Workshop on Open Certification of Software Testers

Call For Participants

Workshop on Open Certification of Software Testers (WOC)
Indianapolis, June 8-10, 2006 (Follows the Conference of the Association for Software Testing)

There is no charge to attend this workshop. Participation will be limited to 15 (at most, 20) people, selected on the basis of applications to attend. See the notes on HOW TO APPLY below.

Hosts: Cem Kaner and Michael Kelly
Facilitated by: Paul Holland

This call and all subsequent updates to this call are available online at www.FreeTestingCertification.com

WOC is our first step in developing a new approach to certifying the knowledge of software testers. Here’s our vision:

– Imagine an exam based primarily on courses and readings available free on the web. (Learn at your own pace, skip the $2000 review course.)

– Imagine an exam available free to anyone at anytime. For example, during a job interview, connect to the exam web site. It prepares a stratified sample of 50 questions from a much larger pool. You take the test then and there. You and the interviewer see the questions you answered and the answers you gave. Your percentage correct is interesting, but in many interviews, discussing the specific answers can yield far better insight.

– Imagine that instead of pretending that the significant questions of Testing have One True Answer, we invite discussion and dissenting opinions. Each question in the pool has its own discussion page. When someone takes a test, the feedback for each question provides a link to the discussion of that question, along with “correct” or “incorrect.” Our intention is to create an organization (perhaps a nonprofit corporation) that owns copyright in all of the exam materials and discussions but that grants the public a right to republish or reuse them — essentially a free software license (more precisely, Creative Commons license with attribution).

The goal of this meeting is to figure out how to do this, and to get started doing it.

We have the usual logistic questions:
– Where will we host the site, who will be the system administrator, what content management system will we use? How can we fund this work?

And the policy questions:
– Who should edit? (Perhaps any registered user can contribute, but should we periodically reorganize the discussion of a topic, merging topics, dropping redundant or irrelevant comments? This is common on wiki’s. If that’s our model, who does the editing?)

– Should we allow a diversity of exams? Imagine a pool of 2000 questions, categorized into various areas. A stratified sample of these randomly chooses questions, but might choose a higher proportion of questions from one area than another based on the weights assigned to each area. Perhaps the site should offer several exams, differing in their weights (and thus the overall selection of questions asked). In this way, one person might design an “agile” testing exam, another a traditional black box testing exam and so on. Should we let any registered user create a weighting scheme and a named exam type? If so, should we manage the potentially overwhelming variety by popularity scores or peer review scores (think of slashdot.com, for example)?

– What is the process for accepting a question into the pool?

We will have facilitated discussions, in which people share experiences (on test design, test administration, etc.) and concerns.

We will also have breakout sessions, small groups who try out some of the ideas we’re talking about, and report back on their experience.

We want to create a better certification exam process and better exams.

For now, we are planning to create multiple-choice type tests. These have limited value. They don’t test skill. At some point, we will develop skill-based testing as well. However, that type of testing is often very demanding on the expert evaluator, and so these experts would have to be paid. Skill-focused exams are often expensive. We will get to discussions/designs of tests that evaluate higher levels of knowledge, but not in this first meeting.

We are building something to serve the testing community, and inviting participation by the community. However, we are not creating a professional society or a business. We might select an advisory board (we hope to) and we might select a small group of core organizers who become a board of directors for the formal entity (nonprofit corporation?) that officially owns the materials. But we are not planning to hold elections or public votes. We are not trying to create the illusion that we represent the field or that we can speak for it as a standards body. Instead, we have a vision for serving the testing community by building a better set of exams, and we are asking for help, guidance, and refinement (or fundamental revision) of the vision.

If you want to attend the meeting, send an electronic message to Cem Kaner and Mike Kelly that briefly describes your software testing background, your experience with or knowledge of standardized testing, how you think you could contribute to this type of project and why you would want to.

We are planning to balance attendance among four groups:
– Consultants and senior thinkers (who can help us think strategically about this project)
– Educators (academic or commercial trainers) and authors whose writings or courses might be relied on in our exams
– Managers (for example, hiring managers or managers who have responsibility for the career growth/development of their staff)
– Individual testers

When you apply, please tell us in your note which group(s) we should see you as belonging to (and perhaps tell us that you really belong to a 5th group that we forgot to make explicit)

Please send in your application, no more than one or a few pages of text (but you can link to your websites or published papers or other published material) by April 15.

We will get together Wednesday night after CAST. Probably, we’ll have dinner and then go to a baseball game. If you want to come to baseball, please let us know soon (so we can buy tickets)(you have to pay for your own).

We are still finalizing the location, but if you come to CAST and book a hotel, that hotel will almost certainly be close to the WOC location too.

Thursday / Friday / Saturday / we meet at 8 a.m. From 8 to 9, we chat and eat breakfast. From 9 to 5 we work. Some of us (anyone who comes to WOC, and their guest, are invited) will go to dinner together each night.

Saturday, we will probably stop at 3 p.m.

QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? Write Cem Kaner or Mike Kelly

This workshop has been scheduled in the same city as CAST, just after CAST, but it is not sponsored by, run by, or otherwise affiliated with the Association for Software Testing.