The Half Dome Syndrome

Posted Apr 2nd, 2011

Thanks and a hat-tip to Dale Emery for his authentic, anguished tweet triggered by the “zero programming” required benefit cited in our announcement of Sauce Builder yesterday.

In his angst, Dale highlights the need for Sauce Labs to communicate its view on automated testing in general, the role of record and playback capabilities and most specifically about skills correlated with the establishment of successful automated software testing systems.  With this post, we set ourselves about that task. Let’s start with a metaphor.  

Consider visitors to Yosemite’s Half Dome:

Standing in the valley at the base of Half Dome’s legendary vertical wall, they may look up and see exultant climbers at the top, and think about how wonderful it must be to be up there, with such a clear and far reaching view.  But as the valley visitors stand looking up that sheer face, they feel frustration borne of the impossibility of scaling it. 

So they snap a few pictures, buy some souvenirs, then board the bus back home. Some visitors notice a trail leading off to the side, a non-obvious way to the top.  While certainly not the most direct route, they decide to pursue it in the hopes that somehow, by hook or by crook, they may reach that top so they too can enjoy that clear and far reaching view.  Some of those aspirants may reach the top. 

Others may wander about in the woods for extended periods.  They may even lose sight of the fact that reaching the top was the original goal.  Of those who reach the top, they may notice that the face-climbers carry special tools (pitons, ropes, karabiners hexes and so forth) and set about learning how to adopt and use those as a more direct way to ascend.   Of course the vast majority of Half Dome climbers begin exactly this way.  

And so it is with automated software testing. The sheer-face climbers skillfully hand code tests in the language of their application and know the virtues and method of the page object model. But the significant majority of the world's 5+ million practicing software test professionals do not. 

The well established trend toward the need of programming skills in the world of agile software QA accompanies a fast-rising need for professionals skilled in open source automation tools like Selenium.  Sauce Labs lives in that world.  We don't want the valley visitors to get back on the bus.  We aim to provide them with both the documentation and the tools to help them begin today to become better climbers, and provide a realistic path.

To date, we have focused our products and our communication pretty heavily toward the experienced sheer-face climbers.  With Sauce Builder, we begin to expand our coverage to address the needs of the valley visitors who aspire to climb.  

While we continue to craft tools and systems for the sheer-face crowd, watch this space for a growing body of work on how to climb the just-getting-started path. So, in hindsight, our Sauce Builder announcement ought have said “zero programming required to get started.” 

Thank you again to Dale Emery for drawing our attention, and for creating the opening for us to begin this communication process.  

Stay tuned for further expression of Sauce Labs’ view on the practice, process and technology of manual and automated software testing in the new age of agile development and open source tool chains and deployment platforms.

Written by

John Dunham


Agile DevelopmentSoftware Testing