Sunday, April 27, 2008

Here's a nice way of taking notes

Inspired by Johannes' post-its and Anders' moleskin, I'd like to share my tip'o'the day for taking notes.

Step 1: Find a stack of A3 sheets, big ones!

Step 2: Get a good thick nice pen (mine could've been thicker)

Step 3: Lay the sheets on your desk between yourself and your keyboard (warning, not sure this is ergonomically wise thing to do).

Step 4: Whenever you show off stuff, especially code and stuff you've got on yer computer, support your presentations with drawings and notes on the sheet.

Step 5: When you're done, hand the sheet off to the person you drew it for, or whenever the drawing ends up particularly pretty, smack it up on the wall behind you. Or throw it out if it's all squabbly wabbly.

This way, I don't have to get up to use a flip-over, I don't have to take useless digital pics of the white-board, and I get to show off my l33t UML-skills without having to use some crappy software. Sweet!

Diclaimer: I didn't come up with this myself! Credit is due to our architect, who will be revealed if he so wishes :)

Why I keep badgering on about Web Testing..

Lately I've become somewhat obsessed with testing. A specific kind of testing. I'm not quite sure about the term right now, but it's close to system testing, or maybe user testing. Ye know, that kind of black-box testing that makes sure your stuff works from the user's perspective. In web applications (of which I probably do about 90% of the time) they happen to blend in with web tests.

I suppose it started off with last autumn when I put some thoughts on this into my lightning talk at the Smidig 2007 conference. Well, it actually started all the way back in 2006 when I did a lightning talk about Selenium in XP-meetup based on my experiences with Selenium vs. gargantuan use-case descriptions in a project (see slides).

A few months ago I was down visiting a friend in Bonn, Germany. He works for this CMS-vendor/host called WebFactory. I offered him to drop by their workplace and do a quick demo on Selenium, as I figured they're (a) probably doing web applications, and (b) they're probably not doing web testing (in the automated figure o' speech).

Strictly speaking, I didn't actually do the demo; I had my friend do the demo instead. I took some time in advance to teach him how, and naturally he made a much better point of how to use the tool in their shop than I could. Neat sales trick, eh?

Anyhow, one of the guys' impression was "We had no idea it was that easy!", which is the usual response triggered by showing off Selenium. The 10 minute demo eloped into hours of interesting discussion on all things web, testing, JavaScript, Comet, etc, and the whole thing sort of re-invigorated my feeling of that people still do not know enough about web testing, and the world would be a bit better off if more people knew about it.

If you don't know what it is, there it is (in its simplest sense). A Firefox plugin that records your browsing instructions and can replay them later on a lot faster than you can with mouse and keyboard.

A few weeks later I went on to do a 30-minute session on web testing for my current customer's Java developers. Some days later on I held a 2 hour guest lecture in the University of Oslo's open source course.

I figured, hey, I'm starting to get quite good at presenting this web testing stuff. So I piggy-backed my own effort when writing an abstract submitted to this year's JavaZone conference. I have to admit it's not the most academical subject I would've liked to talk about. But I still see people (a) doing web applications, and (b) not automating their tests. I think it's good talk material because it is:

  • Simple and easy to convey
  • Really useful
  • (and I'm not trying to push any proprietary stuff here, I'm not even a Selenium committer)

So that's why I keep badgering on about Selenium and web testing. I could write page after page on web testing, but for now, if you're interested, take a look at the links in this post and take Selenium for a spin if you haven't already (the new 1.0 beta version is pretty sweet). And give me a shout on what you would have me write about next time. For instance:

* How web tests fit into the bigger picture (testing strategies and all that)
* Why I exaggerated when I once said Selenium tests can replace use-cases
* Why manual testing is still important
* Putting Selenium tests into a Continous Integration server (i.e. expanding my last post on the subject)