Integration Testing with Spring – Nested Configurations

Gil Zilberfeld discusses spring features for integration testing, this time nested configurations
In this series we're taking at Spring and its features supporting testing in general, and specifically integration testing.
Dependency InjectionConfigurationsNested configurations
Organizing Configurations

Let’s dig deeper into configurations for integration tests in Spring.

We’ll start with a nested integration context example, for a class (that might be a test class, because that’s our main focus). While we can use @Import, if we set up one-time configuration, it could be nested in the test class. Here’s an example:

Let’s take a look at what we have here. Our test class, and code-under-test will inject two @Autowired objects. The first one is the controller. Its @Bean is configured in another configuration class, called ControllerConfiguration. This configuration is imported by the nested configuration in the test class.

The NestedConfiguration class declares a bean that creates and initializes a mock, which is probably a different implementation from the main app implementation. Also, the reason for using a one-time configuration is having the initialization different than other configurations, used by other test classes.

We need to remember a couple of things of how Spring works:

  • The nested configuration class has to be static. While usually not a problem, it loads differently than regular configuration classes.
  • If we use an @ContextConfiguration on the test class (not @Import on the nested configuration class, as in the example), it will override the nested configuration. That can be confusing and can cause hilarious (or disastrous) consequences.

The cool thing about a nested configuration is that it’s right there in the test class that needs it, so no need to look for it elsewhere. That’s a readability plus.

However, nested configurations are not re-usable, and we would probably want to reuse a single configuration for multiple test classes. So, unless nested configurations are your default way of working, it’s probably better to use non-nested ones. They should be used in very special circumstances for very special initialization.

Next, we’ll look at managing and organizing configurations for production and tests.

Integration Testing With Spring – Configurations

Gil Zilberfeld explains about Spring features for testing and integration testing, this time with configurations
In this series we're taking at Spring and its features supporting testing in general, and specifically integration testing.
Dependency InjectionConfigurationsNested configurations
Organizing Configurations

So how does Spring know what type to inject?

Spring can do so in a different ways. The default is scanning any class in the class path. Spring tries to match the types it finds in the class path to those needed by @autowired declarations, and if there’s a match, it will inject it.

However, this solution is limited. It doesn’t solve the interface problem – if there are multiple implementors, it still won’t have enough information to inject the right type. Also, what if we need to run it in different way? For example, in one test we need a LaserPrinter and in another the InkPrinter? In tests we would very much like this option.

The answer to “how can we help Spring know what to choose” is called a Configuration (Actually, a ConfigurationContext but we’ll keep it short.)

A Configuration is a set of all kinds of settings that Spring loads when it runs. Specifically, it can be a set of Beans, which are basically factories for injecting classes.

The old way to declare beans was XML-based, which was horrible to read, write and maintain. The modern way is with code. So if we want to inject a laser printer, we’ll set up a configuration class with a bean of the type Printer:

To make sure our test class uses this configuration we can tell it with the ConfigurationContext annotation:

When Spring loads the test class, it notices that Printer needs an injection. It looks into the specified PrinterConfiguration, and finds a @Bean that returns a Printer type. It then invokes the laserPrinter method in the configuration and puts the resulting object right there in the printer variable. Presto: An object was born.

There can be more than one

Configuration classes can come separate or nested, and can be combined in different ways. We can use the @Import annotation to include other configuration classes, . It is important to understand that the configurations are combined, they do not overwrite each other. That gives us better flexibility in separating configurations into manageable pieces. But that also means that they need to be managed like any code.

I know what you’re thinking: that’s ok to override the default injection, but what about the multiple implemenetors issue?

There are different ways to do this:

  • Use different configuration classes,each containing a single Bean for that type. Each test class will load the configuration it needs, not everything else.
  • Using @Primary on the bean we want to load, makes it the default in the configuration. This is great for testing if the default is declared in the application configuration, and we need to override it.
  • We can name a bean using @Bean(name=”beanName”) and then specify the bean to load with:@Autowired @Qualifier(“myBean”) in the injected classes

Working with configurations is not only a powerful way to, well, configure runs, but also a requirement in testing. Without configuration classes, we won’t be able to create different beans for different scenarios.

Sometimes we need a mock and sometimes a real object for the same type, the only other options is to create these objects ourselves in the test classes, which is missing the point in Spring. Plus, the code would be different – if we’re in charge of object creation, we need to pass around dependencies to the tested code. We’ll need different constructors or setters to pass these around. Basically we’re giving up on all the goodness Spring gets us.

Configuration classes help us solve this problem in tests, and we’ll see examples in the next posts.


Integration Testing With Spring – Dependency Injection

Gil Zilberfeld explains Spring testing features starting with dependency injection
In this series we're taking at Spring and its features supporting testing in general, and specifically integration testing.
Dependency InjectionConfigurationsNested configurations
Organizing Configurations

I want to take a step back and discuss what Spring and Spring Boot are what are the basics features we get out of the box, and how we can use them for our advantage. There’s a whole training I’ve developed for Spring features for integration testing I do, so if you’re interested, ping me. We’ll get back to TDD-ing the hell out of it soon.

Spring started out as a dependency injection framework. “Dependency injection” is really a fancy name for something really simple, but valuable.
Let’s look at at this code of a PrinterManager class:

It’s obvious that our code is tied (or coupled) to the LaserPrinter class. What will happen if no laser printer is available? What if all we have is a whole garage full of dot matrix printers? Our code doesn’t help us there. So let’s change it to support any printer:

Holy Parameter Batman!

We now support multiple printers. I’ve used dependency injection in a way we call “passing a parameter”. Dependencies can be injected as parameters, with setter functions, or in Spring’s case, using annotations.

There’s a subtle thing we did here: We’ve separated the creation of the object (our LaserPrinter), from the use of it (inside our print method). The advantage we got is the ability to write code that doesn’t care which printer it operates.

But we can do a bit more. We may have a garage with ample supply of dot matrix printers, but a laser printer – we only got one. Now imagine that anyone created its own instance of the LaserPrinter object. Chaos ensues, but with the Printer as injected parameter the user code doesn’t know and doesn’t care.

Through the separation of creating the object and using it, we can now manage the created objects somewhere else, and without constraints from the users. We can create a LaserPrinter as a singleton, while we can create a DotMatrixPrinter as a multi-instance object, or even run a pool for clients to use. We can also do some security checks, without the client code knowing about it. For tests, we can inject mocks. Ah, the things we could do…

Wait, this is what Spring does. Spring default way of injecting objects is using the @Autowired annotation. If you see code that looks like this:

That means that when our PrinterManager loads, Spring identifies it has a dependency of type Printer, and it looks for objects to create from that type. All the PrinterManager needs to declare is the dependency type.

Spring’s advantage over passing a parameter is significant – regardless which calls I write, if it needs a Printer reference – it will get it, regardless where it is in the object chain. The alternative is pass parameters around from object to object until the dependency reaches its destination. That requires more code, more noise, and more testing. Ah it comes with more bugs.

Obviously this type of capability is a great for testability. We can’t inject any type of object we want, real ones, mocks – whatever we want – without changing the tested code.

Now the question is how does Spring know what to inject? What if Printer is an interface or an abstract class? or if there are multiple implementors of Printer? And how do we choose and tell Spring what we really really want?

We’ll discuss this next.

Refactoring Kung-Fu, Part VI

Gil Zilberfeld explains refactoring in legacy code, when using ApprovalTests and something unexpected happens
In this series we're taking a look at how to refactor un-refactorable legacy code.
Part IPart IPart III
Part IVPart V

Part VI

Ok, time to run the test.

Well, that’s interesting. The test is not even running until the end, we’re crashing before it completes. Let’s see what’s wrong.

Seems that this line breaks:

when running the case where dish includes: Sauce = Pesto, Pasta = Ravioly. In this case, the sublist method is invoked with (1,0) which causes the IllegalArgumentException. Turns out sublist‘s fromIndex (the first parameter) should be smaller than the toIndex (the second). I bet that never happens in legacy code.

What happens now? We’ve clearly identified a case where the code breaks. It is one of these “how did it ever work” moments. What do we do?

Let’s investigate a bit more. Let’s run each case separately to see which cases cause the crash, and which just fail the approval. Is this a big problem, or a single case problem?

Turns out it just this case, all other cases don’t crash. What do we do? Well, we’ve identified a case that breaks the system, and we still don’t know enough about the system to create a test for it.

We can rely on the “how did it ever work” feeling, and therefore think: This case doesn’t occur in the wild, (otherwise we would have known about it), there’s not much sense in keeping it in check. As part of an investigation in the real world legacy code, I would try to reproduce the breaking case in the system, or at least understand why it hasn’t occurred yet.

What do we do?

We can disregard that case, and not use it as a characterization of the system. All other cases don’t cause breakage, and we can work with them.

And yet, it doesn’t feel right. The behavior exists in the code, and it has some kind of effect (the breaking kind). Maybe we want to make sure that although this is a breaking behavior, it is still a behavior we want to maintain. In that case, we can modify the test to something like this:

This way, we also log the error as part of the process, and in our refactoring preserve the behavior.

We can also modify the PastaMaker code to not break (swallow the exception, fix it ad-hoc, put the offending line inside a try-catch block and handle it there, or any other creative method). While this is a valid option, it is risky, because what we’re actually doing is not refactoring, we’re changing functionality without safeguards.

The option I chose is to disregard the breaking case for now, and add a test for it later. I’m planning to come back to it and make sure it is covered, once I know more about it.

Also, if we leave the approval tests as part of the CI, I’m not sure I want to preserve an exception throwing behavior. While it is the current behavior, I don’t intend to leave it like that eventually, which goes back to writing that test later.

So for now, I’m commenting out the last line of the dish list:

Next: Explore the output.

Refactoring Kung-Fu, Part V

In this series we're taking a look at how to refactor un-refactorable legacy code.
Part IPart IPart III
Part IVPart V

Part VI

Last time we talked about flow analysis in the code. We figured out the cases we want covered. But, even for these cases, we don’t know what the expected result is.

It’s worse than that in the real world. In our case, after we’ve drawn the boundary and decided which code stays and which waits around the corner, we remain with code that seem to have no known side effects.

But, what if our code, within the boundary, is more complex, and relies on other frameworks or libraries? It could be that there are side effects we don’t see directly from the code (like the calling method scenario from last time).

Ideally, in the real scenario, we would want to log everything that the system does, and from that, deduct what our asserts should be. Luckily, there’s a tool for that.

Enter ApprovalTests

Remember we talked about characterization tests? Those that we run in order to know what the system does, and then make those our asserts. ApprovalTests does that, and even creates those asserts. Kinda.

The way ApprovalTests works, is we write a couple of tests. When we run them, it creates two text files: The “received” file, and the “approved” file. The “approved” file becomes our golden template. Every time we run the test, the regenerated “received” file is compared to the “approved” file. If they are completely the same, then at least we know that the tests run as before (to the best of our knowledge). If the files are different, we’ve broken something. Excellent for refactoring.

But what do these files actually contain? Well, everything we want to write. ApprovalTests ties into the standard IO stream, so whatever we write in the tests and in the code goes there. The more we write there, the better our comparison between changes becomes. If however, we write just a bit, we may know that this bit hasn’t changed, but not a lot about other cases.

Once we’re done with out refactoring, we can either throw away the tests, or keep them, along with the “approved” version in our CI. Not ideal, but a lot more than no tests.

You can read more about it on the ApprovalTests site, of course. For now, I’m assuming you have some familiarity with how it works, and continue from here.

Let’s check out the test

If you look at our tests folder, you’ll see a single test, an ApprovalTests test. I’m using the @DiffReporter  annotation, so if anything is different between the “received” and “approved” files, it triggers my diff tool to run.

Also you can see on our test, there’s no Asserts of any kind, but a simple:

Which basically means nothing. For now.

Now, if we want to cover our code with tests (or ApprovalTests), we need to collect a lot more logging. We’ve already covered what cases we need to track, and we’ve modified the code, in order to easily add those writing.

Next step? Add a couple of mocks. Remember the Dispenser interface? Let’s create a mock dispenser. We can use a mocking framework, but it’s much easier to create a manual mock. Since only the test uses it, I’ll create it in the test folder. Here it is:

As you can see from the implementation, whenever a method on the mock gets called, it adds the information to the log. And I’ve added a nice  toString()  override for getting the log. Since the Dispenser interface is our boundary, we’d like to know everything that goes through it. I’m not doing this now, but I’d also log what I’m returning if I think it makes sense.

Note that logging doesn’t have to be concentrated in the mocks. You can also spread all kinds of logging in the code itself. Then collect those later into the test.

Now that we have logging going on, let’s write a real test. Remember the whole test case analysis? Here’s how the test looks like, and it runs many cases (almost like a parametric test):

All the dishes are cases we’ve identified and want to run. And here’s the Dish class (again, in the test folder, it’s not part of the production code. Maybe in the future):

As you can see I want the dishes to also add themselves to the log, so now I know what goes into the Pastamaker, in addition to what goes out.

Next time: Running the test and exploring the results. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.


Refactoring Kung Fu – Part IV

Gil Zilberfeld explains about refactoring test cases in legacy code
In this series we're taking a look at how to refactor un-refactorable legacy code.
Part IPart IPart III
Part IVPart V

Part VI

The current code version we’re talking about is tag 1.1.

Last time, we have surrounded our code with a boundary, doing some early refactoring. We now know the entry points, and the exits are covered by interfaces, leaving code we don’t want to deal with outside our system. We can basically start writing tests, but which ones? How do we know can cover every case?

The answer is we don’t and can’t know. But we do have clues in the code itself. In our case, it’s the conditions in the code. In other cases in our legacy code, it is about identifying the values that can affect the different flows in the code.

In our example, the options are combinations of sauces, pasta types and places. We’ll take a look at those in a moment, but we need to remember to also look beyond the code.

Double take

There’s another aspect for our cases that is not apparent in the code. What if the cook method is called more than once? From reading our example, you can see that the IngredientsList is created with each call. However, what if it was created in the constructor of PastaMaker class? Keeping state between method calls can have an affect that may not be visible directly from the code.

In our refactoring example, we won’t go there. For us, each flow inside the cook method is isolated from other flows, and therefore we can cover those flows by different tests, exercising the method once. In more complex cases in legacy code, where state of one method call affects consequent calls, we might consider better coverage, by calling our code once, twice and maybe more and in different constellations.

Gotta catch them all

If we want to cover all possible combinations in our code, we’re going to need 4 sauces x 2 pasta x 4 places = 32 tests. For one lousy method. Imagine how many combinations we have in the legacy code counterpart. If want to be thorough, we need to cover them all.

If we’re feeling a bit gutsy, we can start eliminating cases. For example, if we look at the places, we can see that they don’t affect the conditions, only the results. That means, in the current code, we can consider the cases for the same pasta and sauce, but with different places as equivalent. Meaning, we can reduce each place quartet of tests to a single test.

I am feeling a little gutsy, so I’ll do that. Now the only question remains: How do we test?

We’ve already talked about characterization tests. To implement them, we’ll need to write a test for each test case that we’ve identified, run and see what we get, and specify the actual result as the expected one.

And what is it that “we get”? In our case, what ever comes out of the system. Meaning, every call through the IDispenser interface. We need to log all the calls, in the order they come out, with all the parameters.

The option I’ll take here is with Approval Tests. I’ll talk about it shortly, and go into the tests next time.

Refactoring Kung Fu: Part III

Gil Zilberfeld explains refactoring for legacy code, about method extraction and constructor injection for refactoring legacy code
In this series we're taking a look at how to refactor un-refactorable legacy code.
Part IPart IPart III
Part IVPart V

Part VI

Check out the original version of the code (Java, and also in C#, in tag 1.0).

Right, time to move some code around. Before we do that, remember step #1 in our process: Draw a line around our tested code. For us it’s mainly the “cook” method. That’s the heart of our code and the code we want to refactor.

The “cook” method is the entry point. Where does our system end? In our example, it is the private methods (which I didn’t add code to). Let’s take a look at them:

There are two types of methods here. The first two methods go outside the class (or would if there was an implementation). In the real world, the may call another REST service, or send an async message. In the real world, that code can also be the combination of inlined logic, and external calls.

The last four are “regular” private methods. This is code we’ve extracted, that, in our example, stays in the class. Or call another class that’s still within the system boundaries.

In general, these are the two kinds of methods we’re going to deal with: The ones that call outside the boundary of our system, and those that stay within it. That is important, because if we want something outside, we want to establish a clear boundary, and we use *methods* to do it.

Now that we have a boundary, let’s push code outside it. And how do we do it? Introduce an interface You’ve probably seen that coming. Let’s call this interface dispenser. In our case it has two methods:

Basically, we extract the code the code in the private method and move them beyond the interface, and whatever parameters we pass to the private method, are going to be parameters in the interface method. This is the kind of low-risk, and even possibly automated, refactoring for introducing interfaces and method extraction. If the code in the private method we’re moving accesses local or instance variables, we should pass them as well to the interface.

And it doesn’t have to be a single interface, like in this example. We can define two interfaces: IngredientDispenser and PastaDispenser. Whatever makes sense in terms of cohesion. The boundary we’re drawing can be temporary for our refactoring, but also can remain later because of separation of concerns, and a better design.

We need to introduce the interface somehow into the class. I decided to inject it through the constructor, but adding a setter works as well.

So here’s the constructor.

Again, this is a modification to the code, that is a low risk change.

But now we have a clear boundary, and we can use it later. The next step though is test case analysis.

The modified code is under tag 1.1 (Added Dispenser interface through constructor)

Refactoring Kung Fu – Part II

Gil Zilberfeld explains the principles of refactoring legacy code
In this series we're taking a look at how to refactor un-refactorable legacy code.
Part IPart IPart III
Part IVPart V

Part VI

Last time I gave you a sneak peak at our PastaMaker. You can check the whole project here.
Let’s take a closer look.

The main logic is in our PastaMaker, so focusing on testing it makes sense. Most of the logic is there, and so are the changes we need to make. We’ll need to do that very carefully, as the system is not test-friendly.

As you can see, our PastaMaker has one main method, “cook”. It takes two parameters, analyzes them, and based on their value does all kinds of things. The “all kind of things” are in private methods, that can call outside the class. I’ve left most of them empty for our example. In the real world, the content of some of the private methods was inlined in the main method. Also in the real world, there are a dozens of conditions and dozens of lines of handling code in that class, so the scale is larger. The principles that we’ll use still apply though.

Do you see the if-else-if-else-if logic? That’s the main problem. It’s not only hard to understand; the order of the clauses is important. It’s hard to change it without risking changing the functionality. Also, what we do in them, can impact subsequent conditions.

How did we get here?

No one plans for this kind of code, but you can see how it gets built, right? You don’t want to touch the “already working” cases. You find the least risky, most probable place to add your new case, close your eyes, commit the code and run away screaming. Rinse and repeat this process for a few years, and we get to this structure.

Our PastaMaker is a great candidate for refactoring. There’s also something that we can see from the code that can help us: We can identify the different cases (but are they all the cases?). In the original code, the conditions are similar – the inputs to the methods are analyzed in the same way (Strings instead of enums). However, the combination number of cases can be astounding.

Our approach to refactoring this code needs some discipline, and some guiding principles.

  • Put (limited) trust in our tools

Our tools (in this case my IDE) will help with automatic refactoring. Depending on the tools we use, we can usually trust renaming, extracting, and sometimes even moving methods around. We can also rely on identification of “unreachable code” after a return.But we don’t trust our tools totally. For example, to invert if-else-if clauses automatically is dangerous. The semantics of our application is not known to our tools. Our trust has limits, and tools can take us so far.

  • Minimize risks

While I’d like the IDE to refactor everything for me, when I move code around, or introduce interfaces, and make other changes my tools can’t do reliably, I need to trust myself.
If this is a critical component, like the PastaMaker, I don’t.When we refactor critical code, we do it with a pair. Or in a group. The process may be long, and we’re going to make mistakes. A partner can help identify the errors, pick up on missing cases, and in general keep us moving forward. We minimize risks where and where we can and that includes another set of eyes.

  • Refactoring means NOT adding code as we go

This is very important. We’re already knee-deep in code we don’t understand. Even worse, we may think we do, and that may not be true. Until we finish making change, and have more confidence the code works, when it has tests around it, we don’t add any new functionality. This is, by the way, one of the genius pillars of TDD: separate the functionality from the refactoring. Only this time, we’re going the other way around.

  • New code is only added after, and with accompanying tests

Once the code is ready in terms of form, and is stable with tests, only then we can add new functionality. And use test-first.

  • Leave the code better than how we found it

We don’t refactor for nothing. We want better code we can add new functionality to. That means, better, simpler, factored code with tests. Oh, and since we’re doing this in a pair, at least two people agree that the code is better than the original.

Principles are not enough

So what’s our plan of attack? The following techniques help us.

  • Define the boundaries of our system-under-test

We need to decide where our system starts and ends. We’re going to move code inside it, inject inputs to one end, and sample on the other end. But we start with the boundaries.

  • Build adapters around those boundaries

Once we’ve decided where the other end is, we’ll need to create adapters to mark our territory. Those adapters will call the original code, and can help us decouple dependencies. In further testing we can use the adapter for mocking..

I’m pretty sure when you here “adapters” you think “interfaces”. We’ll use them, but that is a language construct. If we’re working in C, for example, we’ll need something similar, since there’s no “interface” construct in C.

  • Put as many safeguards in place as we’re refactoring
    We don’t have tests yet, but we will eventually. We need to think about all the cases we want to cover, and we want this comprehensive list early, before we touch the code.
    Later, we’re going to put information in the code that not only help our tests, but also to debug them when they fail. Feedback is our friend.

Next time, we start moving code around.

Refactoring Kung Fu – Part I

Gil Zilberfeld goes through an example of refactoring legacy code, on the way to creating tests for it
In this series we're taking a look at how to refactor un-refactorable legacy code.
Part IPart IPart III
Part IVPart V

Part VI

As long time readers, you know that if we’ve got legacy code, we want tests for that. However, the code doesn’t always play along.

As you’ll see in this example, this is the kind of code that really needs tests. It’s full of logic. It’s alive and working, and it’s so core to the application, that we need to keep going back into it, and we tremble whenever we need to make changes in it.

So what? Tests are important, so write them.

However, things are not that simple. As you look at that legacy code, you know it’s going to be quite a task. The code is messy and full of dependencies. And, that’s not even the main problem: we don’t actually know how it works. Oh, it’s working, for years now, but there’s no updated documentation, and the code itself looks like a recipe out of a pasta book.

Blind testing

Tests have basically a simple construct – define a system with boundaries, pour some known inputs, and see if the outputs come as expected. Our problem starts with the boundaries of the system. It’s hard to draw them. Once we do, we don’t have a comprehensive list of inputs, and of course, what is the expected outcome for them.

Do we back down? Hell no. That is not the kung fu way.

We can still write tests. This special breed of tests is called “characterization tests”. We write characterization tests for a system with unknown or uncertain behavior. They start out like tests without asserts. We pump in inputs, see what comes out in the other end. We agree that the system works as-is, meaning we can trust that for the given inputs, the outputs are the expected outputs. Then we convert these outputs into asserts. Presto, we have tests.

Sometimes, the system is so messed up, characterization tests are the only way to go. However, it’s still defined by its architecture. We may know where the entry points are, but we still need to define what “the other end” is. Is it the database? Calling an external API? An internal state change?

Also, in a medium-to-ginormous size system, with so many possible states, can we cover the code with tests reasonably well? Can we collect and collate all these outputs?

Not so presto

Wouldn’t it be easy if we could make the system boundary a size that is reasonable, and in which we can identify most states, and therefore control what we can, and in fact, write effective valuable tests?

Yes, yes it would.

That requires some guts, a few guiding principles, some tools, and above all, a repeatable method. We can build them, we have the technology.

In fact, when we don’t write tests, and just change the code, we already cross out the guts part (along with the stupid/courageous border). Once we acknowledge that, we can move forward with solving the problem.

The example we’ll explore is based on an actual code base. Imagine a controller doing many things. The code is not necessarily contained just in the controller class. It reads and writes to the database, calls out to other APIs, doing some logic of its own, and returns results through its API.

Our “system” starts out with a REST API in the front, and includes the controller, the data layer, the database, other services, and even a middleware, like Spring. That’s a big system. We want to cut it down to unit-testable size, if possible.

Since the original code is the definition of spaghetti, I thought of re-creating our sample example: The PastaMaker class. Here’s a sneak peek:

Hey, if you want to cook some pasta, you have to break some eggs. Or at least untangle the spaghetti first.

If this looks familiar in some way, stay tuned. We’re going to slay the legacy code dragon.

Real Life TDD With Spring – The Road to the First Test III

Gil Zilberfeld explains the differences between the APIs for the TDD spring example.
How does TDD look like in real world development of microservices or web interfaces? That's what this series is all about.
1. Introduction2. The requirements3. Test case analysis I4. Test case analysis II
Test case analysis III6. Test case analysis IV7. Setting up a project with Spring Boot8. Which tests to write?
9. API design

We’ve come up with a few alternatives for the APIs (their draft version, anyway). I’m going to weigh them here, and remind ourselves – this is the internal API forma, but also has a REST counterpart.

Let’s talk about each of the options, but this time, not just about how they look, but also about their design implication.

String pressKey(String key);
One API to rule them all. There’s an issue with its design though. If the UI doesn’t tell the server: “I’m ready”, or if it was refreshed in the middle of an operation, there could be a disconnect between what the UI displays and the server’s state. And where there’s disconnect, there will be bugs.

String pressKey(null);
Still a single API, but this time, we’re talking with the server. In order to reset, we’re using an API called “pressKey“, when no one has actually pressed any key. Exposing a special meaning with “null” to the outside world is not something I like to do. The last guy who did it called it “the billion dollar mistake”. Not only is anything being pressed, no nulls have been pressed in the making of this post. We’d like the interfaces to speak the language of the domain as much as possible, and this one kind of breaks it.

So how about that reset-as-a-startup?:
String pressKey("C")"

It’s a more attractive option, since the initialized system should behave as if it was reset with the “C” key. There is still the issue that nobody actually pressed anything. And although I don’t like planning and designing for future requirements, there may be a future where resetting results has a different behavior than the one on startup. In that future, we might want a different functionality when pressing “C”.

void pressKey(String key); String getDisplay();

If we separate the get/set operations, (and follow the command-query separation principle) we can get a nice, clean interface. At the start, we’ll call the “getDisplay” API to show what the calculator’s state is at the moment. Which may not be zero. It can be the last held result).
This is an interesting feature, although this kind of behavior was not requested. We need to show “0” in the beginning.

We can assume that “getDisplay” will result in 0, but that gives a separate meaning to “getDisplay” – if used at the start it shows zero, regardless of what the server holds. Additionally, this APIs require two calls to the server every time, which may be costly and slow.

void initializeCalculator();
Which leads us to a separate API for initialization. We probably need it – to tell the server the UI is ready. However, where does the zero come from? We still don’t want to press anything. So maybe the initializing method can return what to display:

String initializeCalculator();

While this is promising, there is some inside knowledge about what the return value that we’ll need to document, so people from now on will know. Tests will help, but maybe a better name can help:

String initializeAndGetDisplay();

It’s better, but still does two things. For now it will do. Next time I’ll tell you my pick and write some tests.

But before we go, you’re probably thinking – what we did here is a bit of cheating. We should have the API discussion while we write the tests. This is where we should actually do that thinking, not before writing even “@Test“. In fact, before the glorious TDD days, we’d write a design up front (in a 500 page document), and invent that API (hopefully thinking also about alternatives). Did we just jump back in time?

As opposed to a series of posts, our (and my) thinking is not linear. Neither of the “proper” TDD, or “proper” design is how we think. TDD, and development in general, is an iterative process. In this series, so far I’ve been writing and deleting stuff, just because I’ve learned things on the way and even (gasp), changed my mind a couple of times. It’s ok for thinking up front, (I’m a huge fan of thinking!), and it’s ok to let things change on the way. That’s how we think, learn and work and we should embrace it.