NFJS 2006 wrap-up

It was with mixed sadness and relief that NFJS 2006 came to a close last Sunday evening. Two and a half solid days of listening to some of the best technical speakers in the country can be draining, but the knowledge and enthusiasm one picks up is priceless.

The highlights from day three were Andy Hunt’s “Refactoring Your Wetware” and “Pragmatic Learning” talks, along with Jared Richardson’s “Software Tools.” I had heard Andy’s wetware talk at the local .NET Users Group last year, but he has since revised and lengthened it, splitting it into two different NFJS talks.

The first talk covered how the brain works (it’s a dual CPU, shared pipe architecture) and how developers can make incredible productivity gains by using more of their right brain instead of their left. In the second talk, Andy gave tips on how to learn more effectively.

One point that struck home for me was the need to write all your ideas down the moment you get them. If you’re not writing your ideas down, you’ll start forgetting you have them. I’ve been using a plain old ballpoint pen (not all of us have enough cash kicking around to buy a Fisher Space Pen) and some index cards. They work quite well, and I get the added benefit of more right-brain activity. I wouldn’t otherwise have that if I were typing.

Jared’s talk centered around CruiseControl, an open-source continuous integration tool. In a matter of minutes, he installed the tool on his laptop and configured it to build and test a couple of Java classes he had written. I was familiar with CruiseControl before attending his presentation, but the demo was still impressive. I’m sure if I were a newby attending his talk I would be eager to set up my own CI server the very next day.

Jason posted a comment to my NFJS day 2 post requesting more information on Ramnivas’ demo of Selenium. Selenium is a JavaScript-based tool that can be used to generate and run cross-browser functional tests for web applications. Tests can be defined as HTML tables, Ruby scripts, and so on. Element locators are quite flexible, allowing widgets on the page to be looked up by ID, name, XPath, or directly through the DOM. Selenium also has a Firefox plugin that can be used to “record” interaction with a web app. This is a fast way to generate functional tests for an existing application.

One tip Raminvas gave was to instruct testers or other people submitting bugs to include a Selenium recording with their report. That way, you as a developer can play back the exact steps they made to discover the bug. Handling of browser-specific code doesn’t seem to be a problem with Selenium. It’s certainly the most promising open source web application testing framework to be produced in a long time. Remember that it’s only at version 0.7 so it will continue evolving and (hopefully) improving over time.

Next stop this month: RailsConf 2006! See you there.

2 thoughts on “NFJS 2006 wrap-up

  1. Thanks for the expanded summary of the Selenium talk, and you’re nice comments. Do you mind if quote you 37Signals-style* as I collect “buzz” for the Selenium project website? Thanks, Jason

    * By “37Signals-style”, I mean using your quote in a page similar to this one:


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