So a curious thing happened to me while in the Dialogues session at Star West this year. As mentioned in the write-up, I was in the Getting Started group and by nature of being seated next to the easel, I took the marker to become the Secretary for the group.
I think there were about a dozen people in this particular group and at the risk of sounding overly pompous I was the only person who had succeeded with automation. Which makes sense if you think about it as groups were self organizing — those who didn’t need to talk about getting started went to more advanced / specific topics. I only went to this group as Star West was part of a year-long experiment on going to conferences as marketing. (I’m actually writing this on the plane to STPCON.)
The latter half of the conversation focuses around tools and tooling. And as I remarked on Twitter later, Selenium doesn’t have to do much marketing to keep growing as there is a lot of dissatisfaction in the market around QTP if this sample is any indication.
With full disclosure given that I work on and with Selenium, I gave general consultant-y sounding answers around tools. Some of which made it to The Relationship of Testing Tools to Economics & Freedom. To me, using QTP to test web applications is a darn near unethical waste of company resources (cash). Yes, there are times when you might need to use it. For instance, when I was in the WinRunner world there were plugins for driving terminal emulators and powerbuilder applications and I wouldn’t be shocked if QTP wasn’t the best thing in those categories.
My argument against QTP aside from the cost goes something like this…
- It’s closed source (so you can’t build your own lightsaber)
- It doesn’t have a ‘real’ scripting language. Where real means cross-platform and where skills learned in it an be transposed to others as well. VBScript might as well be Vendor Script in automation.
- It is Windows only — and there are increasingly more and more non-windows consumers of web applications every day. If you have a public web application that doesn’t care about the increasing Mac (or even Linux) market, let me know and I’ll create a clone to target it.
All three of these were brought up during the session and even though I repeatedly said “I could take this over quite easily, but don’t want to” it became somewhat Q & A.
Unbeknownst to me though there was a ‘mole’ [used tounge-in-cheek] in the group who did not enjoy my providing an alternate view to QTP being ‘all that’. This person did two things after the session that significantly changed my Star West experience.
First they wrote a long, and scathing comment on the back of the feedback form about my ‘bashing’ of QTP. Feedback forms are very important to the Star conferences and are used as input for whether speakers are invited back and to use it to comment on another session participant would be an un-necessary blight against the actual session coordinators which is unfair. And frankly cowardly. Whomever you are, you’ve lost my respect.
I’m extrapolating on that the second event is related to the same person, but during the break I was still in the room talking to a few remaining people when two people from HP’s booth approached and introduced themselves. Someone had come up to their booth and was told that I was ‘bashing’ (same word as on the feedback form) on QTP and informed that HP, as a sponsor ‘was not allowed to bash Selenium so I should stop bashing QTP’
Let’s pause for a second for context.
I was not at Star West as a sponsor.
I was not at Star West as a speaker.
I was there as a volunteer.
My badge said ‘Delegate’.
Now, I did get comp’ed entrance into the conference by volunteering as a track host. This meant I didn’t get to pick which sessions I went to as I had to be in all the ones I was hosting — so though no money was exchanged a price was paid. The job of the track host is to help the speaker get their laptop working on the screen, mic’ed up, introduce them and then thank them at the end. And be a gopher if needed. But other than that you are just another session participant. It is not a paid position and the person does not assume any representation of SQE (the organizer of the Star events).
So I, a delegate, was told to be quiet by a vendor/sponsor. Ummm, ya, HP — your money didn’t buy you that. Or shouldn’t have at any rate.
Now, if I was either of those things then the rules would be different. Star prides itself on not having marketing sessions and playing fair-ish on the trade show could be seen as just good etiquette. Remember though, that I was a delegate.
I’m pretty pissed that those two from the HP booth had the nerve to try to censor me. The proper thing they should have done is to ask to talk to me and see if they could try to address my concerns about their product. They’re not going to win me as a convert, but at least they would know what I was saying and the reasons for it. But instead they sent down the goon squad.
And for that, I think I’m owed apology — from HP.
Three final points.
First, when recounting this to Rob Sabourin (whose session I missed as I was doing my volunteer duties) later he suggested that listening to a recording of what I actually said and how I said it might be useful. There are a couple people in the testing community that when get onto passionate subjects can come across stronger than intended. I concede that this might be such a situation. Alas, no such recording exists (to my knowledge).
Volunteers at Agile all wear shirts emblazoned with ‘VOLUNTEER’ on them so noone can accidentally assume they are anything but during their shifts. All conferences, including Star should pickup on this model if not with shirts then buttons or ribbons or something else. I fear that because I was seen in all the automation sessions more was assumed about my status that it really was. (Though ironically my session hosting duties for this particular one were limited to cleaning the room in-between and after the session.)
And finally, a sincere apology to Dot and Mieke on any possible repercussions from the feedback you might have received. And to Lee Copeland (program chair of Star West) who had his morning ruined by having HP track him down so as to have to track me down to have a chat (though I think the right answer should have been to tell HP I was neither a speaker nor sponsor so HP can’t complain).