From One Expert to Another: James Bach


13. Jon: If you won a million-dollar grant to study anything and publish a book about it, what would it be? 

James: I could write a book called An Experiment in Publishing Don Quixotein Wingding Font. This would take almost zero time and money. Then, I could spend the million on anything I want. 

But, what I would probably do is write a book about the joys of systems thinking. I'd also hire you to write it with me. We'd have a good year and a half before the money ran out. 

14. Jon: Context-driven methodology says that there are no best practices, only good practices in context. Have you ever found a practice that is good in any context? 

James: No, because I have a very good imagination and I take my work seriously. 

However, there are certainly practices that are good in any context I am likely to encounter in the normal course of my life. Informally, I treat certain practices as if they were always good. And yet, if pressed, I could tell you why and when they might be bad. 

15. Jon: In November 2005, you wrote, "I generally support certification programs that provide reasonable protection for consumers in an inefficient market, without posing an unreasonable burden to trade and innovation." What's an example of such a certification? 

James: Doctors, lawyers, airline pilots. 

16. Jon: Do you ever worry that you missed something important despite your best test approaches, ideas, and techniques? 

James: Yes, but my worry is no longer the sick, pit-of-the-stomach kind of worry. It's more like a nervous energy. 

When you learn how to test and you gain a lot of experience being fooled and recovering from that, you eventually find a stable emotional place within you that feels confident and powerful. Worry doesn't go away, but it no longer controls you. 

17. Jon: Who is the best debater you've ever faced? 

James: Cem Kaner, for sure. Jerry Weinberg is also very good. When I argue with myself, I try to imagine what they would say. 

18. Jon: What is the most common question you've been asked at testing talks you give? 

James: Probably "But, how can you manage this?" So many people seem to think that thinking for yourself is somehow unmanageable, despite the fact that all of us do it every day. 

19. Jon: Has there ever been a conference speaker that has made you want to stand and applaud? 

James: I felt that way about Elisabeth Hendrickson, when she did a thing on informal state-based testing, at PNSQC, some years back. She was finding bugs live on stage. 

And, back in 1979, I saw Buckminster Fuller speak. He was mesmerizing. 

20. Jon: If tomorrow were your last day on Earth, what would be your last tweet? 

James: That would depend on why I'm leaving Earth. For instance, if I were going on the trans-dimensional express to the Unicorn Planet, I might make a witty remark about unicorn culture. 

The problem with planning tweets for the last day on Earth is that so often you only know it was your last day on the next day. 

User Comments

1 comment
Robert Rose-Coutré's picture
Robert Rose-Coutré

This was a very entertaining interview. I agree that what one does on one's last day on earth depends on the context.

November 21, 2011 - 2:03pm

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