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Check out the enhancements we’ve made to testRTC

It has been a while since we released a version, so it is with great pleasure that I am writing this announcement.

Yes. Our latest release is now out in the wild. We’ve upgraded our service on Sunday, so it is about time we take you for a quick roundup of the changes we’ve made.

#1 – Support for projects and users

This one is long overdue. Up until today, if you signed up for testRTC, you had to share your credentials with whoever was on your team to work with him on the tests. This was impossible to work with, assuming you wanted QA, R&D and DevOps to share the account and work cooperatively with the tests and monitors that got logged inside testRTC.

So we did what we should have – we now support two modes of operation:

  1. A user can be linked to multiple projects
    • So if your company is running multiple projects, you can now run them separately, having people focused on their own environment and tests
    • This is great for those who run segregated services for their own customers
    • It also means that now, a user can switch between projects with a single set of credentials in the system
  2. A project can belong to multiple users
    • Need someone to work on writing the scripts and executing them? You got it
    • Have a developer working on a bug that got reported with a link to testRTC? Sure thing
    • The IT guy who just received a downtime alarm from the WebRTC monitor we run? That’s another user
    • Each user has his own place in the project, and each is distinguished by his own credentials

testRTC project selection

If you require multiple projects, or want to add more users to your account just contact our support.

#2 – Longer, bigger tests

While theoretically, testRTC can run any test at any length and size, things aren’t always that easy.

There are usually two limitations to these requirements:

  1. The time they take to prepare, execute, run and collect results
  2. The time it takes to analyze the results

We worked hard in this release on both elements and got to a point where we’re quite happy with the results.

If you need long tests, we can handle those. One of the main concerns with long tests is what to do if you made a mistake while configuring them? Now you can cancel such tests in the middle if necessary.

Canceling a test run

If you need to scale tests to a large number of browsers – we can do that too.

We are making sure we bubble up the essentials from the browsers, so you don’t have to work hard and rummage through hundreds of browser logs to find out what went wrong. To that end, the tables that show browser results have been reworked and are now sorted in a way that will show failures first.

#3 – Advanced WebRTC analysis

We’ve noticed in the past few months that some of our customers are rather hard core. They are technology savvy and know their way in WebRTC. For them, the graphs we offer of bitrates, latencies, packet losses, … – are just not enough.

Chrome’s webrtc-internals and getstats() offer a wealth of additional information that we offered up until now only in a JSON file download. Well… now we also visualize it upon request right from the report itself:

Advanced WebRTC graphs

These graphs are reachable by clicking the webrtc_internals_dump.txt link under the Logs tab of a test result. Or by clicking the Advanced WebRTC Analytics button located just below the channels list:

Access advanced WebRTC graphs

I’d like to thank Fippo for the work he did (webrtc-dump-importer) – we adopted it for this feature.

#4 – Simulation of call drops and dynamic network changes

This is something we’ve been asked more than once. We have the capability of modeling the network of our probes, so that the browser runs with a specific configuration of a firewall or via a specific type of simulated network. We’re modifying and tweaking the profiles we have for these from time to time, but now we’ve added a script command so that you can change this configuring in runtime.

What can you do with it? Run two minutes of a test with 2 Mbps, then close virtually everything for 20-30 seconds, then open up  the network again – and see what happens. It is a way to test WebRTC in your application in dynamic network conditions – ones that may require ICE restarts.

Dynamically changing network profile in testRTC

In the test above, we dynamically changed the network profile in mid-call to starve WebRTC and see how it affects the test.

How do you use this new capability? Use our new command rtcSetNetworkProfile(). Read all about it in our knowledge base: rtcSetNetworkProfile()

#5 – Additional test expectations

We had the basics covered when it came to expectations. You could check the number and types of channels, validate that there’s some bits going on in there, validate packet loss. And that’s about it.

To this list of capabilities that existed in rtcSetTestExpectations() we’ve now added the ability to add expectations related to jitter, video resolutions, frame rate, and call setup time. We’ve also taken the time to handle expectations on empty channels a lot better.

There’s really nothing new here, besides an enhancement of what rtcSetTestExpectations() can do.

#6 – Additional information in Webhook responses

testRTC can notify your backend whenever a test or a monitor run ends on the status of that run – success or failure. This is done by configuring a webhook that is called at the end of the test run. We’ve had customers use it to collect the results to their own internal monitoring systems such as Splunk and Elastic Search.

What we had on offer in the actual payload that was passed with the webhook was rather thin, and while we’re still trying to keep it simple, we did add the leading error in that response in cases of failure:

testRTC webhook test failure response

#7 – API enabled to all customers

Yes. We had APIs in the past, but somehow, there was friction involved, with customers needing to ask for their API key in order to use the API for their continuous integration plans. It worked well, but the number of customers asking for API keys – both customers and prospects under evaluation – has risen to a point where it was ridiculous to continue doing this manually. Especially when our intent is for customers to use our APIs.

So we took this one step forward. From now on, every account has an API key by default. That API key is accessible from the account’s dashboard when you login, so there’s no need to ask for it any longer.

testRTC API key

For those of you who have been using it – note that we’ve also reset your key to a new value.

Your turn

This has been quite a big release for us, and I am sure to miss an enhancement or two (or more).

Now back to you. How would you want to test WebRTC in your product?

WebRTC: To Mechanical Turk or NOT to Mechanical Turk

I’ve seen this a few times already. People look at an automated process – only to replace it with a human one. For some reason, there’s a belief that humans are better. And grinding the same thing over and over and over and over and over again.

They’re not. And there’s a place for both humans and machines in WebRTC product testing.

WebRTC, Mechanical Turk and the lack of consistency

The Amazon Mechanical Turk is a great example. You can easily take a task, split it between many people, and have them do it for you. Say you have a list of a million songs and you wish to categorize them by genre. You can get 10,000 people in Amazon Mechanical Turk to do 100 lines each from that list and you’re done. Heck, you can have each to 300 lines and for each line (now with 3 scores), take the most common Genre defined by the people who classified it.

Which brings us to the problem. Humans are finicky creatures. Two people don’t have the same worldview, and will give different Genre indication to the same song. Even worse, the same person will give a different Genre to the same song if enough time passes (enough time can be a couple of minutes). Which is why we decided to show 3 people the same song to begin with – so we get some conformity in the decision we end up with on the Genre.

Which brings us to testing WebRTC products. And how should we approach it.

Here’s a quick example I gleaned from the great discuss-webrtc mailing list:

discuss-webrtc bug report

There’s nothing wrong with this question. It is a valid one, but I am not sure there’s enough information to work off this one:

  • What “regardless of the amount of bandwidth” is exactly?
  • Was this sent over the network or only done locally?
  • What resolution and frame rate are we talking about?
  • Might there be some packet loss causing it?
  • How easy is it to reproduce?

I used to manage the development of VoIP products. One thing we were always challenged by is the amount of information provided by the testing team in their bug reports. Sometimes, there wasn’t enough information to understand what was done. Other times, we had so many unnecessary logs that you either didn’t find what was needed or felt for the poor tester who spent so much time collecting this stuff together for you with no real need.

The Tester/Developer grind cycle

Then there’s that grind:

Test-Dev grind cycle

We’ve all been there. A tester finds what he believes is a bug. He files it in the bug tracking system. The developer can’t reproduce the bug, or needs more information, so the cycle starts. Once the developer fixes something, the tester needs to check that fix. And then another cycle starts.

The problem with these cycles is that the tester who runs the scenario (and the developer who does the same) are humans. Which makes it hard for repeated runs of the same scenario to end up the same.

When it comes to WebRTC, this is doubly so. There are just too many aspects that are going to affect how the test scenario will be affected:

  • The human tester
  • The machine used during the test
  • Other processes running on said machine
  • Other browser tabs being used
  • How the network behaves during the test

It is not that you don’t want to test in these conditions – it is that you want to be able to repeat them to be able to fix them.

My suggestion? Mix and match

Take a few cases that goes through the fundamental flows of your service. Automate that part of your testing. Don’t use some WebRTC Mechanical Turk in places where it brings you more grief than value.

Augment it with human testers. Ones that will be in charge of giving the final verdict on the automated tests AND run around with their own scenarios on your system.

It will give you the best of both worlds, and with time, you will be able to automate more use cases – covering regression, stress testing, etc.

I like to think of testRTC as the Test Engineer’s best companion – we’re not here to replace him – just to make him smarter and better at his job.

WebRTC Test Automation and where it fits in your roadmap

I see mixed signals about the popularity and acceptance of test automation. It is doubly so when testing WebRTC.

Time to consider some serious WebRTC test automation.

In favor of automation

A tester automated his job for 6 years – most probably a hoax, but one that rings partially true. The moral of the story is simple – if you invest time in automating rudimentary tasks – you get your ROI back tenfold in the future.

That’s… about it.

We have customers who use us to automate areas of their testing, but not many. At least not as many as I’d expect there to be – WebRTC being new and all – and us looking at best practices and changing our bad ways and habits of the past when stating with green field projects.

Against automation

Why is Manual QA Still So Prevalent? – it seems like SauceLabs, who delve into general purpose browser automation, is also experiencing the same thing. Having companies focus on manual testing instead of moving to automation.

Best explanation I heard from someone? They can get a cheap tester to do the work for them by outsourcing it to a developing country and then it costs them less to do the same – just with humans.

For me, that’s taking Amazon’s Mechanical Turk a step too much. For a repetitive task that you’re going to do in each and every release (yours and of browser vendors), to have different nameless faces (or even named ones) do the same tasks over and over again?

Dog-fooding at testRTC

We’ve been around for almost 2 years now. So it is high time we start automating our own testing as well.

The first place where we will be automating our own testing is in making sure our test related feature set works:

  • Our special script commands and variables
  • Running common test scenarios that our customers use in WebRTC

Now, we have test scripts that run these tests, so we can automate them individually. Next step would be to run them sequentially with a “click of a button”. Or more accurately, an execution of a shell script. Which is where we’re taking this in our next release.

The rest will stay manual for now. Mostly because in each version we change our UI based on the feedback we receive. One of our top priorities is to make our product stupidly simple – so that our customers can focus on their own product and need to learn as little as possible (or nothing at all) to use testRTC.

Why our customers end up automating?

There are several huge benefits in automating at least parts of your testing. Here are the ones we see every day from the way our customers make use of WebRTC:

  • Doing the most basic sanity tests – answering the question “is it broken?” and getting an answer fast with no human intervention. This is usually coupled with continuous integration, where every night the latest build is tested against it
  • Scale tests – when a service needs to grow, be it to 10 users in the same session, 40 people across 20 1:1 sessions or 100 viewers of a webinar – it becomes hard to manually test. So they end up writing a simple script in our platform and running it on demand when the time comes to stress test their product
  • Network configurations – taking a script and running it in various network conditions – with and without forcing TURN, packet losses, etc. Some also add different data center locations for the browsers and play with the browser versions used. The idea is to get testing to the edge cases where a user’s configuration is what comes back to bite you
  • Debugging performance – similar to scale tests, but slightly different. Some require the ability to check the capacity of a given machine in their product. Usually the media server. There’s much to be said about that, but being able to run a large scale test, analyze the performance report testRTC produces, and then rinse and repeat means it is easier to find the bottlenecks in the system and fix them prior to deployment

Starting out with WebRTC, we’ve seen other things getting higher priority by customers. They all talk about scenarios and coverage of their test plans. Most don’t go there due to that initial high investment.

What we do see, and what effectively improves our customer’s product, is taking one scenario. Usually a simple one. Writing it in a way that allows for scaling it up. Once a customer runs it for a few days, he sees areas he needs to improve in his product, and how that simple script can expand to encompass more of his testing needs.

This is also why we try to be there with our customers every step of the way. From assisting in defining that test, to writing it and following through with analysis if need be.

Are you serious about your WebRTC product? Don’t waste your time and try us out.