Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Webinar Recap: EuroStar 'Four Tips for Web UI Automated'

Today the great folks at EuroStar conferences graciously hosted me for a webinar. I walked through my conference session "Four Tips for Web UI Automation.”

EuroStar hosts a post-webex discussion at TestHuddle. You can find discussion around my talk in the appropriate forum there. I'm told a recording of my session will show up at that link shortly as well.

As always, my slides are hosted on SpeakerDeck, but here's this deck embedded.

Monday, March 31, 2014

My New Job: ALM & Testing at Falafel Software!

Today is my first day at Falafel Software. I’m extraordinarily happy to be on board with Lino and his great crew of people!
I’m Falafel’s new Vice President for ALM and Testing. This means I get to focus on things in my wheelhouse: helping organizations and teams improve their processes, not just around testing, but across the entire delivery chain: envisioning, prioritization, building/testing (THEY’RE THE SAME THING), and final delivery.
A major part of my work will continue to be around test automation, but I’ll be broadening out to help teams figure out what tools best meet their needs: WebDriver, TFS, SmartBear, Telerik, etc. And of course, in line with my general philosophy, testing is NOT just about tools.  Ergo, I’ll be helping teams understand where automation fits in and doesn’t. I'll be helping teams build up their testing skills, not just automation skills.
This is a great opportunity for me, and I’m thankful to the Falafel team for bringing me on. It’s going to be an exciting role!
(Are you or your organization looking for something alongthe lines I mentioned above? Ping me and let’s see if I can help! Jim AT Falafel.com)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Audio Gear for Geeks

I spend a lot of time in my day job building up various recordings for videos. Having high-quality sound for videos makes a huge difference with your audience. As a very experienced podcasting pal once told me, “Don’t give them an excuse to turn your stuff off.” He used a word other than “stuff.”

In The Beginning

When I first started out in my evangelism (now developer advocate) role, I used this Logitech H390 headset for my recordings.  It’s a great headset which does a fine job with audio. The quality was completely acceptable. I still use this headset for all my webinars, webexes, online meetings, Skype calls, etc. It’s comfortable and the inline mute/volume switch is awesome. Plus at $28-ish it’s an insanely great value.




Nowadays I’m using the setup below, and it’s getting me awesome results:

Microphone: The Audio Technica AT2020 USB condenser mic. It’s just plain awesome. Carl Franklin gave this a big thumbs up as he used this extensively in his professional sound studio for years. This mic is roughly $100, but it’s an incredible value. I know folks who are using $300 mics for podcasting/video recording and their audio doesn’t sound any better than what I get out of the AT2020.

The best thing about this mic is its utter elimination of echoes in my recording room. My home office is a small room with extremely nasty echoes from the hard plaster walls. With earlier recording devices I’d tried all kinds of workarounds, including (honestly!) recording while hiding under a blanket draped over my workstation. The AT2020 scoffs at echoes in my office and gives me great, clean sound.

Shock Mount: A “spider” mount isolates the mic from the boom. This Samson SP01 mounts on the boom listed below and holds the mic in a cool web. Vibrations can’t pass the web mount. Neat. (Insert trite Gandalf “THOU SHALL NOT PASS!” joke here.)



Boom: You know you want more boom in your life. Get some. A mic boom helps isolate the mic from noises and vibration, and it’s great for swiveling around so I can record while futzing around between different systems and sitting positions. It’s surprising how big a difference this “simple” gadget made. This one’s a Rhode PSA1, and it comes with a couple different mounting options: a clamp for your desk and also a more permanent threaded nut/bolt arrangement if you have a hole available in your table. (Or pull out a drill…)

An additional benefit from the boom: I can swivel the mic down enough to get nice recordings from my acoustic guitar. (No, I am not sharing those! )

Pop Filter: I got one because I see all the cool-looking videos of recording artists and actors in ADR. OK, actually I got this Nady 6”  pop filter because they really do help out with eliminating harsh sounds while you’re talking. I’m not sure how it works; I just know it does.

This clamps on the boom and has a nice flexible arm to position it around. I found the filter arm tends to droop a bit, so I use a small velcro strap to help hold it in place.

Putting It All Together

I tried getting a shot of my setup in the home office, but I couldn’t get anything I was satisfied with. (And I actually even cleaned my desk.) All this stuff goes together quite easily, and the swivel lets me keep the gear out of my way when I’m not recording.

You’ll spend a couple hundred dollars on all the gear above, but it’s really worth it if you want to step up the quality of audio you’re creating.

Monday, January 13, 2014

So Long, CodeMash!


After eight amazing years it’s time for me to step aside from CodeMash and let others bring new vision and energy to CodeMash. As of last Friday I’m no longer the President of the Board. I’ve stepped down, and Brian Prince is taking over.

It’s been eight wonderful years of working with amazing, tiny crew. We started off year zero of CodeMash with something around 220 attendees, speakers, and staff. I used “Almost 300 attendees!” as marketing schtick when trying to pimp the next year.

Oh how we’ve grown!

This year we had 220 family members signed up—the same amount as the first year’s total attendance! KidzMash (something I dreamed up with Jason Gilmore while on a short phone call during one of my long commutes) has grown to the point where they need two rooms and were nearly overflowing during the raffle.


This year there were roughly 2,000 attendees, speakers, and staff in attendance, and Jon Skeet’s morning talk in the main ballroom had more folks than either of our first two conferences!


CodeMash has been an incredible success for many, many reasons:

  • An wonderful venue whose staff are truly partners, and have become part of the CodeMash family
  • A tiny core of five to eight core organizers who are close friends. We succeed by absolute delegation and total responsibility for owing every detail of execution on our ideas.
  • A ruthless focus on keeping to our main ideals: kickass content on a broad range of topics. We constantly deflect neat ideas that don’t align with our mission.
  • Content selection committees that have sifted through hundreds of submissions each year to distill out amazing material. We’ve had between 600 – 800 submissions the last five years and that’s an incredible amount of work and stress to deal with!
  • World-class speakers who donate their time. (CodeMash’s financial model doesn’t enable us to cover travel expenses or stipends. Speakers are losing money while at CodeMash, although I’m proud that unlike many larger conferences we do cover speakers’ hotel nights.)

CodeMash isn’t unique in those things; however. There are larger conferences that have professional full-time staff. They plan and execute their conferences flawlessly with a great lineup of content presented at cool venues. What makes CodeMash truly different?


We’ve been blessed with a core of amazing attendees who bring great passion, true passion unlike the asinine “passion” marketing blabberspeak facile crap, to the conference. Attendees who spend as much time on the couches in the hallways talking in tiny groups as they do in breakout sessions with 120 folks. Attendees who honestly care about productive, not divisive, discussions with geeks who live and breathe in different platforms. Attendees who take what they’ve learned at CodeMash and return to work and life re-energized and willing to try a few new things.

It’s YOU who make CodeMash so great.

Thank you for all you’ve given me. It’s dwarfed what I’ve given.

So long, and thanks for all the fish. Or bacon.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Quick Switching Between Demo Configurations

I’ve got a couple demos where I have to do some quick code changes, rebuild a project, then get a browser opened up to show changes on the UI. The point of this is to help folks understand how to avoid tests breaking when the sort order changes, or columns move around on the UI.





Making my audience sit through the code changes is a waste of time—the code changes simply update sort and column order. My talk is on how to write good tests to deal with these situations, not show the code causing the changes.

Instead, I wired together a couple things to give me a hotkey that fires off the changes, builds the system, and launches a browser to the right page. First off is a Ruby script to copy files, build the project, and use Watir to launch the page:

require 'watir'
require 'optparse'
require 'fileutils'
def copy_start_files
    FileUtils.rm %w(Default.aspx Contacts.cs), :force => true
    FileUtils.cp("Contacts-Start.cs", "Contacts.cs")
    FileUtils.cp("Default-Start.aspx", "Default.aspx")
def copy_end_files
    FileUtils.rm %w(Default.aspx Contacts.cs), :force => true
    FileUtils.cp( "Contacts-End.cs", "Contacts.cs")
    FileUtils.cp( "Default-End.aspx", "Default.aspx")
def build_it
    system("C:\\Windows\\Microsoft.NET\\Framework\\v4.0.30319\\msbuild.exe RadControlsExamples.csproj")
def parse_opts
    $options = {}
    opts = OptionParser.new
    opts.banner = "Usage: ChangeSite [options]"
    opts.on("-s", "--start", "Set site to START") do
        $options[:start] = true
    opts.on("-e", "--end", "Set site to END") do
        $options[:end] = true
    opts.on("-h", "--help", "Display this screen") do
        puts opts
    if ($options[:start].nil? && $options[:end].nil?)
        puts "Missing options"
        puts opts
def launch_site
    $browser = Watir::Browser.start "http://localhost/WorkingWithLocators"
def do_the_work
    if $options[:start]
    if $options[:end]

No, this isn’t the most awesomesaucest Ruby ever, but it works. I’ll clean it up when I need to.

The next step is to wire this up in your favorite hotkey/launcher. I use SlickRun because it’s awesome.


Now I can use SlickRun to launch my Ruby script. I can continue engaging the audience while the system updates, builds, and a browser shows up with the new content.

There are many ways to solve this particular problem. The steps above are how I chose to do it this time. Hopefully it’s useful to you!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Video of .NET Rocks Testing Episode

Way back in November of 2011 I was manning a booth at DevConnections in Las Vegas. Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell got me on board for a .NET Rocks show to talk about my new position at Telerik, why Test Studio is awesome, and a lot of discussion around keeping your test suites maintainable.

We ended up having to re-record the .NET show; however, the great folks at Grape City (now part of ComponentOne) got a video of the show. I hadn’t realized they posted it, or more likely Russ told me and I totally forgot about it… Regardless of the why, I just stumbled across the recording last night and thought I’d point readers to it.

The audio’s got some crowd background noise, but the video turned out pretty well despite all the noise from the very crowded vendor hall.

We covered a very wide range of topics during this chat. I hope I managed to convey the importance of keeping everything around testing focused on informing stakeholders informed about risk in the system.

One note: at about the 9:00-ish point, Richard or Carl asked me about breaking tests out into parallel chunks. I went off on using one browser session over several tests, but that sort of missed the point. Yes, you can and should parallelize when possible!

I hope you enjoy the talk, even if it is a couple years old.

Monday, June 24, 2013

STC 2012 Keynote Video

Last December I was fortunate enough to be invited as one of several keynoters at Software Testing Conference 2012 in Bangalore, India.

I spoke on Test Automation for the Non-Technical Tester—the idea that folks with a background in manual or less-technical testing are often mystified and/or outright fearful of test automation. My talk’s about ensuring those skilled testers understand that getting the right amount of automation in place frees them to do real testing instead of rote repetition of horrible manual test cases.

The volume on this video is very, very low, but it’s pretty clean so you should be able to hear well if you pump up things locally.

You can find the accompanying deck, as usual, over at the awesome SpeakerDeck.

Hope you enjoy this!

My “It’s Not About You” Talk from KalX 2013 is live!

Mike Eaton invited me back to his KalamazooX Conference this last year. He was kind enough to put me in the opening spot—pretty tough considering the amazing set of folks that followed me.

My talk, It’s Not About You, got recorded and is posted up on Vimeo. (You can find the deck at my SpeakerDeck page.)

Jim Holmes - It's not about you from The Kalamazoo X Conference on Vimeo.

This talk’s about stuff that’s really important to me. I’m never happy with any of my talks, but that’s likely my own Impostor Syndrome taking over.

(PS: If you want to watch it in HD, you’ll have to watch it directly off the Vimeo page.)

I hope you like the talk, and I hope you get something out of it.