Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hire the Right People

I believe my team of engineers has been very successful. This is no accident. I look for, and like to, surround myself with smart people. I'm not being egotistical. I don't consider myself the sharpest tool in the shed, but I do know a sharp tool (smart engineer) when I talk to one.

Hiring the right person is harder than it sounds. The top two impediments, in my experience, to hiring the right person have been "Hiring People that are Non-Threatening" and "knowing nothing about the job you are hiring for."

Non-threatening can mean a lot of things. A non-threatening person can be a yes-man. Yes-men will agree with you on everything and never make you uncomfortable by pointing out flaws in your plan. Yes-men are often hired on the basis of philosophy rather than actual skill. Non-threatening people can also be that dull-tool that won't outshine the person who hired them. In both cases the company is stuck paying wages to an under performer.

More often, though, I have seen poor hiring decisions made by managers that have no idea how to judge candidates for a job. These managers tend to rely heavily on applicants' resumes and sets of nebulous questions about work ethic or previous projects. Lacking a basic understanding of engineering practices and what makes a good engineer, these managers usually hire based on a feeling.

So, how do I hire....smart people? First, I give a basic skills test. I actually test each applicant on basic problem solving skills using pseudo code. If they do well on the test, then I send them a practical exercise. I look for three things in the practical exercise: how well they followed the directions, coding style, and does it work.

The test and exercise help me weed out those applicants whose time would be wasted on an interview. If I am happy with the test and the practical exercise, I schedule an interview. I'm also a true believer in team buy-in on all new hires so I get as many engineers involved in the interview as we can afford.

The interview includes some basic questions about relocating and what technologies the applicant is interested in, but the real meat of the interview is a set of problems the applicant must solve, interactively, on a white board. The problem solving progresses, "lecture style," with the applicant lecturing us on how the problems could best be solved.

Engineers are free to ask questions and the applicant is encouraged to show all his work. After the interview, I discuss the applicant with the other engineers and prepare for the next interview.

Once we have an adequate pool, we all sit down together to review, compare and contrast all the applicants.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Watin Installed

I've spent the last few days getting our testers up to speed on Watin. Watin is an Automated Web Acceptance Test Tool We are using Watin CTP v2.0. So far I have learned a few things about Watin that I didn't know when I wrote my original Watin Review. If you are completely unfamiliar with Watin I recommend you read my review first.

Our descision to go with Watin was based on 4 factors. (1) Watin handles AJAX applications very well, (2) Watin doesn't inject Javascript into your code, (3) Watin supports Firefox (Not 3.0 as of this writing) and (4) it's open source (we can mod the code).

Watin Smarts

Watin has a good set of algorithms for handling the WaitForLoad stuff. WaitForLoadTimeout is the amount of time the underlying framework should wait for a page to load even though you have asked the framework to find an element.



In the example above the thread will reach the 2nd line before the page finishes loading. Watin is smart enough to wait for the page to load before clicking the button. This behavior is controled by the WaitForLoadTimeout property.

Nice Syntax
The Syntax for finding elements on a page is pretty nice. Here is an example:
The "Find" constraint has both an "AND" and an "OR" method. Both take a single Find as an argument. Testers will prefer this syntax to the more arcane XPath style syntax but I would have preferred something like this:
Either way the Find constraint offers many ByXXX methods for do all sorts of neat tricks and if need be you can drop to regular expressions (well coded sites shouldn't require that). I also appreciate the HTML mappings syntax.

Firefox Support
You'll notice that the firefox support depends on a firefox plugin called jssh. JSSH opens up a telnet server that allows Watin (or any other framework) to issue automation commands that it then forwards to Firefox. Watin 2.0 comes with a version of JSSH in it's Mozilla folder. This version only works on Firefox 2.x. We have tried several "fixed" version and we have tried turning off compatibility and security checks in Firefox 3.x. All attempts to run JSSH failed. In Firefox 2.x we experienced great success. So, I have no doubt that support will come soon.

Either way if you plan to support multiple browsers then you should use the BrowserFactory class. It has a create method that returns an IBrowser instance based on a BrowserType enum. In this way you can use the same tests for both Firefox and IE.

Final Thoughts
One of the most attractive things to me, about Watin, is the fact that the tests live in source code along with all our other tests. They run using Nunit and the same tool set we use for Unit Testing.

I also like that Watin does not want to inject javascript into our code. So far our testers seem excited and I hope we can keep up the momentum.