Who in their right mind agrees to fly all morning from Seattle to Minneapolis, drive to a local software testing special interest group (SIG), talk for 90 minutes, and fly back home that same night? For a number of reasons, the most important of which was being home in the morning to help get my kids ready for school, I did and it was a very good experience. This is the story of my experience along with a few reflections of traveling for the Benchmark QA forum and TwinSPIN SIG Nov. 5, 2009.


About 6:30 in the morning I went into my 8 year old son’s room to wake him up for school. He rubs his eyes a moment and then bolts upright in bed. “Dad, you’re back already,” he exclaimed.


“No, my trip is today, not last night,” I replied.


The kids quickly got ready for school and as my flight didn’t leave until after 10am, I was able to drop them off at their classroom door. Seattle had on her typical October gray cap of clouds. Even after sixteen years of living in the Northwest I wasn’t sure if it was just going to be a cloudy day or if we would see some actual rain. It wasn’t as if the weather would have any real significance on my travel plans but it is always fun to escape bad weather when traveling as opposed to flying into it. The weather stayed dry as we boarded the plane but just as we were taxiing for takeoff the clouds finally let loose a light shower, just enough to darken the tarmac and run rivulets down the little portal windows of the plane. Seattle was therefore rainy and the only question was whether or not Minneapolis would be better.


On the flight I went through the presentation one more time and shuffled a few slides to suit my mood. Once that was complete, I filed a bunch of emails into folders in Outlook, drafted some notes on feature ideas for Office 15 (yes we will ship Office 14 in early 2010 so it’s time to start thinking of what’s next), and then began writing this blog post and a few others. I finally found time to start writing my blog series on Testing in Production (TiP).

Cool Crisp day in Minneapolis


The flight out was a bit turbulent but we arrived early. So early, in fact, that there was no one at the gate to let us de-board the plane. There is nothing worse than being in the back of a plane, watching it pull into the terminal, see the fasten your seatbelt light go off, stand up and pull your bag from the overhead compartment and then just wait. In this case we waited an extra twenty minutes before someone finally arrived to open the door.


Larry Decklever, the founder and President of Benchmark QA, met me just outside the airport. On the drive to the event we talked a little about his company, golf, and oh yes some points about testing. As we drove, I took the chance to appreciate the clear blue skies and the wonderful crisp cool fall air. For this particular day at least Minneapolis weather beat Seattle.


At the Benchmark QA Offices I was introduced to Molly and Cindy who together helped me find some food, hook my laptop up to the projector, and settle in. We had some 90+ attendees registered for the event and they began showing up right on time for the pre-event networking hour.

Show time!


My presentation, “Testing in the Cloud,” is not about testing on any specific cloud infrastructure. It doesn’t focus on Microsoft’s Azure, Amazon’s AWS, or Google’s App Engine. It encompasses a series of concepts and shows how most of them apply equally to testing a web service whether that service is built out on bare metal hardware or runs as a virtual machine (VM) in a cloud, or in a hybrid mode like my favorite example from SmugMug.com. I also love to share a YouTube audio clip of Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, and what I consider to be the best rant on cloud computing ever, “What the hell is cloud computing?”


In the talk I cover many concepts best summarized in James Hamilton’s paper, “On Designing and Deploying Internet-Scale Services,” and the multiple presentations he has given on the topic. My presentation, though, introduces a little bit on Cloud Computing, a little on designing services correctly, and then spends the next 45 minutes discussing why Testing in Production (TiP) is vital as we move into the Cloud era.


Given that TwinSPINers seem to have much more experience testing software and embedded devices than I will likely ever amass, I expected several challenges on the topics. Instead I was pleased to see many nodding heads.


When I got to the last slide, the hands shot up and we had probably 30 minutes of Q&A. Interestingly the majority of the questions were about how Microsoft approaches this test problem or that test problem. I could have replied, just go buy “How We Test Software at Microsoft,” as all those questions are answered in the book, but I didn’t. I discussed how we use Static Code Analysis, that we have almost as many full time testers as we do developers at Microsoft, and how we heavily emphasize test automation.


For all those TwinSPINers that came up afterwards with questions and praise, thank you. Within ten minutes of finishing I was packed up and jetting back to the airport. Within an hour I was through security and quickly choking down a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich in food court. Yes, what was I thinking eating a Philly Cheesesteak made in a Minneapolis airport.


It was just past midnight when I got home. My wife left the lamp on my nightstand turned on so that I wouldn’t have to stumble in the dark. My six year old daughter had written me a little book welcoming me home and telling me how much she loved her daddy. My son, who is both a bit of an engineer and a bit of a writer, built me a little box filled with little two inch square pieces papers so that I could write my own book about my trip. I think however I will leave this blog as my trip report and use the little papers to write him a story of how much he is loved by his Daddy.


· The slides for this presentation can be found here.

· Also the slides from my presentation last month at STARWest can be found here.

· Lastly it looks like I’ll be at the Better Software Conference this coming June. I’ll post upcoming talks to my personal website here.


Thanks to Larry, Molly, Cindy, and the TwinSPINers for a fun whirl-wind trip.