|How Google Tests Software|
|author||James Whittaker, Jason Arbon, Jeff Carollo|
|summary||Testing at Google scale|
After a brief introduction as to how testing has evolved over time at Google the book devotes a chapter to each of the key testing-related roles in the company: the 'Software Engineer in Test' (SET), the 'Test Engineer' (TE) and the 'Test Engineering Manager' (TEM). SETs are coders who focus on writing tests or frameworks and infrastructure to support other coders in their testing. The TE has a broader, less well-defined role and is tasked with looking at the bigger picture of the product in question and its impact on users and how it fits into the broader software ecosystem. These two sections form the bulk of the book in terms of pages and interesting content. The TEM is essentially what the name says — someone who manages testers and testing and coordinates these activities at a higher level within Google.
The descriptions of each of these testing roles highlights the ways Google's thinking about testing has matured and also shows how some of these approaches differ from other companies. There are also explanations of the tools and processes that people in these roles use and follow and this for me was the most interesting part of the book. Topics covered include: specific bug tracking and test plan creation tools; risk analysis; test case management over time; and automated testing. Particularly of note are discussions on using bots to perform testing of web pages to detect differences between software releases, cutting down on the amount of human interaction required as well as the opposite approach — using more humans via "crowd sourced testing" among first internal and then select groups of external users. The tools that Google utilizes to simplify tester's jobs by recording steps to reproduce bugs and simplifying bug reporting and management sound very useful. Many of the tools described in the book are open source (or soon to be opened) and are probably worth following up on and investigating if this is what you do for a living.
In addition to the main body of text most chapters also include interviews with Google staff on various testing related topics. Some of these are genuinely interesting and give the reader a good idea of how testing is tackled at Google on a practical level. However some of the interviews fall into the "navel gazing" camp (especially when the authors interview one of themselves) and feel more like filler material. I enjoyed the interviews with Google hiring staff the most — their take on how they recruit people for testing roles and the types of questions they ask and qualities they look for make a lot of sense. The interview with the GMail TEM was also good and illustrated how the concepts described in the book are actually performed in practise. The interviews are clearly marked and can thus be easily skipped or skim read but one wonders what more useful text could have been included in their place.
The book wraps up with a chapter that attempts to describe how Google intends to improve their testing in the future. The most valuable point here is how testing as a separate function could "disappear" as it becomes part and parcel of the product being developed like any other feature, and thus the responsibility of all of the people working on the product as opposed to it being a separate thing. Another key point made throughout the book is how the state of testing at Google is constantly in flux which makes sense in such a fast moving and innovative company but leaves one questioning how much of this book will still be relevant in a few year's time.
How Google Tests Software isn't a bad book but neither is it a great one. It has some good parts and will be worth reading for those who are interested in "all things Google." For everyone else I'd recommend skimming through to the parts that grab your attention most and glossing over the rest.
You can purchase How Google Tests Software from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.