Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Highs and lows of "Test automation day 2011"

Last thursday I attended the "Test automation day 2011" in Zeist. Most of the day was a big disappointment. Only the foreign speakers had put some real effort into making an enjoyable presentation. This day proved again that testing is still a boring subject and most speakers did no effort whatsoever to disprove that statement.

Some interesting stuff

Jamie Plower from Bearing Point presented their automated test process, which used some tools like Jenkins (open source automated build server) and Sonar (code metrics for Java, but also PHP, C and C#). An impressive setup, especially how they could create a screencast of a failing functional test. The screencast would capture every click in the browser until the error, which can be an enormous help when hunting down bugs.
Last year an intern in my team created a similar setup, using Cucumber, Capybara, Selenium RC, Selenium Client and Selenium Webdriver. We couldn't get it stable however, although I probably should have tried harder. I am looking forward to try out the RSpec acceptance testing DSL, which was just released in the 1.0 Capybara gem. This development looks exciting, Jeff Kreeftmeijer blogged about this earlier this year.

Another interesting presentation was the closing keynote by Scott Barber. Scott is a performance tester, he shared some of his personal experiences, some of which were quite funny. In performance tests you might, for example, discover that your application is performing excellent. But if you don't use the proper error detection, you might discover that what you have been testing is how fast the 500, 404 or 401 error page loads. Which in most applications (I've confirmed this already in Coconut), is blazing fast!
He gave us ten very good tips on automating performance tests. I'm sure they can help you, so you can download his presentation here.

Some embarrassing stuff

Nearly all native speakers showed up with a boring or less than convincing story. Most embarrasing was the day's host speaker, Mr Bob van den Burgt. He started his keynote by stating that he didn't really know much about test automation. Well Bob, I believe that's probably true, but you shouldn't have told me. It ruined your credibility.
From his acting on stage, I could also conclude that he doesn't have much talent for presenting either. And to top it off, he spoke English with an awful Dutch accent, we call it "steenkolen Engels" in Holland, which can be translated to "broken English". This reminded me of Wim Kok, our former prime minister. Wim Kok was famous around the globe for two things: a) his last name and b) his incredible Dutch accent.

Another presentation @ test automation day was called "Agile and the cloud - the impact of modern IT megatrends on testautomation". Sounds interesting, right? Well no.
First of all, the presentation would be given by Mr Wolfgang Platz, CEO of Tricentis Technology, but he didn't bother to show up. Instead, he left us with his Dutch employee, who didn't actually understand what "Agile" or "Cloud" means. Instead, he presented Tricentis' product Tosca, which you could probably use for test automation, but please don't. They're idiots. I know, the presenter probably did not have a choice when his CEO called him and he wasn't very well prepared for such a gig, but come on. This is insulting.

And why do conferences forget to mention that the presentation is for a product these guys sell? At Microsoft DevDays 2010 I experienced the same thing, having to sit out 45 minutes of product advertising by people who refused to be honest about the shortcomings of their own product. That really pisses me off and next time I will leave the room.

To end on a positive note

There was one Dutch speaker who showed up with an interesting project. Professor Arie van Deursen from the Delft University presented Crawljax, an open source Java tool for automatically crawling and testing modern (Ajax based) web applications. It sounds very promising. Also refreshing to see what a scientific approach to testing web applications can deliver.

After a day of conference I can conclude that test automation is boring and that this conference showed very few new developments. But hey, to me it was comforting to know that my knowledge of automated testing is up-to-date.

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