IP&TV News talks to the BBC Testing Manger (and Apps World keynote) Paul Rutter about how his team helps ensure world renowned apps such as iPlayer are ready for mass consumption…
IP&TV News: Hi Paul. So what’s your role as Testing Manger involve?
Paul Rutter: The Test Manager role is responsible for testing for mobile iPlayer, iPlayer Radio, Chromecast and our Mobile Application Platform.
We also run our Mobile Compatibility Program, a team that looks at new devices or new operating systems that are either hitting the market or are about to. So at the moment we’re looking at Android M and iOS 9 on behalf of all the BBC mobile app products.
How do you think the emphasis is distinct in managing tests for the BBC as opposed to a commercial broadcaster?
I’ve never worked for a commercial organisation doing mobile stuff, so it’s difficult for me to talk from experience, but we’re obviously interested in reach and audience appreciation.
What would you say is the unifying principal for all the BBC’s testing?
It’s about collaborating. That is, testers collaborating with developers early and closing the feedback loop. We often used to have big long testing phases where we might have to wait a week or two weeks to get feedback on the suitability of a release candidate before it was going to go out, and what we’ve been trying to do is get that feedback as quickly as possible and make sure that we’re testing early and in parallel to our development work. And that way we’re not building up risk. The emphasis is more on defect prevention – rather than defect detection.
We’re not just waiting to find bugs, review, triage and prioritise them – we’re working rather to find the bugs early and get them fixed before we have to do that kind of stuff.
There must be some unique challenges that come with serving so many people on so many different devices?
Testing is hard because we’re trying to serve a large audience and reach as many people as possible, which means we’re going to have to support older devices and versions – that’s a challenge. Another challenge is around trying to get value out to the audience as early as possible and as quickly as possible: often the app store release processes don’t enable you to do that very quickly. We’re trying to get stuff done and get it out there quickly and get feedback quickly from the audience, and when you’ve got to wait a week or two to go through approval processes it can be a challenge.
How has your use of the cloud changed over recent years?
We use the cloud where possible, certainly in our web development, which ties in to BBC Digital’s Continuous Delivery programme. It’s less easy to do for our native applications development, but we have been looking into cloud CI services.
Finally, what are you going to be discussing at this year’s Apps World in London?
The talk is about how we evolved our test approach for mobile applications over the last two or three years, and touches upon our five principals of software development which we have on the floor of our TV and mobile platforms team.
I’ll also be talking about some of the ways we’ve evolved our development process to shorten our feedback loops and pair more collaboratively between developers and testers.
Paul Rutter will be appearing at Apps World Europe (18- 19 November, Excel, London)