October 12th, 2009 | Published in Google Testing
By James A. Whittaker
I am happy to report that attendance is way up at STAR. My back of the envelope calculations put it at several hundred more than STAR East a mere five months ago. A sure sign of economic recovery; I am surprised the stat hasn't made it to Obama's resume yet.
The Expo was my main disappointment. The vendor exhibits are still in atrophy. I realize the days of Mercury and Rational are over and Empirix's $ix figure rotating-parts booth is packed away in someone's garage, but there were only two short rows of sedate booths. (The magician was a nice touch though ... wish I could remember what he was selling.) Where have all the big players gone?
I gave a tutorial with the arrogant title (Lee Copeland's idea, not mine) "James Whittaker: On Testing." It was listed as sold out (STAR capped the audience at 100) but a couple dozen truants clearly snuck in. Apparently there is a bug in their 'sold out' exception handler and I am a poor door warden. The tutorial is a discussion of problems and trends in testing. I gave it at STAR East and it was different again this time. It's half a discussion of what we do wrong in testing and half about how to correct those behaviors. As my understanding of these issues evolves, so does this tutorial. If you attended (only a small handful of the 100+ would admit to reading this blog), feel free to post a comment, I promise not to delete any negative ones.
I had an amicable hallway conversation with James Bach. His blogger angst at my use of the title 'Exploratory Testing' didn't spill over to a face-to-face discussion. Frankly, I am not surprised. I've never claimed the term as my own, I simply took it and made it work in the hands of real testers on real software under real ship pressure. Consultants can coin all the terms they want, but when us practitioners add meat to their pie, why cry foul? Is it not a better reaction to feel happy that there are people actually doing something with the idea?
Yet I still made some jabs at the broader consultant community in my keynote. STAR remains full of vendors and people trying to sell ideas instead of results and good engineering practice. I am committing Google and the projects that I lead here to an openness regarding how we do testing and hope to be joined by others. I'd like to see the real practitioners, those who work at financial companies, data centers, ISVs, online retailers, and so forth to come out in larger numbers ... not just as the learners and attendees but also as speakers, panelists and active participants. I'm not saying the consultant community has nothing to say, those guys simply need no encouragement to open their mouths. It's the practitioners who I want to encourage. It's one thing to think really hard about testing, it's another thing to actually put those thoughts into practice.
The jabs aside, my keynote was aimed at describing the practice of exploratory testing I helped create at Microsoft and am now employing at Google and which is embodied in my new book. But it was my Google cohort Rajat Dewan who stole the show. After I detailed the Landmark Tour and how we applied it to Chrome, I ran out of time to talk about the FedEx tour. The folks at STAR were kind enough to set up an impromptu breakfast presentation for Rajat and he delivered a 20 minute talk to a standing room only crowd (I stopped counting at 150) on how he applied the FedEx tour to Mobile Ads. He showed three bugs the tour helped find and described how he automated the tour itself. (Has anyone coined the term 'automated exploratory testing' yet?)
Perhaps he can steal the show again by blogging about his presentation. Rajat?
Other highlights: apparently the twitter-verse was alight over my comment about god-the-developer. I don't tweet and I avoid twits at all costs so I am not sure if people were offended or found it insightful. Comments from tweeters? Also, I've been invited back for the tutorial at STAR East and also plan on submitting a track talk on How we test Google Chrome. Let the detailed discussion about real testing, warts and all, begin!