QW2000 Paper 6W2

Ms. Lisa Crispin

Stranger in a Strange Land -- Bringing Quality Assurance to a Web Startup


Key Points

Presentation Abstract

It perhaps goes without saying that a Web startup is not an environment in which quality testing is typically found. Development is fast and loose. Many developers are inexperienced. They're racing to be first to market. One might be tempted to label the environment as chaotic.

When I accepted the opportunity of being the first test engineer at TRIP.com, only 25 people worked for the Web startup. The developers had produced some exciting applications and felt they were ready to "grow up and play with the big boys." The development team thought they were intellectually prepared to introduce standards and procedures.

In reality, development was frenetic, and the developers didn't have a clue as to how to stop and analyze their processes, much less how to impose discipline on them.

For my part, I was a complete stranger to Web development. For years I had been testing databases, 4-GLs, and client/server software on UNIX, NT, and Windows platforms. I spoke ODBC, but not JDBC. I knew my customers. In my experience, the software development cycle had stretched on for months or even years-during which your typical Web application has gone though numerous incarnations.

This is the story of how I learned about Web application development, preached the quality gospel, and collaborated with the software and product developers and marketing managers to implement development standards and project processes that build quality into our applications. TRIP.com now employs 200 people, has three million registered customers, and has introduced such cutting-edge products such as intelliTRIP and companyTRIP.

About the Author

I have 18 years experience in the industry with the last 9 in Testing and Quality Assurance. I began my career as a programmer with the University of Texas Data Processing Division, where I helped develop the Online Catalog and circulation systems. My QA experience before my current job was with database, 4GL and client/server software on UNIX, NT and Windows at medium to large software companies Software AG (now SAGA), Unidata (now Ardent Software).

I started my current job at TRIP.com in March of 1998 with little knowledge of the Web and no experience working in a startup environment. I was the first test engineer no testing had been done previously even though the site had been online more than a year. The challenge of building quality into Web applications while meeting extremely tight development cycles has taught me much. We have grown from a test department of one (me) to seven test engineers, and I have been promoted to 'Quality Boss.' We test state-of-the-art, first-of-their-kind applications such as our intelliTRIP product which uses software from BEA Weblogic, StoryServer, and On Display to query partner airline Web sites for best fares. In addition, we play a key role in finding ways to build quality into applications and prevent errors before coding. To this end, I have been instrumental in implementing a configuration management tool as well as unit testing and memory/performance analysis tools. I work closely with Marketing and Product Management on process definition, formatting of specification documents, and planning.

Our latest testing challenge has been to move our Web sites to a new hardware and software configuration with two mirrored data centers running load-balanced clustered UNIX servers. TRIP.com has shown its commitment to quality by providing us with a test environment that exactly matches that of production: the same hardware, the same database, and a separate but equal network, so that we can effectively load test.

I have given successful presentations at both local and international user conferences to audiences of up to 60 people. I have many years experience training both technical and end users.