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Building an online community for software testers, an interview with Rosie Sherry

There are a lot of online places for software testers to collaborate, but one of the more recent and popular entries to the world of online communities is the Software Testing Club. The Software Testing Club (STC) isn’t even three years old, and already it boasts over 4,000 members and it’s growing every day. On STC you can participate in forums, join one of the almost 100 groups, post a video, post a job, start a blog, or you can get involved through STC’s LinkedIn Group, FaceBook page, or Twitter feed.

Given the site’s popularity, I thought it would be interesting to hear a bit about how STC came about. With this in mind, I took some time to talk with Rosie Sherry, the founder of STC.

“I started it because as someone into software testing and after looking around I didn’t feel like there was anywhere online that I felt comfortable hanging out. To be honest, it was a bit of an experiment. I didn’t really think it would take off like it has. […] I have had to rethink it all. I hope it’s going somewhere bigger than it is now. We’re trialing out some new ideas and concepts at the moment. This includes the Software Testing Magazine and The Exchange. Increasingly, other people are getting involved too, which is great.”

Rosie Sherry is a bit of a social media and online community guru. Her current company Schux, does web development and online community building. Her other projects include Flash Mob Testing (a solution for crowd-sourced web testing), the STC Exchange (think of it as a StackOverflow for Software Testing), and Lewes Werks (a social collaborative workspace in Lewes, East Sussex).

If you’re new to STC, you’ll want to start with the forums. “The forum is by far the greatest attraction of the STC,” says Sherry. “There are always lively discussions and debates going on. The Testers Feeds are also hugely popular. I’ve spent the past few years collecting tester blogs, last time I counted there were over 120.” Sherry is also very focused on making STC and it’s content independent and unbiased toward any particular type of testing. “We also try to be fresh and fun, something much needed in the world of software testing. I think this is what makes it so popular.”

A few months ago, Sherry blogged about a difficult decision she made to move STC towards a paid membership model. I asked her about her decision to move in that direction.

“I’ve spent a good two and a half years working on STC. When something unplanned happens, it makes us rethink our positions. The current main forum is now still open for free, but am working on other things – which include membership – to make it sustainable as a business. I love the STC. It makes my heart tingle. But to keep it alive and stop it going stale, time, effort and money need to be invested.”

What are some of those “other things” Rosie is working on? Well, two of them are Flash Mob Testing and the STC Exchange.

“Flash Mob Testing is about using the talented crowd at STC to do testing in the real world. We’ve trialled out a few projects and are currently working towards figuring out the best way to proceed with this. Crowd sourced testing is most suitable for smaller companies who don’t do any testing or lack the resources to find someone who can actually test properly.

I think there is a market for it. uTest seem to be doing alright, though it is still early days. Flash Mob Testing will keep the ethos from STC. What this means has not been defined exactly, but we are trying to figure out how we can educate testers in the process whilst also providing a service that can guarantee great results. This probably means creating real relationships with the testers rather than making it an anonymous thing.”

While Flash Mob Testing focused on putting the communities knowledge to work in a very hands on sense, the STC Exchange takes a slightly different approach. The idea of the exchange is to be able to ask specific questions rather than to raise discussion. Discussion would instead happen in the STC forums or groups. “We’ve just launched the STC Exchange,” said Sherry. “I hope that will link in nicely with our ethos and help testers build up their reputation whilst also being helpful.”

Hot topics on STC right now include “Best tool for UI/Click based automated testing for Websites” and “Developers as Testers?” Or, checkout some of the community-developed content, like “What Do Testers Hate about Testing.” If you’d like to know more about Rosie Sherry, check out her website to read her blog, find her twitter feed, or to see what else she’s working on.

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