PDX Tech Talks Monthly #3 - PDX Selenium User Group

When I discovered Portland has a meet-up dedicated to Selenium and test automation, I was interested. Then I noticed they were meeting in Jive’s cool office downtown, and became double interested. Selenium is a popular free tool used to automate website testing, which folks on my team have started evaluating. The Jive office was recently featured in big budget Tech Town Portland video. Yes, it’s the one the cameras flew around in a drone helicopter. Needless to say I was excited to check it out. 

Chris showing us some test results

The Event – PDX Selenium User Group

Attending a user group for the first time is very enlightening. These groups attract local experts who share enthusiasm for a particular technology. It’s fun to swap stories with peers about how your company is using a tool or language. For me, it was impressive to see how many people from local companies were involved in and excited about automated testing.

The first speaker, Chris Cowell-Shah, described how Jive used Robot Framework to create a suite of tests for their browser-based product. The framework allows you to create simple keywords that can be used to execute Selenium tests (and other things). It’s supposed to make writing tests easy, and apparently it works, as Chris noted they’ve amassed a huge number of tests.

The second speaker, Jive alumni and current Nike-er James Lee, described a custom test framework he built for Jive. His tool measured things like page loading speed and the size of JavaScript included on each page. When pages suddenly slowed down or became huge, his test noticed the problem and the developer was alerted to investigate. Apparently Jive’s customers love fast web pages, and accidentally slowing them down is not an option. James approach involved some serious code and fun statistical concepts like standard deviation measurement and outlier elimination.

Who I Met

I chatted with Pedro Perez de Tejada who works downtown at PreCash. Pedro recently moved up from San Francisco to lead an automated testing initiative that makes use of the Robot Framework. He’s a big fan of the tool and loves how it enables non-programming types to write tests. I also talked to the event’s co-organizer, James Eisenhauer, who commented on the trend of consultant groups forming that specialize in test automation (e.g. event sponsor Sauce Labs).

What I Learned

Chris pointed out that maintainability is a big concern when it comes to programmatic tests. His team ended up wishing they had fewer tests that were more focused. Both James Lee and Chris mentioned that a certain percentage of the time, Selenium tests fail for no easily discernible reason. They said it’s tough to make the tests 100% reliable and instead focused on mechanisms to re-run when strange Selenium failures were detected.

I also learned that all web browers record useful stats like how long it takes for JavaScript to load, when the page becomes visible or clickable, etc. There’s a standard way to retrieve that data from the browser for analysis.

Wrap Up

Automated testing can be very useful and lots of local folks are doing it. If you’re interested in getting started with Selenium or improve your existing test suite, you should definitely check out this meet-up.

Next Month

As I mentioned last month, I think “The Internet of Things” is a tech trend with a lot of momentum. Apparently theirs a meet-up for that: Thing Tuesday. Awesome! I’ll try to check out their next event on July 9th at Puppet Labs.

PDX Tech Talks Monthly #2 - Lunch 2.0 @ OTBC


When I heard last week that Lunch 2.0 was being hosted conveniently near my workplace in Beaverton, I was compelled to stop by and check it out. Lunch 2.0 doesn't make it out to the west side all that often, so I couldn't resist. If this keeps up I may have to rename this series of posts to “Tech Talks Weekly”!


The Event - Lunch 2.0 hosted by OTBC

The idea behind Lunch 2.0 is great: You visit a local startup or shared workspace, hear about what they’re doing, eat free lunch, and talk with folks in the tech biz. Not a bad way to spend the noon hour, right? The events are coordinated by startup aficionado Rick Turoczy and are located at a different startup each month. 

This month’s Lunch 2.0 was hosted by OTBC (Oregon Technology Business Center), one of the original local startup accelerators. What does an accelerator do? Here’s a description from their website:

OTBC provides coaching, networking events, entrepreneurship programs, and shared office space to help tech, biotech, cleantech and opentech start-up ventures succeed


 Richard Clem of MotivatedApps presenting at OTBC 

Richard Clem of MotivatedApps presenting at OTBC 

Founders from four of the resident startups (Sonivate, EcoLogistics, MotivatedApps and Metamocracy) gave a quick presentation about their companies. Most of the folks in attendance were angel investors, veteran startup founders, and tech enthusiasts like me.

Who I Met

Two of the people I met were the sole employee of their company: Daren Lewis of LeadingVisually and Richard Clem of MotivatedApps. Darren said he appreciates all the tools available these days that enable him to run his communications consultancy as a single-person operation. Richard explained how much he enjoys working at OTBC, as opposed to a home office, because of the camaraderie of fellow entrepreneurs dealing with similar challenges.

What I Learned

I’m starting to realize that the "Internet of Things" trend is bigger than I thought. Most of the entrepreneurs were buzzing about it, and they are excellent indicators of where the market is going. Here’s my bold prediction: five years from now 25% of the people reading this post will be working on a “connected device” product.

Wrap Up

Do you eat lunch and enjoy talking tech? Perfect! I highly recommend checking out a Lunch 2.0 next time it’s in your neighborhood. It’s a great way to meet some of the smartest folks in the PDX tech scene.

Next Month

I’m still planning on heading to the PDX Selenium User Group later this month. I also noticed that Lunch 2.0 is being hosted at Jive Software on August 14th. If you saw the awesome TechTownPDX video last week, Jive’s office was the one featured in the gratuitous drone-helicopter-flyby shot. To call that awesome is surely an understatement.

PDX Tech Talks Monthly #1 - Ignite TAO

To kick-off my monthly series on Portland tech events, here’s a recap of the inspiring “Ignite TAO v4” event I attended last Thursday with 300 of my PDX techie peers.

The Event – Ignite TAO


This was my second time seeing an Ignite TAO, which is hosted in the Alberta Rose Theatre. At Ignite events, 20 speakers give 5-minute presentations. Each presentation consists of 20 slides. That’s 15 seconds per slide, so they go by super fast, leading to lightning-quick and often hilarious high-level talks. I’m always impressed with the speakers’ ability to jam all their info into that small time-frame, and I definitely learned a lot.

I've been to several Ignite Portland events, which attract huge crowds to the Bagdad Theatre and cover a broad range of topics. I really appreciate the tech-focused nature of Ignite TAO, though. It’s organized by the Technology Association of Oregon and provides a good venue for folks in the PDX tech biz to socialize their ideas. 

Who I Met

I bumped into fellow Willamette grad Reno Brown, who recently co-founded the startup Fluentry with two other Monsoon alumni. Apparently the Monsoon-to-startup transition is catching on! I also met smart folks from iSite Design, local start-up graphAlchemist, the pdx Selenium Users Group organizers, and many more. Being able to chat with the presenters about their ideas at the after-party was awesome.

What I Learned

Compelling (and opposing) arguments were put forth by Adam Light that “scrum is smart” and by Frank D'Andrea that “scrum is dumb”. I agree! I learned that large, multi-national corporations like ADP are working on automating their software deployment process, much the same way we are at Kryptiq. My favorite was Santos Cash’s presentation about the “iCloset”, where I learned that the “Internet of Things” trend inevitably leads to my closet tweeting me an alert that my co-worker will be wearing the same shirt as me to work today. Hilarious, but true.

Videos of all the presentations are posted up here.

Wrap Up

I highly recommend checking out Ignite TAO v5. It’ll be in the fall and the theme will be health care tech. I’ll try to convince one of the extroverts in Kryptiq’s marketing team to present something :)

Next Month

The PDX Selenium and Test Automation User Group is meeting June 20th to discuss “How Jive does Selenium based in browser performance testing.” Sounds interesting, I'm in. See you there?