“I Am Mozilla Web QA” — meet Stephen Donner

Stephen Donner


What do you do at Mozilla?

I’m the resident pointy-hair, aka administrative overhead — and some people even call me “manager.” :-)

Our team’s most up-to-date and complete page is on the Mozilla Wiki, here: https://wiki.mozilla.org/QA/Execution/Web_Testing.  As our team name implies, we’re largely responsible and involved in testing many of Mozilla’s websites, as well as on-device applications, like the Firefox Marketplace.

Any fun side projects you’re working on?

I’m a geek, but not a coder, so in my spare time, I read up as much as I can about the wireless + broadband internet industries — fascinating stuff (to me, at least), and like most tech fields, it changes quite often, so there’s never a dull moment.

How did you get started in testing/QA?

I’ve been doing it since I volunteered to help test some of the first Mozilla “M3” (http://www-archive.mozilla.org/projects/blackwood/webclient/release-notes/m3-detail.html) builds.  I wasn’t accustomed to neither Web nor client testing, but quickly fell in love with reporting bugs — Asa’s testday community (see below) played the instrumental part!  And although I started off in testing as a volunteer testing clients — Mozilla and Netscape’s email and news clients — I moved into more Web testing while at AOL, and have largely been testing from the Web side of things here, since.  As with most things test and Mozilla-related, though, I (and our team) often test and report bugs outside our core expertise – there are a lot of inter-related parts among clients, servers, Web applications, etc.

How did you get involved with Mozilla?

It’s a bit of a long story — the full details of which can be found here: http://mozillamemory.org/detailview.php?id=7294 — but, as a longtime Netscape fan, I started contributing to Mozilla nearly as soon as it went open source, through Asa Dotzler’s testdays, which led, eventually, to a job at Netscape/AOL.

What’s a funny fail or mistake story you can share?

In the early days of working with Jake Maul from WebOps, I made the Firefox Support website’s staging instance “fall over,” due to fuzzing it and hitting it with too many weird requests (kudos to the Netsparker tool I used, at the time: https://www.netsparker.com/) – we’ve implemented and fixed several things since then, so bringing a server — or even a cluster of them — to its/their knees — is unheard of (at least the way we test them!)

What’s something you’re particularly proud of?

Our awesome team, and how — while we’ve grown and seen people depart over the years, — we’re constantly reinventing and re-evaluating ways of testing + helping deploy Websites, apps, Firefox OS — and more.  And to be clear, by saying “team,” I’m inherently including “community” — check out just a sampling of our amazing community contributions: https://wiki.mozilla.org/QA/Execution/Web_Testing/Contributor_Corner.

What’s coming up that you’re excited about?

Where do I start? :-)  Container-ized deploys and test/development-environments using things like Docker, for a start.  And, just as important are initiatives where Web development and Web QA can (hopefully) share end-to-end testing stacks like http://theintern.io/, which is a Q4 goal in-progress (https://wiki.mozilla.org/QA/Goals/2014q4#Web_QA).  Also, coming up early next year we’re expecting to automate testing with a Marionette-backed WebDriver, built in to Firefox

What question do you wish you’d been asked?

This one!  Just kidding :-)

Favorite city that’s not Portland?

Durban, South Africa or London — I grew up in the outskirts of the former, and came to really love — within a couple visits from work — the latter (though I had also been there, a few days, as a youth).  Also, I love small, Western towns — hills, lakes, mountains, and the open roads that lead to them are my friend.