March 2nd, 2010 | Published in Google Testing
By James A. Whittaker
Flashback. It's 1990. Chances are you do not own a cell phone. And if you do it weighs more than a full sized laptop does now. You certainly have no iPod. The music in your car comes from the one or two local radio stations that play songs you can tolerate and a glove box full of CDs and cassettes. Yes, I said cassettes...you know the ones next to those paper road maps. Music on the go? We carried our boom boxes on our shoulder back then.
If you are a news junkie, you get your fix from the newspaper or you wait until 6 ... or 11. Sports? Same. Oh and I hope you don't like soccer or hockey because you can't watch that stuff in this country more often than every four years. Go find a phone book if you want to call someone and complain.
I could go on, and on, and on, but you get the point. Oh wait, one more: how many of you had an email address in 1990? Be honest. And the people reading this blog are among the most likely to answer that affirmatively.
The world is different. The last 20 years has changed the human condition in ways that no other 20 year period can match. Imagine taking a 16 year old from 1990 and transplanting him or her to a 2010 high school. Culture shock indeed. Imagine transporting a soccer mom, a politician, a university professor... Pick just about any profession and the contrast would be so stark that those 1990 skills would be a debilitating liability.
Except one: that of a software tester. A circa 1990 tester would come from a mainframe/terminal world. Or if they were on the real cutting edge, a locally networked PC. They'd fit into the data center/slim client world with nary a hiccup. They'd know all about testing techniques because input partitioning, boundary cases, load and stress, etc, are still what we do today. Scripting? Yep, he'd be good there too. Syntax may have changed a bit, but that wouldn't take our time traveler long to pick up. That GEICO caveman may look funny at the disco, but he has the goods to get the job done.
Don't get me wrong, software testing has been full of innovation. We've minted patents and PhD theses. We built tools and automated the crud out of certain types of interfaces. But those interfaces change and that automation, we find to our distress, is rarely reuseable. How much real innovation have we had in this discipline that has actually stood the test of time? I argue that we've thrown most of it away. A disposable two decades. It was too tied to the application, the domain, the technology. Each project we start out basically anew, reinventing the testing wheel over and over. Each year's innovation looks much the same as the year before. 1990 quickly turns into 2010 and we remain stuck in the same old rut.
The challenge for the next twenty years will be to make a 2010 tester feel like a complete noob when transported to 2030. Indeed, I think this may be accomplished in far less than 20 years if we all work together. Imagine, for example, testing infrastructure built into the platform. Not enough for you? Imagine writing a single simple script that exercises your app, the browser and the OS at the same time and using the same language. Not enough for you? Imagine building an app and having it automatically download all applicable test suites and execute them on itself. Anyway, what are you working on?
Interested? Progress reports will be given at the following locations this year:
Swiss Testing Day, Zurich, March 17 2010
STAR East, Orlando, May 2010
GTAC, TBD, Fall 2010
Here's to an interesting future.