February 23–26, 2020
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Automating the New York Times crossword

Phil Wells (New York Times)
3:50pm4:40pm Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Location: Sutton South
Secondary topics:  Best Practice, Case Study
Average rating: ****.
(4.50, 2 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Engineering managers, software test practitioners, and web developers




The New York Times digital crossword has more subscribers than the population of Iceland. The team responsible for this media mainstay adds new features all the time: new games like Spelling Bee and Letter Boxed; new features like leaderboards and vertical streaks; and engaging bonuses like milestone animations.

Phil Wells leads a deep dive into how a team that does so much with a product so renowned while ensuring that they’re building in quality with every new release. He addresses the negative feelings some teams might feel with delivering anything but a perfect product and the software quality practices his team uses to squash those feelings. And he demonstrates some of the tools they use to ensure that everyone feels confident and happy with their software delivery.

By the time you leave, you’ll understand why software delivery is a process of continual shame elimination. And you’ll have a few new tricks to help you get the job done.

Prerequisite knowledge

  • Familiarity with web test automation

What you'll learn

  • Learn about software quality advocacy and browser test automation practices
Photo of Phil Wells

Phil Wells

New York Times

Phil Wells is a senior software engineer for the games team at the New York Times, which maintains the most popular crossword product in the world. People have all sorts of funny ideas about what Phil does every day. Phil does not construct the puzzle content for the crosswords. Phil does not program an AI to solve crosswords, although that would be awesome. Phil does not know Will Shortz. Instead, he works to ensure his team builds quality into every new feature and game they deliver. He’s been a software quality practitioner for over a decade and likes to go beyond writing tests and building infrastructure for delivery. He also acts as a coach for his peers in web development, teaching and advocating for modern test practices and technologies. If you see him walking around the conference, feel free to say, “Hi, Phil!”

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