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Why I like Cucumber (beyond BDD)

There is a sentiment in software development that if you do not have a working BDD practice then Cucumber is just unnecessary overhead. I understand this position, but I disagree, based on my own experience and my own practice. I find Cucumber is particularly valuable in automated browser tests.

I've been using Cucumber for automated browser tests at work just about every day for the last six years or so. At the same time, I have never worked with a full-on BDD team. Beyond BDD, here are three aspects of Cucumber I find particularly valuable:

Cucumber creates a low barrier to entry for anyone at any time to contribute and understand the project.Cucumber's Given/When/Then syntax provides a design guide particularly well suited for browser tests, especially using "When" in a particular way.When a test fails, Cucumber provides a plain-English description of what the test does that may not be immediately apparent from the code or the nature of the failure.
I tend to write b…

Watir: the first five years

Some of the Watir community has been discussing the history of the project. Here I try to set down some notable things that I remember about that time.

We have to start the story of Watir with Ruby. The first English documentation for Ruby was published in 2000, and it garnered a lot of interest, particularly as it was so amenable to creating Domain Specific Languages (DSLs), which caught the attention of a number of people working in testing, and in the Agile world. Python 2.0 also came out in 2000, and the dominant scripting language at the time was Perl.

Of all the browsers available at that time, only Internet Explorer exposed an API for automating browser actions, via a COM interface. In 2001, Chris Morris published a Ruby library that exploited IE's COM interface called WTR, for Web Testing in Ruby.

At that time, Open Source software was often seen as inferior or even downright suspicious, and was poorly understood by most businesses. Test automation products were exclusively …

Long Term Remote Pair Programming a Complex Project

This is the story of a really great project I did while working for Salesforce.org. I have done a significant amount of remote pair programming over the last ten years, but this project was extraordinary in a number of ways. For one thing, it was a really complicated problem that demanded a technically advanced solution. For another thing, it took almost an entire year to finish-- one hour per week.
The Problem I will try to give you the background in a way such that your eyes don't glaze over: in order to work with data in a Salesforce instance via the API, you address "Objects" and "Fields".  (These are actually tables in a database that may be addressed by a poor and crippled version of SQL.) For example, here is a description of the Account object whose first field is AccountNumber.

If you are a developer on the Salesforce platform, you can add your own Field to the Account object, but you have to append '__c' to it, like "MyField__c". Yo…

Who I Am and Where I Am January 2018

As of January 2018 I resigned my position as "Senior Member of the Technical Staff, Quality Assurance" at Salesforce.org. I have more than twenty years experience in testing user interfaces and APIs across a wide variety of platforms. If you would like to contact me, my DMs on Twitter are open or by email at christopher dot mcmahon at gmail. I do not use Facebook, LinkedIn, or Skype.

I have been working remotely for more than ten years. I enjoy telecommuting, it suits me nicely. In the past decade I have lived all over the western United States, including some time in Hawaii.

Here are some points from my career that help tell the story of how I came to be here today:

In 1997 I started testing 911 telecom location services, life-critical software for police/fire/ambulance dispatching for most of the USA. I tested these systems through Y2K and beyond. We saved the world. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

In 2004 I was, as far as anyone knows, the first person ever t…