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Unit Testing - Why Not?

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Unit Testing - Why Not?

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For JUnit implementation in our project, we see a great challenge in having them implemented as we are already running behind for Sprint 2 and Sprint 3. Team was provided with all the knowledge walkthrough of the JUnit implementation and example test case. I do not see the team would be able to meet the JUnit coverage as expected. We need to first come to track in terms of delivery and can plan to write JUnits as team gets bandwidth. Please let us know your thoughts.

Really – you are going to give me that shit yet again. Does the behind-ness on your project does not tell you something, does it not even rake your mind that if developers weren’t testing their code there might actually be lesser problems and maybe the project would be on track.

This is how I would have responded a week back. But today, I am willing to have a reasonable conversation to understand what are the pain points which makes it difficult for the team to do “automated” Unit Testing (automated being the key here). Let’s go back to the very core of unit testing and even before that – Self Testing Code. Quoting Martin Fowler …

These kinds of benefits are often talked about with respect to TestDrivenDevelopment (TDD), but it’s useful to separate the concepts of TDD and self-testing code. I think of TDD as a particular practice whose benefits include producing self-testing code. It’s a great way to do it, and TDD is a technique I’m a big fan of. But you can also produce self-testing code by writing tests after writing code – although you can’t consider your work to be done until you have the tests (and they pass). The important point of self-testing code is that you have the tests, not how you got to them.

Read this para again and again until you imprint the 2 key messages a) you cant consider your work to be done until you have the tests and they pass and b) important point is that you have the tests, not how you got to them. Now that you understand this full (hopefully), let me ask you once this simple question – Are the developers doing any unit testing (again not automated)? If the answer is No then I have a problem and I am outraged.

I am big fan of Unit Testing and my first experience was on my first job and it was with TDD and yes it was a adrenaline rush a dose of dopamine (as David H says in his podcast). I saw it’s effectiveness when at a stage we decided to throw away the implementation because we realized that it would just not scale. We were 6 months into the development and we had a lot of LOC and along side a solid test suite of 400+ test cases. When we decided we needed to do something fundamentally different we chose to keep the test suite (we used NUnits back in the day). Over the course of next 2 months as we wrote the new implementation those test cases were our feedback loop. Our job (team of 4 developers) was to ensure all of those 400+ test cases turned Green. The day we saw all of them to be Green we knew we were exactly where (functional delivery) when we had been when threw the code/implementation out. The speed at which we redid the implementation was because the confidence we had in the new code we were writing – we were being told almost immediately if we did something right or wrong (they were not unit tests as per definition – but that is for later). Then a few years later in 2008 we did the same thing again and it was a 9 month x 25 people implementation which we redid and it took us 3 month x 20 people to catch up and meet same functional delivery.

In this situation I read a project is behind track, and they need to go faster with confidence to catch up and meet delivery timelines. Not doing Unit Testing (again not saying “automated”), is like someone telling me – Kapil, you are driving to go to your wedding and you are late and now you have to drive faster. But, instead of putting in a few more airbags and giving you better set of wheels, better brakes; We are going to take the 1 Air Bag you have today and also replace your wheels with an older set. Now, go drive else you will not get married. What do you think I would do – Drive faster and risk my life or start driving even slower because I hope that my would be wife loves enough to know that I had no option but to drive slowly. Well you get the point – While I may get married, She is going to stay mad at me for a very long time for ruining her perfect day.

I have not yet broken down this problem if delay on this project (which I have to), but I can bet my ridiculous salary that it’s because of 2 things – a) “Regression” that developer keeps introducing and b) sending incomplete functional code to QA where defects are found and then it all comes back to them and in some cases these defects are found even in client layer of testing. In my experience this is how my ideal day as a developer used to look like

  1. Day 1
    1. Understand requirements – 1 hour
    2. Design and Implement and unit test- 6 hours
    3. Test (integration + functional/system) – 1 hour
  2. Day 2
    1. Repeat Day 1

And when I delivered code to QA I hardly got back any defects to fix and I would continue this cycle day in and day out. The times would stretch if someone did wrong estimates but the activities remained same always and time spent in each of these always increased in some proportion. And I have seen developers do that. But, more recently, I see developers, this is how their day looks like:

  1. Day 1
    1. Implement new story – 12 hours
  2. Day 2
    1. Fix Defects from Day 1 – 4 hours
    2. Implement new story – 12 hours

Well you already see that on Day 2 the developer is fixing their technical debt and they are struggling to catch up. This endless cycle lets call it Cyclone of technical debt” is unrecoverable. The project will deliver one day and people will get burnt. Developers blame estimations, and Architects blame skills, training, indiscipline. Well let’s call the team failed.

As a developer I ask you – Why would you not want to get High? Why would you not want to be in a state of confidence where you know that your code commits is not going to break something else? Why would you not Unit Test?

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Published at DZone with permission of Kapil Viren Ahuja, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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