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Thoughts on GTAC 2011

Thu 03 Nov 2011

GTAC is one of my favourite conferences that I like to go to. It has the right mix of people who attend. The one thing they have in common is that they want to learn and don't want any sales pitches.

This year did not disappoint. I have put my thoughts on each of the talks below that really stuck out.

Testing is Dead - Alberto Savio

This was an interesting talk about how we need to stop thinking being gatekeepers of products. We need to rethink our approach to creating products as a whole and then go from there. He started talking about prototyping and getting feedback. We should constantly dogfooding our application. Dogfooding, a term coined by Microsoft, is where you get people from with in the organisation using the application as soon as humanly possible.

Those of you who follow Eric Ries and the whole Startup movement will be well aware this idea. Eric pushes the concept of a minimum viable product so that you, as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, can get people using it and feeding back ideas and bugs. This approach won't work with all applications but it solves the 80% problem.

Lightning Talks

The talk that stood out the most was a project called scriptcoverage. It is a Chrome extension that when coupled with testing tools could tell how much of your JavaScript is being exercised. This is a project that hopefully I will have time to port to a Firefox extension.

WebConsistency - Kevin Menard

Most people will know Kevin for being one of the key people on Selenium Grid. Kevin talked about how we need to stop worrying about pixel perfection between multiple browsers and that we can automate some checks. Since we access the DOM we can work out what CSS is being applied where and how this influences everything.

This is the basis for Kevin's start up, and MogoTest, so suggest signing up and giving it a try. In Testing Tools at Google talk the Googlers mentioned it was a much better product than they had created internally. Great comment from a company that suffers from "Not invented here"

How hackers see bugs - Hugh Thompson

Hugh did a really great talk on Security. Hugh talked about how numbers can really skew what is really happening in the real world. He was also talking about how social engineering is becoming the tool of choice. Years ago we had emails from Nigeria were sending fairly standard emails with no personalised parts and a number spelling mistakes. That has changed to perfect English with personalisation.

This was the most entertaining talk of the whole conference. When the videos are out I will be watching this again.

WebDriver - Simon Stewart

Simon did good talk on how to scale out your tests. Simon and a number of other Googlers have built out a Selenium farm so that they can run tests on many different browsers and OSes. While Simon was saying that a number of tools that Google use were built in house there are many different OSS alternatives. Selenium Grid and the plugins that can pull VMs easily. Simon did mention that people should be wary of running tests in the cloud if you don't have there own. Latency can make tests run slowly. Simon phrased it as "You are putting 4x the Internet in the way". Something we should be aware of when using cloud providers.

Lightning Talks Day Two

The lighting talks on day two where quite good, especially the ones for mobile by the Googlers. It was good to see the hard work that they had done to make WebDriver API work on Mobile is great. I did a talk on how we can create HeatMaps from WebDriver tests and David Clarke from my team did a talk on JsTestNet. It's a way to drive JsTestDriver in a more distributed fashion.

Jellyfish and other JavaScript testing tools - Adam Christian

Adam did a great job showing the power of JavaScript. Adam is the creator of numerous testing frameworks, and tells people not to do it, shows off his latest tool. Jellyfish can run tests on any device. Adam did a very similar talk at Selenium Conference but has updated it quite a bit so won't go on too much. Adam was extolling the virtues of doing very good JavaScript testing.


The other talks weren't really my thing but was surprised by how Google heavy this conference was but happy there wasn't the obvious recruiters. I would say for a feature talk make sure you practice and don't do fake banter.

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