Austin Workshop on Test Automation 2009 Redux

It’s been about a week since AWTA 2009 in Texas, and since I had a 30+ hour journey home I think I am excused for not posting this redux until now.

I had an amazing time at both the workshop and also doing things outside the workshop with the people I met there. Everyone was super friendly and make me feel very at home.

At the Workshop

I enjoyed talking about what people expect in a test automation framework. It’s great to see that the list of things is slowly changing as the ways that people work change. For example, continous integration and running ‘headless’ tests was mentioned quite a bit whereas this probably wouldn’t have even been a requirement for people not too long ago.

All the individual presentations were great. I especially enjoyed MarekJ‘s on Watirloo and Dave Hoover’s presentation on Cucumber (code here). I like how Opera are going to use Watir to run web tests on any Opera browser through remote control: nice.

I enjoyed many conversations I had, especially those with Hugh McGowan and Gregg Yows about Rasta as well as a great conversation I had with Pete Dignan and Janet Gregory about ethics and choosing who you work for.

I also shared my experiences in running automated tests in live production environments to many people’s amazement. This is why my ears pricked up when I heard mention the possibility of one day replacing Watir’s engine with that of Selenium. The problem I have with selenium is the server side components make it almost impossible for me to use it. I would have lots of trouble convincing the right people to install server side components for automated testing on public facing web applications in production environments: too risky.

On the final day Pete shared some information about a great non-profit aptly named Charity: Water and what they are doing in Africa to improve sanitation. I couldn’t help but share the slightly non-relevant just because it is too cool not to.


Using twitter at a meetup is really fun. You can view all the #awta posts. Someone raised the point of why we don’t just use IRC but since I received a fair amount of interest from outside AWTA via twitter, I think it’s best not to use IRC which wouldn’t have generated this interest.

Lightning Talks

My two lightning talks are both available on Google Docs: talk one and talk two.


Zeljko (aka Z*) was busy recording heaps of podcasts at AWTA. The one I did with him is published here.

Outside the workshop

I had one afternoon to spend in sunny Los Angeles and so I caught a bus to Santa Monica to see the Pacific Ocean from the other side of the world. It was surreal.

Santa Monica Beach, Los Angeles
Santa Monica Beach, Los Angeles

I enjoyed experiencing a few different places to eat in Austin, Texas. Huts did a mean burger downtown.

Hut's Hamburgers, Austin
Hut's Hamburgers, Austin

Rudy’s BBQ and picnic was superb. We got a full tour of the kitchen including the smoke pits by the manager.

Rudy's BBQ, Austin
Rudy's BBQ, Austin

I enjoyed going to the Broken Spoke on Friday night for some Honkey Tonk action, and then partaking in an entirely different scene downtown on Saturday night. What variety: wow.

The Broken Spoke, Austin
The Broken Spoke, Austin
Late night architecture in downtown Austin
Late night architecture in downtown Austin

I felt special when MarekJ gave me this sticker from the 2008 US election:

US Election Sticker
US Election Sticker

and also when Bret signed my Lessons Learned in Software Testing Book:


One the flight home I drafted the AWTA attendee survey on the back of two Air Pacific sick bags. It was then straighforward to put these questions into Google Docs and sent out a link. Man I love pen and paper!

AWTA Sick Bag Survey
AWTA Sick Bag Survey
AWTA Sick Bag Survey
AWTA Sick Bag Survey

I happened to notice a singer on the Austin music channel on TV that I really liked. She is from Austin and her name is Suzanna Choffel. Here’s a song live from Austin.

I sure hope I can go again next year!

Mr Peanut at Austin Workshop on Test Automation

I spent the last few days in Austin, Texas, USA at the Austin Workshop on Test Automation. It was loads of fun, it seems that Austin is full of heaps of Gung Ho people which is really refreshing.

One evening for drinks, MarekJ bought some Mr Peanut mixed nuts. It was a huge tin: 1.58kg, which would be used to sell house paint in Australia.

I was fascinated by this amazing object, which contained the somewhat ironic claim on its label: “less than 50% peanuts”, so I took a few photos of it. Today I uploaded all my AWTA (and general Austin) photos to PicasaWeb and ran the facial recognition feature.

Guess who came up?

Mr Peanut @ AWTA
Mr Peanut @ AWTA

Yes: Mr Peanut. Hilarious.

Just last night at dinner I was complaining that PicasaWeb couldn’t recogize my wife’s cat.

I’ve tagged Mr Peanut now and propose an ongoing joke to have Mr Peanut photos taken and tagged at all future open source testing conferences.

I’m currently writing this in transit in LAX. I still can’t believe how big that Boeing 747-400 sitting right there is.

Boeing 474-400 at LAX
Boeing 474-400 at LAX

Easily define Watir tests in excel, OO, wikis and Google docs using Roo

I spent this evening playing with Roo, the ruby library for reading data from spreadsheets and I am very impressed. In a very small amount of time I was able to define tests in four different forms/places and could execute my tests from each of these:

  • An Excel file (.xls): stored locally
  • An OpenOffice (.ods): stored locally
  • An Excel file (.xls) stored in a Confluence wiki page with Confluence Office Connector; and
  • A Google Docs spreadsheet.

The great thing about Roo is that you don’t actually need Excel; Roo simply reads the file, unlike the ruby Excel COM WIN32 API I have used previously.

The spreadsheet (embedded in Confluence) looks like this:


The cool thing about embedding it in Confluence is that you can click the title of the spreadsheet to edit it (in OpenOffice in my case).

I made some minor changes to my existing code that executed my depot tests from a wiki page, and it was as easy as that. A data driven Watir solution with four possible ways to define test cases. Cool.

You can find all the code needed below.

require 'watir'
require 'rubygems'
require 'roo'
require './Customer.rb'
require './Common.rb'

case ARGV[0]
when "excel"
	ss ="watirmelon.xls")
when "wiki"
	ss ="http://localhost:8080/download/attachments/2097153/watirmelon.xls")
when "gdocs"
	ss ="")
	ss ="watirmelon.ods")

ss.default_sheet = ss.sheets.first
ss.first_row.upto(ss.last_row) do |line|
	if ss.cell(line,1).strip != "Function" then #We have an executable test
			module_name = ss.cell(line,1).strip
			method_name = ss.cell(line,2).downcase.strip.sub(' ','_') # automatically determine function name based upon method name.
			comments = ss.cell(line,3).strip
			expected_outcome = ss.cell(line,4).strip
			expected_error = ss.cell(line,5).strip
			required_module = Kernel.const_get(module_name)
			required_method = required_module.method(method_name)
			arity = required_method.arity() # this is how many arguments the method requires, it is negative if a 'catch all' is supplied.
			arity = ((arity * -1) - 1) if arity < 0
			parameters = []
			1.upto(arity) do |p|
			actual_outcome, actual_output =*parameters)
			# determine the result.
			if (expected_outcome = 'Success') and actual_outcome then
			    result = "PASS"
			elsif (expected_outcome = 'Error') and (not actual_outcome) and (expected_error = actual_output) then
			    result = "PASS"
			    result = "FAIL"
			puts "\nRunning Test: #{method_name} for #{module_name}."
			puts "Expected Outcome: #{expected_outcome}."
			puts "Expected Error: #{expected_error}."
			puts "Actual Outcome: #{actual_outcome}."
			puts "Actual Output: #{actual_output}."
			puts "RESULT: #{result}"
			puts "An error occurred: #{$!}"

See the full test code below the break.

Continue reading “Easily define Watir tests in excel, OO, wikis and Google docs using Roo”

Websites don’t need holidays

I am really dissapointed in the Australian Tax Office for taking down their entire web site for eleven days over Christmas/New Years 2008-2009. The website contains important reference information that should be accessible anytime. How can any organisation justify such a lengthy period of down time, especially for a web site with mostly static content for reference?


Twitter is over capacity

I like friendly error messages; I don’t think you can get much cuter than Twitter’s over capacity error message:

Twitter error message
Twitter error message

I just love how the whale is smiling. It makes it such a better error message. I don’t think many companies would be game to use a whale on their capacity error page (if they even had one) but in this case it just works.

Austin Workshop on Test Automation (AWTA) 2009

Watircraft are organising the Austin Workshop on Test Automation to be held on 16-18 January 2009 in Austin, Texas.

I have been approved to attend. It means three long flights from Australia (about 25 hours each way) but I am really looking forward to attending and meeting different people who are involved in Watir.

I haven’t been to America before either, so it should be really good.