AppiumConf 2018 is now, weirdly, a thing of the past. (Well, it took place the other week, so what’s weird about it being in the past? The reason is that so much of the conference was devoted to looking forward to the future!) Still, the echoes of inspiration continue to reverberate through my thoughts, and I’m sure many other attendees would say the same thing—or maybe it’s just the jet lag playing ping pong with the caffeine withdrawal. Anyway, as I predicted, the conference was a ton of fun, and held together by a good mix of content and stellar organization. Here are some of the highlights from my perspective:
The Opening Keynote
The creator of Selenium (Jason Huggins) and the creator of Appium (Dan Cuellar) teamed up to present a fireside-chatty discussion of Appium’s origins, and then led us into the 30,000-foot view of where Appium is headed. The latter is, of course, the world of StarDriver—“WebDriver for everything”—and if WebDriver itself doesn’t cut it, then whatever we as a community can generalize WebDriver into. And as for interesting facts about Appium’s origins: did you know that Jason Huggins almost ushered Dan Cuellar offstage before giving the lightning talk which debuted what later became Appium, because Dan was having technical difficulties with his computer? Who knows what would have happened in that alternate reality where Dan never got to present at SeleniumConf 2012! (Hugs claims he would have just put Dan at the end of the queue to try again, but that is less dramatic and sounds like fake news to me).
The Case Studies
One big theme for AppiumConf was thoughtful discussion of how Appium enabled successful automation of a wide variety of apps and platforms. From The Two Chars' talk on how they built a solid and maintainable framework using Appium at CapitalOne, to Canberk Akduygu’s discussion of inter-device testing of messaging apps, including central synchronization, we got lots of insight into the flexibility of Appium as a foundation for a diversity of automation applications. Wim Selles gave us the run-down on his journey of choosing Appium for React Native automation, which was especially interesting because of the detailed criteria used in his decision, which are undoubtedly valuable to the many teams which are evaluating React Native as a technology. Finally, Prachi Nagbal showed how Appium can become an integral part of UI layout testing using a tool like Galen, made easy because Appium is a drop-in replacement for Selenium when it comes to mobile web!
The Creative Tips and Workarounds
Probably the most interesting talks for me were the ones where we learned clever and often non-obvious ways to achieve something new using Appium. Ru Cindrea discovered a way to stuff an Appium driver into Unity 3d games, opening up a whole new field of automation that we didn’t think was possible. Rajdeep Verma showed a novel way to crack open Appium's black box testing model just a bit, to let some light shine into the internals of your application. Using his technique, it’s possible to call app-internal methods from your Appium scripts, in order to set up state, speed up tests, or do other (admittedly potentially stupid and dangerous) things. Telmo Cardoso revealed how his team was able to get around many of the limitations that have plagued real device automation for years, for example changing WiFi status.
Several talks graced us with a deeper dive into Appium’s server or ecosystem code, for example Isaac Murchie’s brief tour of the Appium logs and how they can be read with an eye to solving errors. Budi Utomo gave a compelling demo of the appium-docker-android project which he maintains, and how in conjunction with Selenium grid it could help to run a variety of emulator configurations in parallel. Finally, Daniel Puterman walked us through the process of becoming an Appium contributor, referencing a large set of features that his team at Applitools contributed to the Appium project for the sake of making visual testing easier.
The Passion & Inspiration
The Spirit Award goes without a doubt to Kristel Kruustük, whose passion and energy went unmatched! She told the fascinating story of how an idea and a hackathon turned into a successful crowd testing platform, and peppered her talk with advice and reflections. For example, when starting a company the team, and how well it functions, matters as much or more than the product. And just as importantly: we should never let fear get in our way.
The Rock & Roll
I had the privilege of closing out AppiumConf, and I brought something extra special to help me with the task: the Appium rock band! After an exposition of where I think Appium needs to go in the next 5 years and how we might get there, I got down to business with a ukulele, a collection of Appium and Selenium servers, and a mix of browsers, simulators, and real devices. Appium played drums, bass, and electric guitar, while I used my analog self to do the rest. The song was an original piece called “Ghost in the Machine”: an ironic musical reflection on the nature of humanity in a post-human, technically-transcendent reality that may not be too far off. Woah! That’s, like... deep. As I told the AppiumConf attendees, the one thing you should never automate away is yourself.
In sum, AppiumConf was an awesome beginning to what I hope will become a recurring event. Talking to attendees throughout the day or at the after-party, there was a real sense of excitement and inspiration taken away from the talks and from the conversations. The organizers did a fantastic job. What else can I say? It was great. And that’s it for now—stay tuned for news of AppiumConf 2019!