Do We Belong? What the Belong-O-Meter Tells Us About the Ministry of Testing Community

The above chart paints a fascinating story.

Those are 36 helpful people willing to share their sense of belonging to the Ministry of Testing community.

A while back I asked: Which sense of belonging do you most identify with the Ministry of Testing community?

Recipients selected one of 5 options.

And this led to several 1-2-1 calls where I was curious to dig deeper into each response, to understand an individual’s context, goals, and ambitions. What relationship did these community members have with the community?

It’s been an incredible learning journey.

During each call, we’d discuss their response and explore what people would like to see less of and more of. Such conversations have led to many reflections and next steps.

Key findings and reflections

  • Most community members aim to be part of the community on their own terms
  • There’s a lot of love for this community. Folks genuinely look out for each other
  • It can be difficult for a community member to jump to a “creation mode” — where a member adds to the community with a video, article or something similar
  • Those towards the latter end of their career are keen to give back yet sometimes can’t find a straightforward way to do so
  • Not everyone wants to attend another testing event
  • There are members who lurk and we should embrace them, they are as much part of the community as those who are visually and vocally present
  • There is an opportunity to find out why people join the community in the first place. This can lead to a set of common joining themes
  • For “traditional” testing professionals, the Ministry of Testing community might be seen as too progressive
  • There’s not much awareness about the Ministry of Testing scholarship fund
  • The community can be inward focused and might benefit from officially joining up with other communities such as those for Customer Support, Developer, UI/UX, DBA, and Data (Science and Engineering).
  • There aren’t enough opportunities for activities and events for the communities based in Australia and New Zealand.

Ideas and next steps

  1. Set up a “X Things You Can Do To Participate in the Ministry of Testing Community” page/article. Provide a full spectrum of activities from co-create to lurk.
  2. Review our existing guides and learning materials on how to co-create and contribute to the Ministry of Testing community. Explore more ways to surface this information in various mediums.
  3. Create a model for community member types. To help align member goals and ambitions to see how the Ministry of Testing community can better serve itself.
  4. Explore how we might run a campaign to amplify the Ministry of Testing scholarship fund
  5. Explore the idea of an official speaker exchange from one community to another
  6. Offer ways for community members in Australia and New Zealand to co-create events and activities.

The Belong-O-Meter is fallible like any survey is. And what someone tells you on a call might not necessarily match how they act for real. Such behaviour can change every year, month, week, day, hour or minute based on what’s going on in that person’s world at any given moment. I’m just grateful I’m able to have helpful conversations with the community when I get the chance.

No one can really tell someone to belong or force a sense of belonging. It’s personal. Yet a community can create a platform and set a tone that helps someone feel welcome in a way that works for them, whatever their goals and ambitions. It’s the support and signals we send to each other that matter.

There is much more to learn about this wonderful community. Thanks for looking out for each other.

How about you? Which sense of belonging do you most identify with the Ministry of Testing community? Feel free to let me know and I’ll set up a call for us to go explore your answer.

Also super curious to hear your thoughts on the discoveries so far. What do you think? What reflections do you have?

– Simon – CommunityBoss

6 Likes

I would say I was a 4, but I understand and empathise with the principles underlying 5.

I first came into the testing community some six years ago, when I took up a new role and stepped into an environment where colleagues were already engaging with the testing community. (I’d been in testing since the middle 1990s but never heard much about the testing community except some vague whispers.) Over the first year when I engaged with MoT online and then got to go to TestBash and some local meetups, I was struck by how familiar I felt the test community generally, and MoT in particular, to be. This was because I was already familiar with another narrow (comparatively), interest-related community: classic science fiction fans.

Science fiction (sf) fandom arose out of the first dedicated sf magazine, Amazing Stories, first published in the USA in 1926. Its publisher and editor, Hugo Gernsback, encouraged readers to write in to comment on stories: and because they were few and far between, Gernsback published correspondents’ addresses in full, so that if you saw that there was another fan in your city, you could contact them, exchange ideas, and possibly meet up. Although Amazing was a magazine with national distribution, sales were marginal; and readers could attract criticism from teachers, employers and parents for reading “that crazy spaceship stuff”. The stories were generally of low literary quality (though not always), adding to the criticism readers attracted.

Once you had met all the fans in your city (usually around four or five at best), the next step was to get into contact with fans elsewhere - again, made possible by the publication of addresses. People started creating fanzines, sending them around the USA and eventually overseas. And after fanzines came conventions, where if you saved up enough, you might be able to make the transcontinental journey once a year to meet other fans and get to talk to authors, publishers and the like. Eventually, conventions became world-wide as magazines and fanzines crossed borders.

In a way, the Internet, with its open communication that (at its best) transcends national boundaries, is the way it is because a lot of the people who developed it in the later years of the 20th century came out of the fan tradition and had an organisational model to work on. But even before the Internet, there were international exchanges - so, for instance, I started receiving fanzines from Australia in the middle 1970s through my own comments appearing in other people’s fanzines. Fandom in Australia developed along the same lines as in the USA, only in the 1950s and 60s rather than the 1920s and 30s.

My point? Well, when I walked into my first TestBash, I immediately felt at home because it felt like an sf convention. There were highly enthusiastic people who had organised themselves to make something happen for a wider community of like-minded people. Back in the 1920s, it was said that “it is a fine and lonely thing to be a fan”, and fandom arose to address that. I feel very much that testers sometimes feel the same now! And testers generally evangelise to spread a gospel of sound test techniques both within their organisations and outside them. If you want an image of the future of testing, just look at science fiction. The sf that gave rise to fandom was in mainly written formats, and was looked down upon, and not taken seriously (still isn’t, in some quarters); but since the end of the 1970s and the rise of sf in film and tv, it has suddenly become big business, and therefore fashionable. (But unrecognisable to those who loved sf in its ‘Golden Age’.) With the spread of automation, of shift left techniques and the embrace of Agile methodologies, can we anticipate the same thing happening to testing?

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Thank you for sharing the output Simon, I’ve been a bit of a biased person on this community and initially I had to ask how come so many people put a 1 for engagement?

I think/hope “1) this is a community 1 feel no sense of connection to” is balanced by people in that category being free to choose engagement in another community. It might be that people who are detractors, but at least they participated in the survey, which is a huge results skew anyway. And running a similar survey every year using survey result shifts as well as getting a good idea of how keen people are to be surveyed being another indicator to watch I would hope.

I personally would love things to all be under one roof, having separate communities for each tech area results in lower traffic surely? Communities in general might not be everyone’s bag, my concern with those people is that they might stop at some point to think about the huge S/O community. And draw a conclusion or think all communities are toxic all the way through. Although I’m a S/O detractor today, I know there are groups inside there that are awesome, but making sub-communities hard to find or connect to was perhaps part of the S/O dumpster fire. On the other hand I was reading some comment by Dan Billing about diversity, and I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe micro communities are better , standardization can be it’s own enemy.

Which ties to my thinking about your SF conventions take @robertday . When you are there from the beginning, the community belongs to you. Young people will just have to get over the fact that older meeting places than themselves exist. Making your own new fresh meeting place is fine, just don’t expect it to be a success if all it has going for it, is being “new”. I’m not a fan of conventions, I have a million other better things to do with my day, so I am keen on a community that does not obsess over conventions (and this last week has been totally stupid in that regard). I love the rotation to online conventions, the last big one I loved was hours of people just talking interspersed with actually hints at how to do my day job better, I’d hate to have been trapped in a big venue for the rest of it. We spend far too much time covering topics in the community, that do not meet my team goals at all.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, @robertday and @conrad.connected. It’s much appreciated.

@conrad.connected The model I was thinking of was a particularly British form of sf convention, where a proportion of the attendees are there purely to meet old friends, hang out in the bar and go sightseeing, and actually going to convention sessions is considered a bit passé. Meanwhile, the “old guard” go to their panels on “The Influence of new advances in rocketry in the works of Captain S.P. Meek” and then mutter darkly about all these Young People who have invaded their space to go on enthusiastically about the latest films, tv or games.

This always happens.

SF conventions have been around for long enough for three or four generations of fans to have been involved with them as attendees, and then as organisers. Complaining about what the new generation does is part of the scenery. Really big conventions these days will have multiple programme streams, something I saw TestBash toying with last time i went. But then again, the difference between TestBash and sf conventions is that a lot of people will go to sf conventions at their own expense, for nothing more than their own pleasure. TestBash and other testing conferences will be different because that will not be such a big consideration (though there will be people at TestBash who would go no matter who was paying for it, just as there are people at sf conventions - trader, editors, agents and publishers - who are there primarily for their work. All depends on where you draw your own personal boundaries.)

You said “I’d hate to have been trapped in a big venue” - I can understand that. When I went to the 2019 World SF Convention in Dublin, there was an element of that. I was disappointed not to get out of the venue to do more sightseeing, though the costs of registering to attend the convention - roughly five times the cost of attending a national convention - rather made me feel I had to get value for money. But in that case, I was spending my own money and ultimately could take my own decisions there - possibly the major difference between the sf convention model and a profession-oriented event like TestBash.

1 Like

I see myself as belonging 2.
I perceive MoT more as a melting pot, a forum where people of different opinions can meet.
For good and bad no specific mindset of testing is enforced here.

As an aspirant of RST and a context-driven testing I discuss details of those elsewhere. MoT is not that much a save space for me to discuss details about that, to learn about it. Here I would have to discuss with more strangers those topics, more defending them in general than getting insight.

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@sebastian_solidwork Personally I care very little for all of the “peacemaking” that happens in many communities. Some huge fan communities have gotten lost in rules, self censorship and worse, I love that MOT is a bit more sensible. I did not stop being a coder to become a “tester”, I stopped coding to became a-tester-that-helps build products more reliably. Sadly everyone becoming an “avatar” means we experiment and project with the image that we see just to the left.
<— here.
For example you will notice my non MOT-pro account @conrad.braam is the same icon, not hiding who I am. I very much accept that this community is not always at my desired technical level, because I am a software-builder, and not a team-builder with software and people and process skills. And I will still work to include more technical content, so that people like me will feel welcome to chat. The #slack channel is a brilliant deep technical meeting space, but because it gets lost after 30 days it’s less valuable for making longer term connection. And at heart I still want to connect with actual nuts and bolts tech geeks, and there are a few of us who care about compilers, toolchains and languages more deeply than about people, who do stick around.

I really hope that newcomers do get a feeling of a space that is safe.

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Thanks for encouraging writing!

I do not wanted to say that MoT is an unsafe space in general.
Its a safe space for related topics. For beginners and technical depth.

I just have some (very?) specific topics which I prefer to discuss elsewhere.

I use a picture of mine as avatar for quite the same reasons. :raised_hands:

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I’m very keen to still cover technical topics or be a jumping-off point to other communities from here. The MOT slack Ministry of Testing Slack Invite | MoT as well as the hangout Sign in - Google Accounts are great ways to connect. Testing automation is often very tool-stack specific, and I have found that the biggest tech community for programming questions is a bit less than inclusive and lately pool answers from friends instead or reach out directly to experts via twitter. Much less stress.

A lot of answers on the internet are wrong or outdated in our line of work, which is good motivation for more of us to start updating blog articles and writing fresh ones.