Sunday, May 5, 2019

Testing at the seams

A seam is a place where you can alter behaviour in your program without editing in that place -- Michael Feathers, Working Effectively with Legacy Code
When I'm practicing Test Driven Development, I prefer to begin on the outside of the problem, and work my way inwards.  This gives me the illusion that I am discovering the pieces that I need; no abstraction is introduced in the code without at least one consumer, and the "ease of use" concern gets an immediate evaluation.

As an example, let's consider the case of an interactive shell.  We can implement a simple shell using java.lang.System, which gives us access to System.in, System.out, System::getenv, System.::currentTimeMillis, and so on.

We probably don't want our test subjects to be coupled to System, however, because that's a shared resource.  Developer tests should be embarrassingly parallel; shared mutable resources get in the way of that.

By introducing a seam that we can plug System into, we get the decoupling that we need in our tests.


If we want to introduce indirection, then we ought to introduce the smallest indirection possible. And we absolutely must try to introduce better abstraction. -- JB Rainsberger, 2013
My thinking is that this is correctly understood as two different steps; we introduce the indirection, and we also try to discovered the better abstraction.

But I am deliberately trying to avoid committing to an abstraction prematurely.  In particular, I don't want to invest in an abstraction without first accumulating evidence that it is a good one.  I don't want to make changes expensive when change is still likely - the investment odds are all wrong.