Goin’ Mobile with an STP Online Summit

Pete Townshend wrote Goin’ Mobile (for the Who’s 'Next' album) back about the time I was born, but I've been hearing it my head lately. One lyric from the song is: “When I'm drivin' free, the world's my home” -- a reference to travelling in an RV (in the UK they might call it a caravan), your own house on wheels. The modern re-interpretation of this gypsy fad from the 1970’s is paralleled in how we now take our electronic “homes” with us on the road. Our computing experiences are increasingly goin’ mobile.

This past week I supported and presented at the Software Test Professional’s STP Online Summit: Insights on Deploying a Mobile Testing Strategy. If you’ve never attended an online STP Summit, you really should. This is different from casual webinars or online lunch-n-learns -- it’s more like a virtual one-on-one training, with dedicated panel of professionals, highly interactive discussions in the “STP Crew” site, and access to evolving content as the summit proceeds.

On Tuesday, Matt Johnston from UTest gave an introduction to SOLOMO (social, local, mobile) and overview of that market landscape, and presented a robust understanding of the pressure that testers are under to adapt their skills. The main thing that I heard was that marketing professionals don’t make good testers, even though they are increasingly becoming the business sponsors for IT projects when it comes to mobile applications. These SOLOMO business sponsors are pushing developers and testers so hard and so fast to deliver apps that testing can easily get overlooked.  Matt encouraged testers to be proactive and be protective about testing mobile.

Karen Johnson reviewed in expansive detail how the entire environment for a mobile application is completely different from the normal applications we have tested historically.  This is especially true for how we interact with mobile applications, as UX designs have a different context for usage and interaction.  She covered some great suggested books like Theresa Neil’s “Mobile Design Pattern Gallery” as a way to upgrade your testing skills to the latest mobile UX techniques.

On Wednesday Dan Bartow from SOASTA offered up something different from his usual performance presentations. This time the focus was on SOASTA's new mobile functional automation solution -- which is very unobtrusive to the mobile application running live on the device.  He showed a live demo connecting SOASTA’s CloudTest Lite to the mobile device over wifi and made it look easy!  Another key takeaway from Dan’s presentation was that automation tools are all scrambling to support more and more gestures (touching the device screen/interface) in an easy way, which reminded me of old GUI automation (which used to be the race to support both analog recording and context-sensitive, object-based record and replay.)  Mobile touch-sensitive interfaces have brought a whole new challenge to automation tools.

I presented with Srikanth Gullapalli from Cognizant on Wednesday as well, and we dove as deeply as we could into performance testing, diagnostics and profiling for mobile applications…in less than an hour. Our presentation focused on the application’s performance optimization for the local device platform, which needs to be conducted together with load testing of the back-end server and network load testing.

Dan Cornell jumped into mobile application security testing, and Dan’s presentation was the most comprehensive presentation I’ve ever encountered on the subject – amazing that he got through all of it in just one hour. One thing I got from the presentation is that with the increased use of mobile applications comes an increase in mobile data. Given that any mobile device is physically easier to steal and compromise (typically unlocked/insecure), the mobile applications we use absolutely should be more secure than desktops. He covered vulnerabilities at the service layer in use by mobile applications requiring a combination of static, dynamic and forensic analysis and testing.

On Thursday there were presentations from Peter Dimitopoulos giving a retrospective on the mobile evolution culminating in the modern mobile revolution from 2008-onward.  He pointed out that fragmentation (e.g. unmanaged diversity of devices, os, apps, ux) presents the biggest challenge to testers who seek to make a solid and lasting determination about quality for a mobile application.  (I thought: yeah, nothing about mobile testing is solid or lasting).  In light of the demand for faster turn around time on testing feedback and defects, testers are under more pressure than ever due to mobile. 

Then the biggest tweeter of Summit topics, JeanAnn Harrison, led the Summit deep into mobile GUI functional testing into the hardware; into the firmware, battery, temperature sensors, peripherals. One suggestion for testers needing to dig this deep into a mobile test is to purchase a volt meter, and maybe pickup a temperature sensor. For normal software-only testers this might seem like overkill, but consider an application that requires high power (battery) or CPU to function properly. It would be good to know which top five devices would work best to recommend to customers and which five to avoid completely. To wrap things up, Scott and the crew had an open panel discussion with the top ten tips for mobile testing.

This is my second experience participating and presenting in an STP Online Summit and there are two great things that stick with me at this point. First, it’s completely convenient for busy people who can’t take off from home or work for a week-long conference. And I like virtual conferences because I can really tune-in to the entire set of content in the presentations, crew discussion forums, twitter and other side chats. It’s a multi-media party! Second, it’s a cost-effective means for professional development in an age where most employers have limited funding or permission to send testers to get additional training in the craft. 

The Summit consists of 9 sessions that are design to dig deeper into the topic than you could get in a normal conference. If you feel like you’re stagnating or outdated in your profession as a tester, the online summit can give you that leap back into the game and moving ahead.

Or, as Pete Townshend wrote, “Keep me movin', groovin', groovin', yeah, Movin', Yeah

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