Exploration Through Example

Example-driven development, Agile testing, context-driven testing, Agile programming, Ruby, and other things of interest to Brian Marick
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Thu, 15 Jun 2006


I'm practicing for a set of five demos I'm doing next week. In each, I'll work through a story all the way from the instant the product director first talks about it, through TDDing the code into existence, and into a bit of exploratory testing of the results. Something interesting happened just now.

Step one of the coding was to add some business logic to make a column in a Fit table pass.

In step two, I worked on two wireframe tests that describe how the sidebar changes. These tests mock out the application layer that sits between the presentation layer and the business logic.

What remained was to change the real application layer so that it uses the new business logic. That, I said (imagining my talk), is so simple that I'm not going to write a unit test for it. Even if I do mess it up (I claimed), I have end-to-end tests that will exercise the app from the servlets down to the database, so those would catch any problem.

You can guess the results. I made the change and ran the whole suite. It passed. Then I started up the app to see if it really worked, and it didn't. The problem is in this teensy bit of untested code:

      def may_add_user?

The problem is that I have an extra s in @current_sesssion. In Ruby, a previously unmentioned instance variable has value nil. It happens that, to the business logic, nil means "no session, so not logged in, so not allowed to create a user."

From this, we can draw two lessons:

  • Maybe all those people who say that even code within a class should go through accessors to get to instance variables are right. Had I done that, the program would have failed—in the end-to-end tests—with a "no such method" error.

  • Hey, one-time program chair of the Pattern Languages of Programs conference, there's this pattern called Null Object...

I'm still not inclined to write a unit test.

This is the neatest thing to happen to me today. But nothing like it better happen in the real demo.

## Posted at 20:09 in category /coding [permalink] [top]

Wireframe style for tests

Earlier, I wrote about sentence style tests for rendered pages. Based partly on conversations about that entry with Steve Freeman and partly on bashing against reality, I've changed the style of those tests.

Since they are about the part of the app that the user sees and since I'd like them to be readable by the product director, I found myself asking where they would come from in a business-facing-test-first world and how the product director would therefore think about them. I imagined that, sometime early on, someone makes a sketch, paper prototype, or a wireframe diagram. So I came to think that this test ought to be a textual, automatically-checkable wireframe diagram. Like this:

  def test_structure_without_audits_or_visits
    wireframe_looks_like {
    }.given_that {

One interesting thing is that I put the setup for the test after the checking code. That's because the page layout seems more important.

How well does that test describe this page? (The sidebar is described in tests of its own.)

I'll let you be the judge.

## Posted at 11:45 in category /testing [permalink] [top]

About Brian Marick
I consult mainly on Agile software development, with a special focus on how testing fits in.

Contact me here: marick@exampler.com.




Agile Testing Directions
Tests and examples
Technology-facing programmer support
Business-facing team support
Business-facing product critiques
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Testers on agile projects

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Working your way out of the automated GUI testing tarpit
  1. Three ways of writing the same test
  2. A test should deduce its setup path
  3. Convert the suite one failure at a time
  4. You should be able to get to any page in one step
  5. Extract fast tests about single pages
  6. Link checking without clicking on links
  7. Workflow tests remain GUI tests
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Hooking up the real GUI


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