Don Quixote's new side-kick, Hudson 06 Sep 2008
slide software development hudson

I recently wrote about "one-line automated testing" by way of Hudson, a Java-based tool that helps to automate building and test processes (akin to Cruise Control and Buildbot). If you were to read this blog regularly, you'd be well aware that I work primarily with Python these days, at a web company no less! What does a web company need with a continuous integration tool? Especially if they're not using a compiled language like Java or C# (heresy!).

As any engineering organization grows, it's bound to happen that you reach a critical mass of developers and either need to hire an equitable critical mass of QA engineers, or start to approach quality assurance from all sides. That is to say, automated unit testing and automated integration testing becomes a requirement for growing both as a engineering organization but as a web application provider (user's don't like broken web applications). With web products like Top Friends, SuperPoke! and Slide FunSpace we have a large amount of ever-changing code, that has been in a constant state of flux for the past 16-18 months. We can accomodate for ever-changing code on the backend for the past year and half with PyUnit and development discipline.

How do you deal with months of ever changing code for the aforementinoned products' front-ends? Your options are pretty slim, you can hire a legion of black-box QA engineers to manually go through regression tests and ensure your products are in tip-top shape, or you can hire a few talented black-box QA engineers to conscript a legion of robots to go through regression tests and ensure your products are in tip-top shape. Enter Windmill. Windmill is a web browser testing framework not entirely unlike Selenium or Watir with two major exceptions: Windmill is written in Python and Windmill has a great recorder (and lots of other features). One of my colleagues at Slide, Adam Christian has been working tirelessly to push Windmill further and prepare it for enterprise adoption, the first enterprise to use it, Slide.

Adam and I have been working on bringing the two ends of the testing world together with Hudson. About half of the jobs currently running inside of our Hudson installation are running PyUnit tests on various Subversion and Git branches. The other half of the jobs are running Windmill tests, and reporting back into Hudson by way of Adam's JUnit-compatible reporting code. Thanks to the innate flexibility of PyUnit and Windmill's reporting infrastructure we were able to tie all these loose ends together with a tool like Hudson that will handle Jabber-notifications or email notifications when test-runs fail and include details in it's reports.

We're still working out the kinks in the system, but to date this set up has helped us fix at least one critical issue a week (with a numerous other minor issues) since we've launched the Hudson system, more often than not before said issues reach the live site and real users. If you've got questions about Windmill or Hudson you can stop by the #windmill or the #hudson channels on Freenode.

Automated testing is like a really good blend of coffee, until you have it, you think "bah! I don't need that!" but after you start with it you can't help but wonder how you could tolerate the swill you used to drink.

Did you know! Slide is hiring! Looking for talented engineers to write some good Python and/or JavaScript, feel free to contact me at tyler[at]slide