Recently, I have been struggling with attacking a backlog of automation test cases. I took a much needed break to spend the weekend scrapbooking with a friend. We drove out of town to attend a crop, or gathering of scrapbook hobbyists for those not in the scrapbooking scene. I certainly wasn’t the most experienced, with some scrappers having been scrapbooking for more than 15 years, but I wasn’t the most novice either since one attendee had never made a page before. I met some new friends, ate too much, made some lovely art involving photographs, and learned something useful.

The scrapbooking consultant was pleased to have some newbies attending a crop for the first time. She shared this advice with us: start scrapping your most recent photos. When we started to protest, she assured us that we would have the most energy to attack this problem rather than trying to start at the bottom of the stack of photographs that we have accumulated for years and years. Then, we would feel encouraged to continue with the project of picking up older images to stylize in our layouts.

This suggestion appealed to me since I found the most enthusiasm for a recent trip I had taken to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I felt less concern about leaving earlier photographs to languish in their boxes and ended up producing much more in the time I had available. Since my friend was working on the same subject matter, we encouraged each other and even collaborated on some great design ideas.

Prevent a Bail Out

Now that I am back from this refreshing play and getting down to business at work, I find that this lesson resonates with my automation work as well. The most stale test cases are much less appealing and much less fresh in the minds of the developers who collaborate with me on the automation project. In addition, we have an opportunity to make this new code more testable and more automatable rather than having to work around some part of the existing code base that wasn’t written with this end in mind. The automation code becomes more maintainable. The real win is to stop the flow of automation opportunities straight into the backlog that we then have to bail out later, effectively plugging the leak. When we approach the stories in the current sprint as automation candidates, we know that we may have some rework in the future, but that is part of writing code, whether in a product or a a meta-product like automation.

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