What’s the most expensive beer ever made? Okay, I’ll give you a hint.  Its recipe was discovered by a team of archaeologists.

That’s how it started.  Looking at my audience, which comprised mainly of gents and ladies from the application engineering team and our partner onboarding group, I realized I was about to give a talk on a subject that this group can use and would try to accommodate right away.  No it wasn’t on beer, although most had one in their hands given we were doing a Beer and Learn.  At Points.com this is starting to become a frequent occurrence.  You come, you nurse a beer, and you learn something on a particular topic – that’s pretty much the idea.

OK, so back to the subject at hand, I was about to talk about software test automation and how this can help us increase quality for all the products.  Points.com is very heavy on producing high quality products and so anything we can leverage from the universe to achieve this is welcomed, or at least considered.  This isn’t restricted to only software but it can be a change in process, in how we communicate, even how we sit together and work on projects but we were going to talk about how we can test web applications automatically. I realized that this was my chance to get everyone excited about what I’ve been excited about for days now and that was exciting me.  OK too much use of that word but you get the idea.  I believe in automating software testing.  Why? Well, mainly because it adds consistency to tests, reduces problems like EBKAC (Error Between Keyboard And Chair) and most importantly it increases confidence that our software product is behaving the way we expect it to.  That is key to us.  The goal might seem easily achievable but it’s not always easy because of factors that come in the way standing out like popping nails on dry wall.  What I’m talking about in particular are things like the quality and depth of automation tests, scalability, ease of adaption to tools that will help us create automated test suites, integrating into the existing development ecosystem, failure resolution and reporting results in a meaningful way.

I was about to introduce Robot Framework, which hits these nails with a solid hammer and also throws in a extra bag of chips for good measure to keep one happy.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with various tools out there that promise to help one be more automated in software testing.  I don’t necessarily have a bad thing to say about them.  It’s just that one may have fallen short in one place and another on another place so in totality it didn’t work out in the end.  With Robot I haven’t exactly reached any shortcomings for my needs yet and I can be a bit demanding.  With that said, there are areas that are still getting their edges sharpened like the Integrated Development Environment and support for .NET but there’s activity on this so in good time this will be made better.  One thing that impresses me about this particular solution is that it allows the person writing the tests to take control as opposed to the other way around.  Sure, there are some restrictions and there are some standards that need to be followed with Robot but on the whole as a test author you have a strong platform to work with and make it happen.  There are lots of possibilities with Robot like doing tests in parallel, remotely or maybe even setting it all up to do web application tests over the cloud but to get someone started quickly, it comes packaged with lots of goodies to make it happen.  They are;

  • Free to use
  • Support for multiple browsers
  • Keyword and data driven
  • Command line interface
  • RIDE (Robot framework Integrated Development Environment)
  • Tabular syntax
  • Variables and intelligence
  • Templates
  • Resource sharing
  • DB integration
  • Tagging
  • Reports in HTML
  • Library API
  • Support to extend
  • Debugging
  • Active community

Talking about Robot took care of itself, it was easy because it has so much to offer.  It wouldn’t have been a complete presentation if I didn’t have a small demo utilizing some of the cool features like templates and tagging. One thing I truly enjoyed was a mini healthy discussion that started taking place between us all when I asked one of our application developers to come up and talk about his experience with writing libraries.  I wanted to get it out to the audience that there was significant value added to be able to change the way we normally test a tedious and lengthy bit of functionality in a controlled, automated and repeatable manner using Robot’s built in facilities.

That was pretty much where we called it in.  It was enjoyable and I’m here to validate that old quote, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”  By the way for those who made it to the bottom of this post, there is a reward.  The most expensive beer ever made is called the Tutankhamun Ale.  Its first bottle went for just north of $7,600 and it’s made in limited quantities every year.