Day 4 (of 30 Days of Automation in Testing)

Day 4: What kind of testing can automation support you with?

Unit testing comes to my mind as the first one.It helps me as a tester in a way that I let developers do the deeds and learn to trust they do things right. Even reviewing the unit test code is actually a neat learning experience, once you get to understand the unit test logic.

Functional testing during or right after the build, can also be done by same unit testing approaches, which is also a neat way to verify the functionality. The benefits on that one is that the code is readable by the developer who wrote it and (in case it’s not made with Perl) even with other members of the team or company. To have the tests usable and readable in the same IDE developers use, leads also to easier debugging. What usually lacks is decent reporting, but then again, all we need to know that it fails when it should and passes when everything really is OK.

Mocking the test environment and harnessing the SUT. They walk hand in hand. There’s plenty of nice mocking tools, wiremock for example. One might also re-invent the wheel here. I mean the mock can be just a file you fetch from another system or write yourself. Does not sound too much automating, though ūüėÄ

Load testing is also one of the standard ones to be used with automation. Given the powers of the servers, new container technologies and distributed load testing services, you can build your own solution or use a ready made service, like blazemeter or octoperf.

Repetitive functionality tests, regression tests and release tests in any step of the development process are good to automate, given that you are going to use the automation more than few times.

Then the whole world of Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration. It will not happen properly if you do not have the right tests put in right places. Well it might be OK to let the users test the product, but that would mean that you should have an automated monitoring system that gathers the data you will need. That’s also one way of automation that will help.

And of course all of the test data generating tools, self-made or otherwise, bash- or python -scripts for setting up the environments together with containers and their managing tools (docker, docker-compose and kubernetes to start with).

I most likely am missing something here, still. I mean where do you draw the line when it comes to automation in testing? Is it only the testing tools (like jMeter, Robot Framework etc.) or the tools that let you yourself automate mundane tasks to ease your testing process.



You pick the right tool


As you can see, it is sometimes crucial to select a right tool. Even to stick to it, regardless on how awkward and painful it might feel. I just had to open with this scene, it is anyhow from one of my all time favorite movies. The book it is based on, is definitely one of my top 5:s.

We’ve all been there. It’s late night, we’re out in the park, having fun and all we have left is bottle of wine. And of course the corkscrew is nowhere to be found. So you start using your imagination. You might have a normal screw and a screwdriver, maybe a pair of tongs, too,¬†you might be carrying a multi-tool, for what I know. Or not. The cork stays in the bottle.

You go through your pockets again, ask your friends, someone says that all he’g got is a pen, other one offers you a rock.

You see where I’m going here? A pen is mightier than a¬†rock? Well, at least now it is.

Now you could open the bottle by smashing the head to a rock. Or smashing the rock to the head of the bottle. That might work, too. In the other hand, there’s always risks of getting bottle broken so, that the glass gets inside the bottle. Besides, that will create a mess in the grass and I a devoted dog owner and animal lover hate when people break bottles or other glass and leave the stuff there. Besides, people can get hurt too, for real.

So that leaves you the pen, right. You could write a letter – I know, it’s old school, but it’s nice sometimes, for real – to someone with a corkscrew to drop by. What’s there to loose? You got the whole weekend ahead of you (Did I mention it is¬†a Friday night?) Or you could rob a corkscrew store with it, not the world’s best idea, though, giving it to be late night and the stores are all closed.

You could also take the pen and push the cork inside the bottle. That actually does work. You might get to spill some, but then again, at least there isn’t going to be shattered glass anywhere for the paws of the two to four legged friends. Notice I left a place for three legged dogs or cats, even squirrels.

So, you take the pen and grab the bottle. Your hands are getting a bit sweaty so you what your sleeve around the bottle. It keeps it in its place. Not completely, but firm enough. You take a breath.

You push the pen against the cork and push. Nothing happens, except the veins in your temples seems to be exploding, your face turns to red and the pen hurts your palm. A lot. You let go for awhile, and try again. No change to the situation. Cork is till on and you seem to be screwed.

A friend of yours, the one that has taken one more than you, mumbles something and offers you the stone from his hand. You look at him and smile and are about to shake your head, but change your mind and take the stone.

It is smooth on the other side, the side agains your palms has some edges and it feels, if not cold, then at least cool. You take the stone, push the bottle against the ground and hold it between your feet and hold the pen on your other hand against the cork. Then you slowly but firmly hammer the pen inside the bottle with the stone and finally, you’re done. Everything’s fine again, you drink the wine, get in to the night and wake up next morning with a hangover and some blurry memories. You might even end up having fun, who knows.

What I mean here is that you should choose your tools, for real. First of all you need to know that you have a need for a tool, then you need to check what requirements you have for it, then you need to find it. Thanks to the interwebs, it is fairly easy nowadays. After finding the tools, take several, and use them for awhile in the situation needed. So to say, evaluate them.

If you run into¬†problems with the tool (you should, for real, even a sledgehammer needs some maintenance), try to find out if anybody has had the same issues. Most likely you’re not alone.

Check the maintenance costs. If you use more time maintaining the tool than the flaky tests, you probably have the wrong tool. Regardless on how good it looks, sounds or feels.

And once and for all; don’t get stuck with the first evaluation, don’t get stuck with your evaluation choice, either. In case the tool loses its focus and usability, make sure you can move away from it.

I myself are at the moment in that kind of situation: using a multitool with a gentle learning curve, but the maintenance and the license is starting to feel bad. It was a tool I was familiar with, a tool I’ve used for years in the previous companies, and it used to be an open source tool. They ended the open source path last year (if I remember correctly) and otherwise turned the usability a bit more worse, too.

So I’m considering moving the tests to another multitool, an open source based tool with steeper learning curve, but a considerably larger user group. Actually, I’ve done my consideration, all I need to do now is to transfer and modify the current tests from the first tool to the second one.