Tag Archives: Ben Yu

Testing on the Toilet: Exercise Service Call Contracts in Tests

This article was adapted from a Google Testing on the Toilet (TotT) episode. You can download a printer-friendly version of this TotT episode and post it in your office.

By Ben Yu

The following test mocks out a service call to CloudService Does the test provide enough confidence that the service call is likely to work?

@Test public void uploadFileToCloudStorage() {

CloudUploader cloudUploader = new CloudUploader(mockCloudService);

Uri uri = cloudUploader.uploadFile(new File(“/path/to/foo.txt”));
// The uploaded file URI contains the user ID, file type, and upload ID. (Or does it?)
assertThat(uri).isEqualTo(new Uri(“/testuser/text/uploadId.txt”));

Lots of things can go wrong, especially when service contracts get complex. For example, plain/text may not be a valid file type, and you can’t verify that the URI of the uploaded file is correct.

If the code under test relies on the contract of a service, prefer exercising the service call instead of mocking it out. This gives you more confidence that you are using the service correctly:
@Test public void uploadFileToCloudStorage() {
CloudUploader cloudUploader = new CloudUploader(cloudService);
Uri uri = cloudUploader.uploadFile(”/path/to/foo.txt”);

How can you exercise the service call?

  1. Use a fake.  A fake is a fast and lightweight implementation of the service that behaves just like the real implementation. A fake is usually maintained by the service owners; don’t create your own fake unless you can ensure its behavior will stay in sync with the real implementation.  Learn more about fakes at testing.googleblog.com/2013/06/testing-on-toilet-fake-your-way-to.html.
  2. Use a hermetic server.  This is a real server that is brought up by the test and runs on the same machine that the test is running on. A downside of using a hermetic server is that starting it up and interacting with it can slow down tests.  Learn more about hermetic servers at testing.googleblog.com/2012/10/hermetic-servers.html.
If the service you are using doesn’t have a fake or hermetic server, mocks may be the only tool at your disposal. But if your tests are not exercising the service call contract, you must take extra care to ensure the service call works, such as by having a comprehensive suite of end-to-end tests or resorting to manual QA (which can be inefficient and hard to scale).

Testing on the Toilet: Keep Tests Focused

This article was adapted from a Google Testing on the Toilet (TotT) episode. You can download a printer-friendly version of this TotT episode and post it in your office.

By Ben Yu

What scenario does the following code test?
TEST_F(BankAccountTest, WithdrawFromAccount) {
Transaction transaction = account_.Deposit(Usd(5));

EXPECT_THAT(account_.Withdraw(Usd(5)), IsOk());
EXPECT_THAT(account_.Withdraw(Usd(1)), IsRejected());
EXPECT_THAT(ccount_.Withdraw(Usd(1)), IsOk());
Translated to English: “(1) I had $5 and was able to withdraw $5; (2) then got rejected when overdrawing $1; (3) but if I enable overdraft with a $1 limit, I can withdraw $1.” If that sounds a little hard to track, it is: it is testing three scenarios, not one.

A better approach is to exercise each scenario in its own test:
TEST_F(BankAccountTest, CanWithdrawWithinBalance) {
DepositAndSettle(Usd(5)); // Common setup code is extracted into a helper method.
EXPECT_THAT(account_.Withdraw(Usd(5)), IsOk());
TEST_F(BankAccountTest, CannotOverdraw) {
EXPECT_THAT(account_.Withdraw(Usd(6)), IsRejected());
TEST_F(BankAccountTest, CanOverdrawUpToOverdraftLimit) {
EXPECT_THAT(account_.Withdraw(Usd(6)), IsOk());

Writing tests this way provides many benefits:

  • Logic is easier to understand because there is less code to read in each test method.
  • Setup code in each test is simpler because it only needs to serve a single scenario.
  • Side effects of one scenario will not accidentally invalidate or mask a later scenario’s assumptions.
  • If a scenario in one test fails, other scenarios will still run since they are unaffected by the failure.
  • Test names clearly describe each scenario, which makes it easier to learn which scenarios exist.
One sign that you might be testing more than one scenario: after asserting the output of one call to the system under test, the test makes another call to the system under test.

While a scenario for a unit test often consists of a single call to the system under test, its scope can be larger for integration and end-to-end tests. For example, a test that a web UI can send email might open the inbox, click the compose button, write some text, and press the send button.

Testing on the Toilet: Cleanly Create Test Data

This article was adapted from a Google Testing on the Toilet (TotT) episode. You can download a printer-friendly version of this TotT episode and post it in your office.

By Ben Yu

Helper methods make it easier to create test data. But they can become difficult to read over time as you need more variations of the test data to satisfy constantly evolving requirements from new tests:
// This helper method starts with just a single parameter:
Company company = newCompany(PUBLIC);

// But soon it acquires more and more parameters.
// Conditionals creep into the newCompany() method body to handle the nulls,
// and the method calls become hard to read due to the long parameter lists:
Company small = newCompany(2, 2, null, PUBLIC);
Company privatelyOwned = newCompany(null, null, null, PRIVATE);
Company bankrupt = newCompany(null, null, PAST_DATE, PUBLIC);

// Or a new method is added each time a test needs a different combination of fields:
Company small = newCompanyWithEmployeesAndBoardMembers(2, 2, PUBLIC);
Company privatelyOwned = newCompanyWithType(PRIVATE);
Company bankrupt = newCompanyWithBankruptcyDate(PAST_DATE, PUBLIC);

Instead, use the test data builder pattern: create a helper method that returns a partially-built object (e.g., a Builder in languages such as Java, or a mutable object) whose state can be overridden in tests. The helper method initializes logically-required fields to reasonable defaults, so each test can specify only fields relevant to the case being tested:
Company small = newCompany().setEmployees(2).setBoardMembers(2).build();
Company privatelyOwned = newCompany().setType(PRIVATE).build();
Company bankrupt = newCompany().setBankruptcyDate(PAST_DATE).build();
Company arbitraryCompany = newCompany().build();

// Zero parameters makes this method reusable for different variations of Company.
// It also doesn’t need conditionals to ignore parameters that aren’t set (e.g. null
// values) since a test can simply not set a field if it doesn’t care about it.
private static Company.Builder newCompany() {
return Company.newBuilder().setType(PUBLIC).setEmployees(100); // Set required fields

Also note that tests should never rely on default values that are specified by a helper method since that forces readers to read the helper method’s implementation details in order to understand the test.
// This test needs a public company, so explicitly set it.
// It also needs a company with no board members, so explicitly clear it.
Company publicNoBoardMembers = newCompany().setType(PUBLIC).clearBoardMembers().build();

You can learn more about this topic at http://www.natpryce.com/articles/000714.html

Testing on the Toilet: Keep Cause and Effect Clear

by Ben Yu

This article was adapted from a Google Testing on the Toilet (TotT) episode. You can download a printer-friendly version of this TotT episode and post it in your office.

Can you tell if this test is correct?
208: @Test public void testIncrement_existingKey() {
209: assertEquals(9, tally.get("key1"));
210: }

It’s impossible to know without seeing how the tally object is set up:
1:   private final Tally tally = new Tally();
2: @Before public void setUp() {
3: tally.increment("key1", 8);
4: tally.increment("key2", 100);
5: tally.increment("key1", 0);
6: tally.increment("key1", 1);
7: }
// 200 lines away
208: @Test public void testIncrement_existingKey() {
209: assertEquals(9, tally.get("key1"));
210: }

The problem is that the modification of key1's values occurs 200+ lines away from the assertion. Otherwise put, the cause is hidden far away from the effect.

Instead, write tests where the effects immediately follow the causes. It's how we speak in natural language: “If you drive over the speed limit (cause), you’ll get a traffic ticket (effect).” Once we group the two chunks of code, we easily see what’s going on:
1:   private final Tally tally = new Tally();
2: @Test public void testIncrement_newKey() {
3: tally.increment("key", 100);
5: assertEquals(100, tally.get("key"));
6: }
7: @Test public void testIncrement_existingKey() {
8: tally.increment("key", 8);
9: tally.increment("key", 1);
10: assertEquals(9, tally.get("key"));
11: }
12: @Test public void testIncrement_incrementByZeroDoesNothing() {
13: tally.increment("key", 8);
14: tally.increment("key", 0);
15: assertEquals(8, tally.get("key"));
16: }

This style may require a bit more code. Each test sets its own input and verifies its own expected output. The payback is in more readable code and lower maintenance costs.