Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Open letter to the Association for Software Testing

To the Association for Software Testing:

Considering the discussion in the software testing community with regard to my blog post "Test is a Ghetto", I ask the Board of the AST  to release a statement regarding the relationship of the AST with Keith Klain and Per Scholas, particularly in regard to the lawsuit for fraud filed by Doran Jones (PDF download link) .

The AST has a Code of Ethics  and I also ask the AST Board to release a public statement on whether the AST would consider creating an Ethics Committee similar to, or as a part of the recently created Committee on Standards and Professional Practices.

The yearly election for the Board of the AST happens in just a few weeks, and I hope that the candidates for the Board and the voting members of the Association for Software Testing will consider these requests with the gravity they deserve.


Matt Heusser said...

Chris, you know I admire your work. Welcome back to the public world. I certainly can respect a step back to focus on doing excellent work. That said, I suspect some of the confusion here might be due to that absence and having to catch up fast.

None of the people who were on the board in 2013, when AST sponsored the STEP initiative of Per Scholas, are still on the board today. Keith resigned the board in August, 2015, immediately after losing an unsuccessful self-nomination to the presidency of AST. AST's involvement in the STEP program has been essentially nothing since 2014 -- the major cost was allowing around ten STEP graduates to attend CAST for no fee, but the travel costs made any conference outside of New York prohibitive. So the total cost to AST is perhaps $8,000 in opportunity cost in 2014.

While no one currently on the board of AST was involved at the decision to sponsor the Per Scholas STEP program, I was.

As for you ethical concerns, I will share a few emails of mine from that timeframe, from private correspondence, that show vigorous debate and discussion of what you have framed as a conflict of interest for Keith. I don't think they need to be made public, but I'll leave that for you to decide.

Finally, I know you're blogging, not doing journalism. I totally understand the "OH MY GOODNESS LAWSUIT!" reaction. It is a human reaction. Frankly, I had it too. As a journalist, I would be obligated to check with the other side before writing an article like the one above. I think that's a reasonable standard for public writing. As a blogger, and writing something where it is clear you don't have all the facts and are asking for a response, you're in good territory ... It just occurs to me me that it have been nice to talk to a few people before writing your open letter.

I understand the radical transparency bit, and I've tried to honor that with a public comment. After all the analysis, I think all that is left is to ask AST to clarify it's current stance on involvement in Per Scholas STEP based on what is above. I understand there is no active program, they may need to update the website, but there is a BBST sponsorship program some Per Scholas students/graduates are taking advantage of open to anyone with financial need. Those allow the individuals to develop professionally. Given the post on "test is a ghetto", I'd think that would be a good thing.

Cem Kaner said...

Matt: It doesn't matter whether individual members on the AST Board have turned over. AST is a corporation, an entity unto itself. It is responsible for its actions in the past. The management of the corporation, yesterday and today, should be steering the corporation in a socially responsible way that is consistent with the AST Code of Ethics.

Regarding history, I think that AST gave a lot of marketing support and some amount of instructional design support to the Per Scholas project. Those have value far beyond a few dollars of conference expenses. If, in retrospect, the Board sees those actions as inappropriate, it has more to do than tweaking the website.

Whether the Board *should* see its past actions as inappropriate is a different question, which I am not addressing here.

Matthew said...

I appreciate the comment, Cem. It surprises to me to hear at AST gave any instructional design help to Per Scholas - I believe they did not. You may be thinking of Summer QAmp, which Michael Larsen did gather material for. As for marketing support, I'm not sure what you mean either. Per Scholas was probably mentioned in the newsletter and a few tweets as an ongoing active project of the AST. Are you thinking of something more substantial? It is very possible I am misunderstanding you.

Cem Kaner said...

As I recall it, AST made their support for the Per Scholas project very visible. This was directly (AST website, for example) and through their executives. Michael was quite vocal, others were too.

AST *did* adopt a policy governing conflict of interest back in 2010. I am surprised and disappointed that in this long discussion, they have (as far as I can see) never mentioned it.