It was one year ago (June ’09) that James Whittaker helped us christen our ‘Testing The Limits’ interview series by being our first guest. And for much of the year, he held the distinction of generating the most page views… and then some guy named Patrick Copeland came along and took the lead a few months back.
Well, in honor of our one-year anniversary, James has accepted our invite to be our first-ever return guest – and this marks the start of a new trend. In our 2nd year of Testing the Limits, we’re going to be revisiting some of the past legends and leaders to see what’s changed since they last spoke with us. Of course, we’ll also be blending in some voices we haven’t heard from yet (we’re looking at you, Cem Kaner and Elizabeth Hendrickson) so stay tuned!
In this interview, James discusses his present role at Google; the emergence of Web Test Framework (aka WTF); the next decade of testing innovations; cloud computing and much more. When you’re done with this one, go read Part II.
uTest: A year ago, the big news was about your move from Microsoft to Google. Now that you’re no longer a Noogler, how has this year changed your perspective on testing and the testing industry? What has surprised you most? Can you share any favorite stories?
JW: Four years ago I made the decision to leave the comfy confines of academe and consultancy and do something more real. It seems there is a steady supply of ex-industry folks going into consulting and not much of a flow the other way. I thought it would challenge me more than anything else I could do. Unfortunately, Microsoft just wasn’t the place to pull that off, ship schedules in the client-server domain simply didn’t allow a fast enough pace to suit me. I’ve been part of more software development in the past year at Google than I had my entire time at Microsoft and my consulting career combined. Things I didn’t think possible like shipping a product from concept to production in a matter of weeks, doing software development in a way that makes testing mostly invisible and creating completely new uses for test techniques that I had dismissed as amateur earlier in my career (e.g., record and playback) have not only surprised me but also now make my days a lot more interesting.
Another perspective that has changed is my appreciation of automated testing has grown. I’ve written extensively about manual testing and the importance of having a brain in-the-loop and I haven’t given it enough credit to automation in the past. Automation is really important and I think the detractors to it, simply don’t know how to do it right or simply don’t have enough experience with it. At the same time my appreciation for manual testing has grown as well, but I no longer advocate doing it without a lot of automated assistance. I’ll explain more about that later.
uTest: In the spirit of “WTF”, can you tell us more about the new, appropriately named, Web Test Framework and the unique control that Chrome and Chrome OS will offer web apps, browsers and the operating systems they are running on?
JW: I work with a developer who believes that WTF (the real meaning of the acronym) is the only appropriate response to a tester who creates yet another test framework. I have to admit, it is a response I often employ as well. Does the world really need another test framework? What the —-?
Well the world needs this one.