By: Doug Hoffman

A question was recently asked about the future of AST in light of shifting leadership. Where does AST go as leaders in the context-driven community become more or less involved with and/or drift apart? I’d like to address these questions as one of the people who helped shape the community, a founder of the AST, and its current President.

Reflecting back, the context-driven community came together and the fundamental ideas crystallized before formation of the AST. Several dozen of us compared notes and experiences, debated ideas beginning in 1996, and explored our different experiences for years through the Los Altos Workshops on Software Testing (LAWST) and other workshops inspired by it. in 2002 Cem Kaner, James Bach, and Brett Pettichord published the book “Lessons Learned in Software Testing” in which they articulated seven principles of context-driven testing. AST was formed in 2003. Cem Kaner was the organizer and driving force behind LAWST and the AST and the primary author for “Lessons Learned,”  but, the ideas behind context-driven testing did not come from and have not been led by any one person, or even a small group.

AST was not founded by “followers” of anyone or based on any particular concept about testing. Knowledgeable and experienced leaders from the profession, both practitioners and academics, created the association to provide opportunities to advance the scientific development, improve skills, and have forums for discussion for all aspects of software testing. AST was created as a professional society to advance software testing knowledge and skills. I don’t know whether all of the founders or directors considered themselves context-driven testers because that wasn’t part of our discussions until several years later. Three years ago, AST’s Board recognized and declared that nearly all the membership of AST is grounded in context-driven principles so much of our energy today is directed by that grounding.

AST has never been about fixating on some set of tenets. There are no best practices in software testing. Improvement and advancement require change. Healthy leadership for AST is evolving leadership: people who can add their voices, grow ideas, and stand on the shoulders of prior leadership. AST was founded, in part, to create a professional software testing forum that isn’t based entirely on decades old ideas about software testing and isn’t going to get stuck thinking we have found all the right answers tomorrow. It’s not that established ideas and methods are wrong or inapplicable, because most of them are good in some contexts. To understand the context-driven approach is to understand that there aren’t existent universally applicable practices and that future new contexts will demand new ideas.

I’ve been present through all of AST’s history. Some leaders have burned out, many have channeled their energies elsewhere, some remain very active in AST and our community, and some have simply drifted away. I’ve never heard disparaging remarks about AST from any of them. I’ve always gotten support when I’ve approached them. I take pride that AST is so much more than any of us and it’s growing faster and faster. I also take joy that new leaders have been here to bring in new ideas and energy. I’m not AST President-for-Life. AST Presidents have usually lasted one to three years. Someone else will take over some day, and they will probably be a relative newcomer to AST. I see that as a sign of good health for AST, not a sign of loss.


Douglas Hoffman is a Founding Member and current President of the AST. He is a management consultant and trainer in strategies and tactics for software quality assurance. He holds degrees and certificates including MBA, MSEE, BACS, ASQ-CSQE, and ASQ-CMQ/OE, and is a Fellow of the ASQ (American Society for Quality). He is a founding member, past Chair, and current Treasurer of SSQA, and past Chair of the Silicon Valley Section of ASQ. He has spoken at dozens of conferences and was Program Chair for several international conferences on software quality. He was also an original and active participant in the Los Altos Workshops on Software Testing (LAWST) and dozens of the offshoot workshops. He teachs BBST Foundations and BBST Bug Advocacy classes for AST and has recently become involved in writing the Domain Testing Workbook to accompany the upcoming BBST Domain Testing course. He has been very active in the AST Board’s recent work, including CAST.