Mike Bland

Still Reminiscing and Repeating Myself

I spoke at the first Automated Testing Boston Meetup event, and have just posted on the AutoTest Central blog in the hopes of being useful

- Boston
Tags: AutoTest Central, Google, Meetup, Testing Grouplet, TotT, grouplets

So let me explain how I came to write a guest post about the Testing Grouplet and Testing on the Toilet on the AutoTest Central blog.

Against my better judgment, I couldn’t resist joining the new Automated Testing Boston Meetup group when I received notification of its creation back in August. Organized by Sarah Foster of Solano Labs, and complemented by sister groups Automated Testing NYC and Automated Testing San Francisco, the goal is to: Hear from friends that have already gone through the process of selecting and implementing continuous integration, learn best practices, and ask questions!

Well, I’ve had a little bit of such experience in the past, I figured, so why not join and see if I can be useful somehow? I reached out to Sarah, and she gave me the opportunity to speak at the inaugural meeting about all the hell the Testing Grouplet raised at Google, focusing first on the tools and the environment we ended up with, then talking about all the cultural changes we made to produce that environment. Though it’s been a while since I’ve been on the testing scene, or the tech scene in general for that matter, and despite the fact that in my current Luddite incarnation I eschewed projected slides for two pages of handwritten notes (which I barely looked at while speaking), the talk seemed to go really, really well. I was the last to speak, and everyone who’d stayed through the earlier talks stayed through my entire talk. It was a lot of fun—I enjoyed being in front of an audience again, where I feel most in my element, and being able to entertain, inform, and even get a laugh or two—and people seemed to really get a kick out of and appreciate my talk—which I went out of my way to emphasize was not Google-sanctioned!

Thanks to the positive feedback, Sarah offered to have me write a post on the AutoTest Central blog. Much like my talk, it’s a very high-level summary of all the past Google and Testing Grouplet experiences I’ve written about in this here blog. However, one lesson I learned from said experiences is never to pass on an opportunity to repeat yourself, to say the same thing over and over again, to push yourself to hone your message to make it a little sharper and more appealing with each iteration. The more people hear a message, especially a message that grows clearer and stronger over time, the more receptive they become to it. And saying something multiple times, in different ways, often increases the resonance and acceptance of what you’re trying to communicate.

The post puts a bit of emphasis on Testing on the Toilet, given the particularly high level of interest the Meetup folks had in that topic. However, as I wrote Sarah in response to her offer:

While TotT may be the eye-catching banner item, I definitely would want to be careful to frame it in the context of a larger effort. It was far from a silver bullet, though it was certainly the most immediately visible and accessible tool we stumbled upon. I just want to be careful to avoid the implication that TotT was an overnight success, or that it’s like pixie dust that you can sprinkle on your organization to magically transform it into an automated testing utopia. But, yes, I think there’s a kernel of an idea there that people might be able to apply to their own situations, and I’m eager to share that idea as best I can.

Hopefully I achieved that goal. Feel free to read the post for yourself and let me know, if you’re so inclined. Messages always benefit from thoughtful validation and constructive feedback. (There’s an apt musical analogy to be made here.)

Speaking of Solano Labs, their product is a “Parallel Continuous Integration & Deployment” platform. The “Parallel Continuous Integration” part reminds me very much of Google’s own Test Automation Platform. It’s inspiring to see someone working to provide the same kind of power to folks who aren’t privileged with access to Google tools and datacenters.

What’s more, speaking with Sarah and the Solano Labs folks, I can see them growing this fledgling Meetup community into something that could out-Grouplet the Google Grouplets. Having three locations already established, and using the AutoTest Central blog as a cross-chapter community focal point (a la TotT—they could even publish one-page flyers in the same fashion!), there’s no telling how far they can take this thing, recruiting like-minded folks in different towns to run semi-autonomous communities that can circulate the best tools and ideas amongst themselves in a real grassroots, bottom-up fashion. Le sigh.

That said, as much as I’d love to help bring such a vision to fruition, no, all this recent activity doesn’t mean I’m trying to get back into the industry. I’m still 100% committed to my Berklee adventure, which is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever signed myself up to do (though I am doing very well!) and which I want to follow through on more than anything in my life. In fact, I’ve even already resigned from the Automated Testing Boston Meetup in order to maintain my focus on music. But, especially when I’m so focused on studying and not currently working, it feels immensely gratifying to spare a little time to help a few kindred spirits however I can.