Archive for July, 2008

RubyCocoa (etc.) podcast

I forgot to mention that I did a podcast with Daniel Steinberg:

Brian Marick on Ruby Cocoa and Testing
Who’s smart enough to program?

Brian Marick talks to Daniel Steinberg on a wide variety of topics. Brian asks, who’s smart enough to program?, and describes how he met Andy and Dave at the Agile Manifesto summit. He talks about using Lisp, Smalltalk and Ruby, and about introducing programming to testers. Brian also shares the secrets of Domain Specific Languages (DSLs), and of course, his new book on Ruby Cocoa: marrying Ruby with the uber-cool Mac OS X Cocoa GUI framework, and test driven development with Ruby Cocoa code.

The Pragmatic Bookshelf has other podcasts, too.

2008 Gordon Pask Award for Contributions to Agile Practice

We are soliciting nominations for the 2008 Gordon Pask Award for Contributions to Agile Practice.

Each year, the Agile Alliance awards the Gordon Pask Award on the last day of the Agile 200X conference. It recognizes two people whose recent contributions to Agile Practice make them, in the opinion of the Award Committee, people others in the field should emulate. In order to grow the next generation of Agile thought leaders, the award is given to people whose reputation is not yet widespread.

Each year, we fiddle with the award. This year’s fiddling is with the nomination process. It will be roughly modeled after the collaboration or trust model of some forms of microcredit. (See We solicit group nominations made by collections of at least five individuals who have personal experience with the nominee.

The nominations should describe that experience and cover such topics as:

  • what ideas the nominee has championed, and what the effect has been.
  • which people the nominee has helped improve the practice of their craft, and how.
  • the ways in which the nominee has fostered community (such as user groups, conferences, and the like).

The nominating group may be people who work with the nominee, but a successful nominee would have had an effect beyond a single company. You’ll forgive the nominating committee if they’re dubious about five consultants from one company nominating a sixth—please find clients who’ve benefited.

Send nominations to by Wednesday, August 6. You may revise your nomination at any time up to the deadline, and committee members may suggest ways to make the nomination better before then.

The committee is composed of past recipients of the award (Laurent Bossavit, Steve Freeman, Naresh Jain, Nat Pryce, Jeff Patton, J.B. Rainsberger, and James Shore), plus the original members (Rachel Davies, Dave Thomas, and Brian Marick).

As is always the case, it’s Brian Marick’s fault the nominations are starting late.

Please forward this link to people you’d like to see form a nominating group.

Position statement for functional testing tools workshop

Automated functional testing lives between two sensible testing activities. On the one side, there’s conventional TDD (unit testing). On the other side, there’s manual exploratory testing. It is probably more important to get good at those than it is to get good at automated functional testing. Once you’ve gotten good at them, what does it mean to get good at automated functional testing?

There is some value in thinking through larger-scale issues (such as workflows or system states) before diving into unit testing. There is some value (but not, I think, as much as most people think) in being able to rerun larger-scale functional tests easily. In sum: compared to doing exploratory testing and TDD right, the testing we’re talking about has modest value. Right now, the cost is more than modest, to the point where I question whether a lot of projects are really getting adequate ROI. I see projects pouring resources into functional testing not because they really value it but more because they know they should value it.

This is strikingly similar to, well, the way that automated testing worked in the pre-Agile era: most often a triumph of hope over experience.

My bet is that the point of maximum leverage is in reducing the cost of larger-scale testing (not in improving its value). Right now, all those workflow statements and checks that are so easy to write down are are annoyingly hard to implement. Even I, staring at a workflow test, get depressed at how much work it will be to get it just to the point where it fails for the first time, compared to all the other things I could be doing with my time.

Why does test implementation cost so much?

We are taught that Agile development is about working the code base so that arbitrary new requirements are easy to implement. We have learned one cannot accomplish that by “layering” new features onto an existing core. Instead, the core has to be continually massaged so that, at any given moment, it appears as if it were carefully designed to satisfy the features it supports. Over time, that continual massaging results in a core that invites new features because it’s positively poised to change.

What do we do when we write test support code for automated large-scale tests? We layer it on top of the system (either on top of the GUI or on top of some layer below the GUI). We do not work the new code into the existing core—so, in a way that ought not to surprise us, it never gets easier to add tests.

So the problem is to work the test code into the core. The way I propose to do that is to take exploratory testing more seriously: treat it as a legitimate source of user stories we handle just like other user stories. For example, if an exploratory tester wants an “undo” feature for a webapp, implementing it will have real architectural consequences (such as moving from an architecture where HTTP requests call action methods that “fire and forget” HTML to one where requests create Command objects).

Why drive the code with exploratory testing stories rather than functional testing stories? I’m not sure. It feels right to me for several nebulous reasons I won’t try to explain here.

Functional testing tools workshop just before Agile 2008

Agile Alliance Functional Testing Tools Open Space Workshop
Call for Participation

Dates: Monday, August 4, 2008
Times: 8 AM - 6 PM
Location: Toronto, Ontario, at the Agile2008 venue


This is the second Agile Alliance Functional Testing Tools workshop.
The first, held in October 2007 in Portland Oregon, was a great
success. In this second workshop, we're increasing the size and
moving to an open space like format. The primary purpose of this
workshop is still to discuss cutting-edge advancements in and envision
possibilities for the future of automated functional testing tools.

As an open-space style workshop, the content comes from the
participants, and we expect all participants to take an active role.
We're seeking participants who have interest and experience in
creating and/or using automated functional testing tools/frameworks on
Agile projects.

This workshop is sponsored by the Agile Alliance Functional Testing
Tools Program. The mission of this program is to advance the state of
the art of automated functional testing tools used by Agile teams to
automate customer-facing tests.

There is no cost to participate. Participants will be responsible for
their own travel expenses.

Due to room constraints, we can accommodate up to 60 participants.
Registrations will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis to
participants who complete the registration process.

Registering for the AA-FTT Open Space Workshop

We will be using the conference submission system
( to process the requests for
invitation (RFI). If you're interested in being invited to
participate in this workshop, please:
a) login to the submission system (create an account if you don't have
one already). NOTE: make sure your email address is correct.
b) click the 'propose a session' link to request an invitation,
filling in the following required fields:
- title: enter RFI 
- stage: select ‘AAFTT’
- session type: select ‘other’
- duration: select any of the values (not relevant for the RFI process)
- summary: briefly answer the following three questions
i) What do you see as the biggest issue for Functional
Testing Tools on Agile projects?
ii) What do you hope to contribute?
iii) What do you hope to get?
c) click ‘create’

The AAFTT stage producers will review the RFI, and send you an
invitation to attend the workshop, along with further instructions for
pre-organizing openspace sessions.

Please register as soon as possible, before the workshop fills up.

Pass This Along
If you know of someone that would be a candidate for this workshop,
please forward this call for participation on to them.