May 18, 2016

STAREAST Notes: David Dang, "Open Source Test Automation: Riding the Second Wave"

David Dang, from Zenergy Technologies, VP of Automation Solutions, gave a very entertaining and humorous talk on a brief overview of test automation as it was, how it is now, and points to consider a company just starting out with test automation should consider. STAR East Virtual Conference, a TechWell Event broadcasted from Orlando, FL, Wednesday May 4th, 2016.

According to David's STAR East bio, "For more than seventeen years, David Dang has been a leader in the test automation industry. As VP of automated solutions for Greensboro, NC-based Zenergy Technologies, David spearheads the development of advanced frameworks that emphasize reusability and reduce maintenance efforts. He is an expert in all major commercial automation tools as well as open source tools such as Selenium and Jenkins. On the mobile front, David uses advanced concepts to design optimal frameworks using mobile automation toolsets including Perfecto and Appium. In addition to his high-level consulting engagements for Zenergy’s clients, David is in high demand as a presenter at major software quality assurance and testing conferences".

If you are familiar with test automation, you should know that it is moving away from the packaged toolset. There was a first wave of test automation eight or nine years ago that has since fizzled out. We are now on the second wave... Should we get on it?

Open source, David stressed, means that there is no licences, and no maintenance costs, and no fees to use the tool. You share your code with the community. Right now here are 136 open source test automation frameworks / tools. What you are relying on with open source is the community. People go behind it and really build up their products. The problem with 136 open source test frameworks and tools is.. you don't want to pick the wrong one.

What is the difference between frameworks and tools? Tools are packaged together. You are using it as a single toolset. A framework is a component of a tool. Selenium is a framework, a component you can use. Calabash is another framework.

Why open source? Companies want to do more with less. Because applications are web-based, frameworks are, too... but with enterprise level applications, you can't see exactly what is in the browser. The browser is just the container.

The First Wave

What happened to the first wave? Agile was really hot. Back then, according to David, they used FitNesse, operating below the user interface level. The user provided inputs to the application and determined if the correct results were returned. The problem was that, according to David you couldn't see what was happening from a UI standpoint, you can't trust it.

Then there was Ruby Watir, Ruby libraries used to automated web browsers, that automated users clicks, button presses, etc.

David Dang made a joke that even though he might reference working as a mainframe developer and programming in COBOL, he insists he is only twenty-eight years old.

"As a consultant I want to keep up with technology, so I spent around six months learning Ruby, and started coding in Ruby. I became pretty good at Ruby [...] and I started teaching Ruby Watir ... and then it just fizzled out... So, I will never get that six months of my life back. So, things that I don't get back, that's why I am twenty-eight years old. I discount those days... so, if you think about it -- I'm 28! -- I've discounted a lot of my life".

And there was Selenium RC, which weote automated web application UI Tests, before Selenium 2. It used the dreaded record-and-pklayback.

Tools were fragmented. Learning curve was high. Things were too complex.

The Second Wave

These are tools such as: Selenium WebDriver: Emulates a user sending text to a textbox, clicking buttons or selecting dropdowns.
  • Laid the foundation for additional tools.
  • Became adopted by the industry: Developed by ThoughtWorks, supported by Microsoft who came up with a WebDriver for MS Edge -- their new browser
  • n the works to be adopted by the W3C as the standard for browser automation.
  • Convert WebDriver to RemoteWebDriver, and you can add in multi-threading.

BDD ( Behavior driven development ) style such as with Cucumber to formulate tests and Ruby to write the step definitions. You write the test first, run the test to watch it fail, then write the code to make each part of the test pass.

Robot Framework is based around a keyword-driven testing apprach, built around Python.

Protractor: Automation framework that helps you automated Angular.js applications.

Appium: is build on top of Selenium to test mobile apps and browsers.

How to Decide Which Toolset?

How do you pick a language for automation? If the application developers are using Java, or Ruby, it is good to match what they are doing, so you can ask for help when designing the automation.

The problem with a framework like Selenium is that it does not have all the features you need. If you want reporting, you need to integrate it with yet another framework, such as ReportNG or Allure, and add those tools in.

There are some considerations before you take this leap into open source automation:

  • Do you have people with technical resources to adopt the framework?
  • Are people comfortable with object-oriented programming?
  • You need resources who understand framework / tool configuration and environment setup.
  • You need to be able to diagnose and fix your own technical issues without vendor support, or work with the community to fix it.
  • You need to get in the habit with working more closely with the development team solving technical issues.

... Read more about David and Zenergy at

Happy Testing!

-T.J. Maher
Sr. QA Engineer,

// QA Engineer since Aug. 1996
// Automation developer for [ 1 ] year and still counting!
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