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by Brian Schrader

How to save your team from the evil testing demons

Posted on Thu, 24 Sep 2015 at 09:54 AM

So your team has succumb to the evil testing overlords. They constantly talk about Unit Tests, Continuous Integration, and Code Coverage. How is programming supposed to be fun if the code does the same thing every time? Where's the sense of adventure? Fear not, the art of cowboy coding is not dead. You can save your teammates from the testing demons with these tips.

  • The first mistake people make when trying to rid their teams of the evil testing demons is being too hasty. You have to destroy the tests from the inside.

  • Write tests for all of your modules, but make it so that the tests only pass in very specific use cases. This will cause confusion and plant that crucial seed of doubt.

  • Make test functions appear to test one thing, then actually test something completely different. The easiest way to do this is to label the test function incorrectly. That is, the test for do_get should be called test_do_post.

  • Write integration tests in place of unit tests. This will cause the unit tests to get really slow over time and make your coworkers think twice about running them constantly. This is important because once your coworkers are free from constantly testing, they'll start to question the utility of the tests as a whole.

  • Write functions that don't return anything. Instead have them modify internal state. Write functions that should return something, but instead put the return value in one of the parameters.

  • This one is key, write monolithic functions that accomplish a lot at once. Did you know that function calls are computationally expensive? Don't use them.

  • Write functions that take complex object as parameters, who's values have to be configured very particularly. The function should return the same object.

  • On the same note, pass complicated variables around into other functions. That way the tests for those functions will have to mock the complex object.

  • Use application state. Lots of it. Write code so that functions depend on very particular settings in the global state to be configured. Not only does this make them harder to test, the tests will need to mock this state which causes them to run slower, thus enforcing the idea that the tests aren't helping.

  • Did you know that functions that don't have parameters and that don't return anything are really difficult to test? Write lots of those. Remember, you're fighting for the future of programming. Down with the suites! Long live the cowboys and cowgirls!

  • Constantly blame the tests for not finding new bugs. Explain that it's impossible to predict user behavior. How can you test something that's impossible to predict?

  • On build days, commit code with failing tests that prevent the CI from auto-deploying the new build, then blame the stupid CI for not mocking your test cases properly. Assert that something is wrong internally with the CI system.

  • Testing requires a lot of tools and setup. Assert that you can't be 'agile' (a good buzzword) if you have to set up all of this stuff. How can you possibly keep up with Grunt, Travis, Mock, Mocha, Istanbul, Karma, and more?

  • Make the case, "I can't write tests if I don't know what the app is going to do yet." Everyone knows that it's impossible to think through the code before writing it. Code is art and you're an inspired artist.

  • Constantly remind everyone that they aren't doing real test driven development. Tell them, "You know, real TDD is where you write the tests first. Why are we doing this half way?" When they complain that they don't like writing the tests first, tell them that they may as well not do tests at all if they aren't that committed.

  • When your team members write tests, explain that, according to the rules of TDD, if they aren't writing tests that fail at first, then they don't really know if the tests are valid. Ask them if they write failing tests first. If they say no, then tell them that their tests are essentially meaningless.

  • Whenever you write new code, explain that you don't have time to write tests. You're on a deadline. If the people that have time to write tests want to do it then fine, but you're trying to get actual work done.

  • Insist that the tests need to be run against real data, and that generating data or storing fixtures will never be adequate. Testing, as an idea, is fundamentally broken.

  • Make environment checks throughout your code to ensure that it will only run in production, and can only be tested in production. Then make sure to exit early if any other environment is detected with no error codes.

  • Make any magic variable settings into database values.

  • Test the core language features; you can’t be sure your iterator variable will increment unless you write a test that validates you can add one to a variable. Doing this will slow your test suite down even more, adding to the irritation.

  • Defeat the testing demons from the inside. Whenever your writing superflous tests, use lots of mocks and test every tiny piece of your code (e.g. when making a settings dictionary, mock out everything except the dict creation and test just that one bit). This will help you write tons of mocks for each test. Changing anything will break lots of the mocks and make half the test suite fail with import path errors unrelated to the change.

  • Whenever your team members get too proud of their service to the testing devils, ask them if they test their tests. If they don't, how do they know that they work properly. They will quickly realize the paradox of testing and quit.

Remember, you're trying to show your team that testing is a failed idea. You're trying to bring back the good ol' days when programmers roamed free, not caged in the predictable, safe confines of test driven development. You're doing this for your team; someday they'll thank you.

Thanks to @AdamAndDevOps, @macromicah, @TheDudestMonk, and @Tanyxp for their additions.

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