Selenium Conference 2017 Recap – An Introverts Guide
Early this month I returned from Austin after attending Selenium Conference 2017. It was the first one I’ve attended since Boston 2013, so it was exciting to see how things have changed.
According to Dave Haeffner, one of the main organizers of the conference, it was the largest one to date, with about 500 folks in attendance. And you could tell by all the awesome automation activity that was rocking the venue.
Following are some of my key takeaways from this year’s event.
Selenium: State of the Union
The tradition at each Selenium conference is the opening State of the Union address by Simon Stewart, project lead and creator of Webdriver, which is always one of the high points of the conference. He began by revealing a major milestone for the project.
WebDriver is now a W3C Candidate Recommendation
As of April 1st, WebDriver is now a W3C Candidate Recommendation. That means that it has been widely reviewed and satisfies the Working Group's technical requirements. That in turn means that if they haven't already done so, browser vendors can now create their own implementations of Webdriver that follow the W3C specification. The reason this is important is that once WebDriver passes the next W3c phase (sometime around September), Selenium 4 can ship.
Selenium 4 is going to be pretty cool, because browser vendors will now be responsible for owning their own Selenium implementations, which is huge. Another plus is that, according to Simon, the move from Selenium 3 to Selenium 4 will be painless for end users.
Aside from the buzz around Selenium 4, some of the themes that seemed to be most popular at this year’s conference was Continuous Integration (CI)/Continuous Delivery (CD), Culture, and ways to create better automation.
I'm an introvert, so one technique I like to use to break the ice when meeting new folks at a conference is to ask them what their favorite session was.
Although it’s not scientific, I find they usually name the session that they feel they got the most from. Based on my polling, these are some of the sessions people mentioned as their favorites.
The Build that Cried Broken
One of the speakers I really wanted to meet in person was Angie Jones, and she did not disappoint. She rocked a packed room with her session titled The Build That Cried Broken: Building Trust in Your Continuous Integration Tests. What was unique about this session was that Angie based her talk around Aesop’s fables, and the ways in which lessons from those stories apply to continuous integration.
For example, she referenced the story of the shepherd boy that pretended he saw a wolf so often that the villagers began to ignore him. This of course became a problem when a wolf actually appeared. Sound familiar? It’s kind of like what happens when your tests are failing in CI but no one pays attention to them anymore because they’re always so flaky.
Of course, a number of similar stories could also apply to what many of us face because of our respective companies’ cultures.
The irony is that very often the things that cause issues with automation have nothing to do with automation. Rather, they usually have to do with culture. This is what Ashley Hunsberger, a test automation architect from Blackboard covered during her session on Transformative Culture.
She explained that their main guide in helping to transform culture is that their end goal is to enable software development and release teams to own testing and quality. Her team even stopped calling themselves QA.
This doesn’t mean that quality is no longer a priority; it actually means that QA is now more important the ever. Now everyone is responsible for quality — not just some other team that used to be called “QA”. The rest of her session covered the other steps her team took to help transform their culture into a “whole team” approach to creating quality software. One way to do this is to embrace devops continuous delivery.
Test Automation Culture Roadblock
I feel that culture is the number one thing holding many teams back from succeeding with test automation. Ashley’s session highlighted a number of ways to fix any culture issue that might be holding your team back.
Of course, what would a Selenium conference be without some technical red meat for the typical automation nerd? Things like fluent testing, for instance.
I’ll be honest – I like to lurk in the hallways of conferences and listen in on other people’s conversations. You’d be surprised at the insights you can get from such clandestine operations. For example, as I shadowed one of the speakers — Andrew Krug — I heard some attendees speaking with Andrew about how much they liked his session Fun with Fluent Testing.
What is Fluent testing? The Fluent pattern consists of practices like method chaining, which ensures that every method you have, returns an object. Andrew demoed another approach called method cascading that he described as allowing your methods to flow into one another. This in turn allows you to write code that is very readable. He also talked about how better readability can also be achieved using Fluent Assertions, Database Queries and Generics.
Andrew’s session really drove home the point that automation engineers are developers. That means they really need to start developing scripts that follow normal development practices.
My Favorite Session – Appium for the Future
I enjoyed most of the sessions I attended, but the one that really got me excited was Dan Cuellar’s. His session covered how to Automate Windows and Mac Apps with the WebDriver Protocol.
Using Appium, Dan demonstrated (with the help of Yosef Durr from Microsoft and Stuart Russell from Intuit) how to automate desktop apps using Appium. In one of the demos Yosef showed how he was able to use WebAppDriver to automate an old VB6 application.
Dan is calling this the “Star-Driver” vision, some of the characteristics of which are:
- It uses one protocol to automate everything
- Continue generalizing the WebDriver specification
- Vendors will bring their own implementation of the protocol.
How cool is that? Imagine the ability to automate everything — not just browsers seamlessly in your language and IDE of choice using one protocol. Looking at some of the features on the Star-Driver roadmap, I really think that this is the future of agile software testing & automation.
Another tradition (and attendee favorite) at a Selenium conference is the closing Q&A with the Selenium Committers. One key takeaway from this year’s Q&A is all the areas the Selenium project needs help in, and the fact that more folks should start giving back to the community. I think it's easy to forget that Selenium is an open-source tool and that most of the contributors to the Selenium project—and the conference volunteers–do so during their own time…and for free. So show some love and invest some of your own time back into the community.
My Biggest Selenium Conference 2017 Take Away of All
Did you miss the conference? No problem. All sessions (including the ones I touched on in this article) are available free for your viewing pleasure on the SeleniumConf YouTube channel.