Thursday 28 August 2014

The Schneider Trophy.

Let me introduce you to Jacques Schneider.

Back in 1911 he thought that seaplanes had a great future since so much of the earth is covered by water, so this successful French financier decided to create a competition, a race between seaplanes where the rules were quite simple:
- A Triangular course was set over the sea, and the fastest seaplane that would complete the course would win the trophy.
- After some years running the competition, they came out with a second rule, the winning seaplane had to remain moored to a buoy for six hours, without human intervention.

Once these rules were set, many design companies from around the world would create a seaplane that would race trying to get the Trophy.
The race happened eleven times between 1913 and 1931, and the trophy itself is nowadays exhibited in the London Science Museum.

On the first race, the winning plane was a French Deperdussin, that managed to complete the race with an average speed of 73 km/h.

But once the competition was set, every year, new designs from France, Italy, Great Britain and the United States would try to get a faster plane, with better aerodynamics and more powerful engines.

In 1931, The last year the competition was hold, the Brits won with a Supermarine 6B, She completed the race with an average speed of 547 km/h.

After 18 years of continuous iterations, where every prototype was faster than the last one, where engineers would learn what happened when they tried out new wing design, new engines, fuel injection, aerodynamics, wind tunnels, tools to build and test the planes... they managed to double the speed three times!

And this was because the rules were so simple, it was about to create the fastest seaplane.

There were no more rules, nothing about how to draw, design, build and test the plane, it just had to be a seaplane, she had to float, she had to fly...

And that was it.

The Schneider Trophy might just be a Cup. But British designers learned a lot, and when they designed the Supermarine Spitfire, they had all these learnings in mind.

These were the good' ol days, but we need to have in mind, that our present days were the future for these men. And that the future we are building for tomorrow depends on the decisions we take today.

Nowadays everything comes with software, we have replaced the Steam that powered all industrial revolution with software that does things, everywhere. And this software was to be designed, developed, and somehow tested.

I am a Software Tester, and that´s what I do, I test the software my development team produces, I help them delivering the best quality in whatever we produce.

And if this wasn´t complex enough, there is a new ISO 29119 coming out with a set of rules about how my testing should be.

From what I have seen until today, and getting back to my story, they are trying to tell me how the seaplane should be designed, how it should be built, and how it should be tested, they are asking me to build a biplane, just because at some point, all planes were biplanes and that was how planes should be.

They are suggesting me how to plan, how to document and how my process should be, and I don´t want that. In the last 20 years, Agile Development and Context Driven Testing are changing how software is being developed and tested, and this ISO is for no use in these contexts, moving us back to the waterfall days, where every discovery should be planned in advance.

As a Professional Tester, I don´t agree with such a rule, I don´t want to be forced in the future to follow such guidelines, I want to be able to experiment, to learn, to defy whatever preconceived rule might come in our way to produce the best software we can do.

I want to understand where the problems are, and how to get them fixed, I don´t want to work with a set of solutions that a board of consultants and academic teachers defined as all I needed to know, No thanks.

If you are a Developer, I'm pretty sure you don´t want it either. And if you are not a Tester nor a Developer, the bad news is that it affects you too, because you will be the final user of whatever we manage to deliver.

There is a nice page to follow the debate about the ISO at the Ministry of Testing.
And if you feel like, you can sign the petition to Stop 21991 as I have done.

Thank you.

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