Thursday, August 23, 2007


Sorry for the lack of posts -- I've been out of town recently.

I'm currently at the Google Test Automation Conference, at Google's New York office. Thus far, it's been a great experience. There are two things I've learned about (this morning) that I wanted to blog about: how to design a conference, and Google's testing philosophy.

Allen Hutchinson, an engineering manager at Google, gave some good insight into how they designed the conference, and why they made the decisions they did. I pulled lots of good insights from this talk.
*Keep the conference to under 150 people. Sociological research has shown this is an upper bound (and a magic number) that allows a group to keep a sense of community
*Provide outlets for people to discuss the conference. Their high-profile testing blog is open for unmoderated comments on this conference, and a google group was created as well.
*Make the talks available online after the conference
*Try to decrease the amount of repeat speakers from past conferences. They want fresh blood and new ideas introduced in their conference
*Ask old speakers to help select new speakers - or just have people outside your organization help select the speakers

Allen also mentioned that they kept the conference to a single track so that you can see all the talks, but to be honest I rather like the multiple track system. It allows more speakers, and allows you to skip talks that do not interest you.

Pat Copeland, a Director in Google, then spoke about the testing philosophy that Google maintains, which I found quite interesting.

*Measure everything you can. More data allows for more analysis.
*Continuous builds and faster builds allow more time for testing
*Focus on improvement of the system, and not the bits and pieces
*Testing Goal: fully test a product in one day

Pat also mentioned some challenges that they face as an organization, which I think applies to pretty much everyone:
1. Simulating real-world load, scale, and chaos is difficult
2. Deciding what to measure is difficult
3. Complex failure scenarios are expensive to test

The talks (and more importantly, the people) have been quite interesting thus far. I'll hopefully have more to update after tomorrow.