re: What are the alternatives to unit tests? VIEW POST


To me, you should treat tests like features and features like wizards. As Gandalf has said, "A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to." To me, 100% test is always too early. By writing tests to 100% completion, you are saying that your features are 100% done, and that your product, in turn, is 100% complete. So, when that requirement came in, there was no room for it, thus forcing a rewrite of the system to accommodate it. Tests aren't just an assertion that everything is complete, but a measure of how much work the product needs.

Another way to think about it, is using the same quote, but focus on the last bit. "...he arrives precisely when he means to." Rather than testing what you say (code), you test what you mean (intent/behavior/requirement). Sometimes, we developers only know code, we don't know the requirements. If that happens, then any tests that we create may be worthless, as they do not express what was intended. Due to lack of communication, you did not anticipate a new feature, thus creating new work. Some may argue that dependency injection would have solved this, but unless you apply that to littlest model, there will be some way that this will get you. This is why agile was about building smaller and communicating faster.

I like to think about tests in a different context than TDD. Rather than testing to mean asserting, I like testing to mean trying it on, sort of like shoes. If I like the result, I will lock it in. This idea harkens back to when we started programming. Code a bit, complain about a missing semicolon, compile it, play with it to see if it works, repeat. With this same idea, we just gain two things: it is automated and no CLI required to input. This will bring a different mindset into testing. Rather than building the test first or last, it is with the feature. Code a bit of the implementation. Code a bit of the test. Code a bit more of the implementation, code a bit more of the test. Rather than the test being something to assert against, it becomes an explanation of your intent. This is what it means for a test to become your documentation. Of course, that should not be your only form of documentation. Just because it passed the unit test, does not mean it is correct behavior.

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