here) and as helpfully offered by ISO.

  • waste associated with having to decide whether to follow given points in the standard or reject them. (Colleagues who have counted report that there are over 100 points at which a “standard-compliant” organization must identify its intention to follow or deviate from the “standard”. That’s overhead and extra effort for any organization that wants simply to do a good job of testing on its own terms.)

  • goal displacement as organizations orient themselves towards complying to the letter of the standard rather than, say, testing to help make sure that their products don’t fail, or harm people, or kill people.

Best regards,
Anne Mette

PS. I’m likely not to answer if you answer me – I have better things to do.

Since Anne Mette evinces no intention of responding, I will now address the wider community.

There’s an example of a response from the 29119 crowd, folks. This one makes no attempt to address any of the points raised in my post; presents not a single reasoned argument; nor any supporting evidence. Mind, you don’t need supporting evidence when you don’t present an argument. But at least we get a haughty dismissal from someone who has “better things to do” than to defend the quality of the work.

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7 responses to “A Response to Anne Mette Hass”

  1. José says:

    Nice reply, i do wish to see more articulated arguments from the proponents of the Standard 29119.Is this representative of the comments you receive from them?

    Michael replies: That’s more than we usually get.

    I’m fortunate enough to work where the opportunitys are plentiful and skilled worker judge on their actual experiences. I do understand now that in some markets skills may be assessed base on letters at the end of the name or pieces of paper that states that you have “academical knowledge” (not as valuable as practical knowledge in my view). In those markets a standard like the ISO 29119 would have a devastating effect on upcoming resources.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    The ISO29119 Emperor has no clothes, and this time everyone is pointing it out.

  3. […] post is inspired by Michael Bolton's post here […]

  4. Joshua Rachuna says:

    I’m suffering through Anne Mette Hass stumbling through her presentation for EuroStar right now.
    It’s supposed to be about the ISO29119 standard. I found it amusing that their definition of testing had the word “test” in it.
    All she is doing is going over a rudimentary test example and basic test techniques. There is nothing that really shows how 29119 is supposed to truly work from end-to-end.
    It’s also amazing how much they stole from the rapid and black box software testing communities without proper attribution.
    Her overall presentation has done nothing to explain to me how the ISO standard is supposed to work, any benefits it may provide or how it differs from what we are already doing as testers.

  5. […] questions continue to be posed, and strong analyses of who is involved and what they’ve said in the past continues. A usual suspect has oscillated between poking fun at these concerns, saying […]

  6. Chris K says:


    The link to “the second last paragraph here” leads to a blank page.

    Thank you for “wasting” so much of your time and energy responding to this comment. =)

    Michael replies: Thank you for wasting your time writing this comment. It inspired me to waste my time reading it, whereupon I wasted even more time fixing the problem that you so wastefully reported.


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