There has been quite a buzz around the software testing community this week about the shiny new ISST, my initial reaction was “Another one, why do we need that?”. I then started to see quite a lot of activity on twitter talking about this new society and it piqued my interest so I went over to the ISST site and had a look for myself.
So what’s it all about?
The first thing I hit was the homepage and it looks great. It’s clean well designed and has a great mission statement, unfortunately for me things then started to go wrong…
The first thing I did was click join and I was instantly shown a page asking for €80, OK fair enough I thought. So what do I actually get for my €80? Well there is no member benefits page, so I clicked around a bit more and found the conference page. Excellent I would get €100 off the Let’s Test conference, unfortunately it’s in Sweden and realistically my overseas junkets are limited to a maximum of one per year (if I’m lucky) and I intend to go to the Selenium conference if I can next year, so not useful for me.
So I clicked around a bit more and the only other thing I came across was a short post about ISST member initiatives, well that looks great but I still don’t really see what the ISST are going to do with the registration fee so I took to twitter. It seems I’m not the only person asking what’s going to happen with the funds, to quote what I’ve seen so far (Including answers to my questions):
@intsst 21 Aug
@autesting Hi Geoff, very good point. We will be fully transparent on our spending and where the money flows to.
@intsst 21 Aug
@autesting e.g. when we do webinars, we need to fund the provider, admin costs etc. As said, we’ll be fully transparent on it
@intsst 21 Aug
What happens with my membership fee? Read here: http://www.commonsensetesting.org/about/faq/
@intsst 21 Aug
@Ardesco Hi Mark, glad you ask. We have addressed your question on the last entry of our FAQ: http://www.commonsensetesting.org/about/faq/
@intsst 21 Aug
@Ardesco also, have a look here: http://www.commonsensetesting.org/events/
OK this looks better, so I head over to the FAQ:
Question: Where does the money go that I pay as a member?
Answer: Running a professional society costs money. Changing an industry costs money. We are a non-profit society that is dedicated to the delivery of our mission, and every cent, penny and paisa will be devoted to that cause, or to providing tangible benefits to our members. Many of our initiatives won’t come free of costs. Our commitment to the members of ISST is that we will be completely transparent when it comes to our income and expenditure. As stated in our by-laws, we will issue a financial report once a year stating all our income and spending.
Right… Well that doesn’t really tell me anything, I know that it costs money to run a professional society but I want to know what it’s going to do for me. Back to twitter:
@intsst 21 Aug
Ask not (just) what the @intsst can do for your, ask what you can do for your profession.
I’m not in a happy place right now…
@intsst 21 Aug
We are proud to announce the first set of members-only webinars. Details to follow:
Aha here we go something tangible, OK it’s not clear what the topics are yet but at least I know something is happening. That being said, how much does it cost to run a Webinar? Google hangouts are free and you can stream a Google hangout direct to YouTube. I’m sure it’s more complicated than that if you want to limit the Webinar’s to members only, but I can’t help thinking that a society that wants to change the face of testing should be evangelising to the whole community.
So I get back on twitter and see this:
@intsst 27 Aug
.@mpkhosla Yes, @badbud65 has a point: there are those who are about “what’s in it for them”, rather than the mission @jbtestpilot
I throw in my tuppence:
@Ardesco 28 Aug
@intsst @mpkhosla @badbud65 @jbtestpilot sounds harsh.When you are asking for money people will ask what’s in it for them and how it’s spent
and this comes back:
@kinofrost @badbud65 @Ardesco guys maybe you are missing one thing. It is nice to be spoon feed but we don’t believe that is what…..
@kinofrost @badbud65 @Ardesco our community is looking for. You asking how we gonna spend money. We ask what do you want to do with it…
@kinofrost @badbud65 @Ardesco put yourself in the driving seat and make a suggestion on how we reinvest our cash. http://context-driven.org/news/
So I think I finally understand what’s going on:
@intsst @kinofrost @badbud65 So basically you’re setting yourself up as a fund that will bankroll ideas that you think will promote testing?
Or maybe not:
@Ardesco that could be one way to put it @kinofrost @badbud65
So what is it dammit, I now start to get annoyed:
@intsst @kinofrost @badbud65 I wish you’d give straight answers. Do you really know what you stand for? Vague mission statements don’t count
@Ardesco Be specific. WHAT is not straight to you? WHAT is vague to you?
I’ve lost it now, the whole bloody concept is vague to me. I know the ISST wants to do something but I’m not sure what and I don’t think they really know what either. I have no idea what they spend their money on and to be honest they don’t seem to have thought past getting money rolling into the coffers. To top it off I then see this:
@badbud65 if you are a member you are more then welcome to apply to launch you initiative. http://www.commonsensetesting.org/news/ @kinofrost @Ardesco
@intsst Sneaky, so if I’m not a member I can’t make suggestions about how to improve that would encourage me to join? @kinofrost @Ardesco
@badbud65 what is sneaky about that? @kinofrost @Ardesco
So to sum it up we have a society that want a membership fee for you to join, but they don’t know what they are going to do with that membership fee. You can make suggestions as to what they should do, but you can only do it if you are a fully paid up member (I’m in full on cynic mode now). So I then go and look at the bylaws and the following stand out to me (I have added emphasis):
6. Withdrawal or exemption
Withdrawal from the society is always possible by the end of each year. Any member can be exempt from the society without justification by the board.
8. General assembly
The highest body of the society is the general assembly. The general assembly takes place once per year, between April and June.
All members will be invited to the general assembly at least 30 days in advance, and an agenda list will be provided.
General assembly has the following duties:
a) Election of the board
b) Definition and change of bylaws
c) Approval of financial statements
d) Approval of budget for the coming year
e) Definition of the membership fees
At the General Assembly each active member has a vote. Decisions of a General Assembly require a simple majority of the votes of the active members present or represented.
Passive members will be invited to the general assembly but will not have voting rights.
Looking at the FAQ:
Question: What does “passive member” mean?
Answer: General membership is “passive”, i.e. it does not confer voting rights. This measure is to ensure that there is continuity amongst the board in the short term whilst the society is being established. We, the board, expect this to be revised at some point in the future. We strongly believe that the society remain accountable to its membership, and recognize that members have the ultimate right to “vote with their feet”. We also encourage feedback and are happy to consider suggestions that might help us in pursuing our mission.
I then go back to the bylaws…
12. Changes of the bylaws
The bylaws can be changed if all members of the board agree to the change.
13. Liquidation of the society
The board can decide to liquidate the society by majority vote at any time.
In case of liquidation the remaining financial means will go to Médecins Sans Frontières.
So basically by offering up €80 I become a passive member who has no voting rights at all. I am then subject to decisions made by the board who can rewrite the rulebook as and when they see fit. They can liquidate the society at any point and right now any remaining funds will go to Médecins Sans Frontières (a worthy cause). But since they can also rewrite the rulebook at any point they could also change that bylaw to redistribute the funds amongst the board just before they liquidate it and as passive members everybody who has paid a membership fee can’t do anything about it.
Now this scenario is very much over the top and I don’t really think it is likely to happen, there are a lot of names associated with the ISST that I respect and I wouldn’t expect them to play silly buggers.
However I do also remember the problems the PCG had when it started up. It had one clear aim (to get rid of IR35), but a slightly woolly strategy. In the end the original board members spent a large amount of the money that came in on things that made them very rich and didn’t actually do a huge amount for all the members (It’s changed quite a bit since then and is now back on track, but for a while there PCG was seen by many as a get rich quick scheme for the founding members).
So what would give me confidence to join?
The cynic in me wants some kind of guarantee that this isn’t going to happen with the ISST.
I want to know in advance what you are planning on spending the money on, for example.
- A maximum of 5% on admin (or some hard figures for admin costs).
- 50% Funds to help community initiatives.
- 20% Promotional material to raise the profile of context driven testing.
- 25% Sponsoring context driven testing events.
If this needs to change it should be agreed in a board meeting for the next years worth of funding so that as members we always know what our membership fee is going to be going towards for the next year. This then gives us the option of not renewing our membership if we don’t like the funding plans for the next year.
A non-profit is quite able to spend all of their money on admin costs and wages to people that work for the non-profit, I would like to know some remuneration figures up front. I’m aware that running something like this takes time and money and I have no problem with people being paid for their time, I do however want some sort of guarantee that they will not be milking the society for everything it has (You can still be totally transparent while you run something into the ground so transparency on it’s own doesn’t mean a huge amount).
I want all members (passive ones as well) to be consulted if the bylaws change, that shouldn’t get in the way of running the society but it gives all members adegree of control.
I want a page entitled “Member benefits” that clearly tells me what they are. Yes I’m one of those people who wants to know what I’m going to get right now if I give you my money, it may make me a horrible person but I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I’ve been testing for a long time now and every so often something sets off an alarm bell in my head. I can’t quite vocalise it but I know something doesn’t seem quite right. I then go looking for that something that may have triggered that alarm bell in my head and I won’t be happy until I have an explanation that fits. Right now the ISST has set off that bell in my head.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of the ISST. I like the mission statement and I think if done properly it could be something great for the testing community. However I think that so far they have failed the promotion test. People are going to have questions and people want real answers, not hand waving or more questions. I see some people saying there is a backlash against the ISST, I’m not sure there really is, you just have a large group of people who have learnt to ask awkward questions as part of their job asking a series of awkward questions. The trick is giving them an answer that doesn’t set off those testing alarm bells in peoples heads.
When they manage to do that is when they will have my money.