In any app release, testing plays a vital role in the development process and valuable lessons can be learned from Twitter’s approach to testing – what it calls dogfooding – in the build and release schedule for an app, according to Twitter’s director of engineering Jeff Seibert.
Seibert, who spoke at October’s Apps World Europe in London, will again be on hand to share his wisdom with the US market at Apps World North America, taking place in San Francisco February 5-6. At 2pm on day one of the Developer World track, Siebert will deliver a keynote entitled Developing for Billions, which will examine how Twitter structures engineering to develop, test and maintain an app with so many users, allowing for automated testing and continuous integration.
He says developers must do all they can to make mobile app development more agile and says part of this is around better scheduling, overlapping functions such as planning and testing and ensuring the company is testing for usability as well as catching edge cases. “After we have merged everything it’s ready for a dogfood build where we send it to everyone in the company. Staff can go and see the latest code being worked on and can give feedback through the app. We have pretty continual dogfooding throughout the year, which keeps up the pace and makes sure everyone knows what’s coming,” Seibert says.
He says Twitter’s 2,000 or so staff are now well used to this process. “They download from an internal website, which automatically messages the server for updates and sends them out to users when a new dogfood build is out,” he says. The product managers are then responsible for collating and managing the feedback in the same way as with external testing.
“The biggest challenge with dogfooding is you need people to use it and to report on it. By increasing the frequency of sending out dogfood builds people are more used to testing,” says Siebert. And to speed up development he says dogfood builds should be thought of in the same way as a full release. “Let’s imagine dogfood is a release. If you look at it like another release it fits more naturally in the development process,” he says.
By having internal dogfood testing an extra layer of security, and indeed product development happens. “The end-user effect is we are launching stuff every week or every two weeks rather than every month so from the user’s point of view we are marching incredibly quickly,” he says.
He says mobile needs the same flexibility as the web. “The goal needs to go back to how can we make what the web world has done so well and bring that to mobile. If we can shift it more continually the quality of apps will rise and end users will be happier,” he says.
See Seibert present his keynote at 2pm on day one within the complimentary Developer World conference track. Other keynote speakers in the track include Nick Evans, CEO and Founder of Tile. Book your free place at the Apps World expo and Developer World track by clicking here or upgrade to a Gold Pass, discounted until 10th January, for access to the entire content of the two day show.