Five Patterns for Test Automation: STARWEST 2015 Interview with Matt Griscom


In this interview, TechWell speaks with Matt Griscom, a software professional with twenty years of experience creating software, including innovative test automation. At STARWEST 2015, he gave the presentation "MetaAutomation: Five Patterns for Test Automation."

Jennifer Bonine: Hello, I can't believe it's already time for our virtual conference, and we're back at STARWEST. We're here with our first virtual interview, so I've got Matt Griscom with me. Hi, Matt.

Matt Griscom: Hey, it's good to meet you, Jennifer.

Jennifer Bonine: Thanks for being here. Why don't you tell us, Matt, for those out there watching who maybe haven't had a chance to meet you or attend one of your talks, just a little bit about yourself, your background and how you got into testing, and how you ended up here at this conference?

Matt Griscom: Okay, oh, this, I could go on for hours. Hello, my name is Matt Griscom, and basically, I have two degrees in physics. I've done some teaching. I've done software development and ended up in testing, especially on test automation, automating verifications. I became frustrated by the state of the art and what people were asking me to do, and so ultimately, I ended up inventing MetaAutomation, which is a pattern language.

Jennifer Bonine: Yup. Now, so do you have books on this MetaAutomation framework that you built?

Matt Griscom: I do.

Jennifer Bonine: Okay.

Matt Griscom: I have a book out and published in December, and it's also in the bookstore here at the conference.

Jennifer Bonine: Okay, fairly new that the book’s been available to the public, but you have a blog on MetaAutomation, correct?

Matt Griscom: I do, yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: If people wanted to learn more about MetaAutomation, maybe just give us a high-level—I know it's a pattern—maybe some of the differences of that to what they might be more familiar with, or some of the traditional uses or frameworks that we have for automation, just to give them an idea of what that is.

Matt Griscom: MetaAutomation is about making people be more productive and achieve greater goals with automated verifications around their software. Part of that comes with the first realization, which is a little bit hard-hitting, is that test automation is actually a contradiction in terms—because it's not the test that you're automating, and you're not doing industrial automation. You don't care about the product output, you're just making it do stuff. What you do care about is the quality of measurements, and that's what MetaAutomation has you focus on, and that's the topic of the first pattern in the language, atomic check. It tells you how to focus on the business requirements of the software product and get a measurement of that—some information about the product and put that in pure data—maybe that comes a little bit later. There's a lot to it.

Some of the things I advocate for, I have noticed that people are starting to do on their own—for example, having their checks be short and simple. And a check is simply a type of a test. It's a type of a test where it's all pre-programmed verifications. We're not doing exploratory testing, and they're not smart like a human tester is smart; they're always indispensable. With checks, it makes it clear that we are going to measure something different about the quality.

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