I gave a talk at the first ever Brisbane Testers Meetup last night. It was a fairly good turn out despite some very climatic conditions (very wet and windy).

Every time I give a talk I try to provide a key message, a key takeaway question and ultimately aim to make sure everyone learns something that will make them capable of kicking ass in some way when they get back to work (hat tip to Kathy Sierra).


My key message last night is that we, as testers, put things on pedestals, and we need to stop doing it; we need to push over those pedestals. We put automated testing on pedestals because it’s about programming. We put programming on pedestals often because it’s about frameworks. And we put frameworks on pedestals as they are overly complicated and complex and offer far more than we ever need.

So I tried to knock over those pedestals by showing how you can write a ruby testing framework from scratch in 15 minutes. Crash. Bang.


My key takeaway last night was “what can you take down from your pedestal?” I personally think we all put things on pedestals, we greatly or uncritically admire things. We need to stop it.

The aim of my coding exercise was to show the 20 or so testers in the room who hadn’t done automated testing but wanted to do automated testing that it’s not that hard. Ignore the frameworks, focus on programming and build the simplest thing that could possibly work. Ignore the complex frameworks, the bar to learning programming and automated testing has never been lower.

My slides are available here if you’re interested in taking a look.

Minesweeper in Melbourne

I did a presentation on Einstein the Minesweeper robot at an ANZTB SIGIST in Melbourne this morning. The facilitator of the session was ill so I was asked to host the event as well, so I felt very much under pressure.

I came up with an idea for a quick activity to “awaken our senses” as it was early in the morning where I asked everyone to count how many human senses they are aware of. Most people gave the traditional response of five (or six), and I challenged their views by presenting some additional senses we humans possess. Check out the Wikipedia article if you’re interested to know more.

Unfortunately the first presentation on Context Driven Testing by Mark Richards went well over the allocated time, so I had to rush my presentation to ensure I could catch my 11am flight home: I made it, just.

Being for a group for testers, my intention was to not focus on the detail of the actual Minesweeper robot but what solving a complex problem such as automating Minesweeper can teach use about testing and how to be better testers.

Click the slide below to view the slideshow.

Melbourne SIGIST Einstein_ The Minesweeper Robot

Einstein: the Minesweeper Robot (in Brisbane)

I gave a talk tonight to the Brisbane Special Interest Group in Software Testing (SIGIST). There was a great turnout (tickets went in 24 hours after the announcement apparently), and there was some good interest in Einstein (plus 3 people who had never played Minesweeper, what the?).

Alister will discuss browser automation, using an example of writing a Minesweeper robot. Einstein, his robot, proficiently plays Minesweeper in a web browser and was developed using specification by example techniques using Watir, RSpec and Cucumber in the Ruby programming language.


Alister is an Agile tester who currently works for ThoughtWorks Australia and author of He’s been actively involved in the Watir open source project for a number of years and his passions include ruby programming and collecting arid plants.

In getting the slides ready, I actually came up with a reasonable list of things that building Einstein taught me about software testing (and software development in general):

  • Break big things down into little things
  • Design for testability
  • Test in the right places
  • Supplement your automated testing
  • Build in performance measures
  • Change your mind
  • Be young, be foolish, be happy

The last two points weren’t really related but I threw them in there for good measure.

Here’s the slides (and a link to the originals):

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And here’s that video of Einstein in action:

Good times.

Watir Day 2011 San Francisco: My Takeaways

Watir Day 2011 in San Francisco was a great success. I personally took a lot away from the day including:

  • We organized and promoted Watir Day in a very lightweight way, but managed to attract over 60 attendees and 10 sponsors!
  • The key to Watir’s success has been its community, focus on building a tool for testers, and not trying to be everything to everyone.
  • Watir is seen as a secret sauce for a lot of web companies – they are very hesitant to talk about it publically in case their competitors copy them. But we managed to hear a few of those stories for the first time on the day:
    • Watir is a key part of Facebook’s engineering culture: they have been extremely successful with Watir, after failing with Selenium.
    • Convio has been so successful with in house open source test automation using Watir that they have phased out outsourced testing altogether, and are hiring more automated test engineers than ever.
  • An individual’s involvement in an open source project can be inversely proportional to how happy they are in their job – not happy at work = less commits, more happy at work = less commits (via Bret Pettichord)
  • The future is bright for Watir. Using WebDriver technology will enable us to deliver a tool designed for testers to testers, but an increasing range of browser and device support.

The questionnaire results speak for themselves:

Watir Day Fun

The slides are available online.

MarekJ at Watir Day

My thoughts on Brisbane ANZTB SIGIST: September 2010

I went along to the ANZTB SIGIST last night, at the Hilton here in Brisbane. It was probably the best one I’ve been to, both in attendance, and caliber of presenters. There were five presenters all up, which is a lot to squeeze into two hours including drinks and conversation. It’s no surprise then that the last presentation by Craig Aspinall was a little bit rushed, which is a shame because I would have liked to ask more questions than time allowed (apparently the Hilton would kick us out if we stayed longer).

Craig Smith and Rene Masten from Suncorp began with an excellent presentation on Agile Testing. Craig was awesome in both presenting his extensive knowledge (he’s a coach) and his slides were also very cool (minimal text and no bullets!).

Craig’s main theme was about how to make testing cool: ensuring people say “that’s cool” when you tell them about your testing. He talked about what makes up an agile team, the techical divide between devs and testers, ATDD, ensuring you deliver, and how there is currently a great opportunity for testers (who want to be bothered). Rene followed by talking about organizational change, training and coaching, communicating what you’re doing (internally and externally) and building quality in.

Craig finished with a great motivating style of emphasizing it’s all about passion and craft, “who’s awesome!”, and not being afraid of technical challenges.

The other presenters were Ben Sullivan and Brent Acworth, both also from Suncorp, who gave a demo of BDD using JBehave and Hudson. I enjoyed the talk but there wasn’t much I hadn’t seen before or didn’t know.

The final presentation was by Craig Aspinall and was unfortunately squeezed into a small time slot. It was about what Craig dubs “Automated Black Blob Testing”, the rationale being testing is not black box as a box has a predefined shape, it’s more of a blob.

Craig’s approach looked solid, although I was slightly concerned when he mentioned the project being a SaaS solution and how much effort was being put into automated testing.  I’m not criticizing what Craig did tehnically, I am just concerned about the prevalent practice of the onus of testing SaaS solutions being put onto the customer. I believe if you buy a SaaS, you should get a working SaaS, minimal, if any at all, testing required. But that’s just me. Otherwise, a great talk, besides Craig using Java when Ruby and Watir would have done the trick. ;)

A great ANZTB SIGIST, and hopefully more good ones to come!

Craig Smith’s Slides

Some of my photos

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