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The Self Shunt - Test Doubles without a Framework

Generally you should favour hand crafted stubs without a framework by default. Before you reach for a framework there is another bridging step that you can take only pulling in a framework if complexity arises - the Self Shunt.

Assume a simple Hello World subject under test where we can provide different formatters that format the message to a console, XML or JSON for example. How do we test that the formatter is used, with the right arguments?

Enter the Self Shunt (pdf). Have the test fixture implement the interface aka assume the role of a message formatter. It provides itself as a parameter to the greeter in the form of self/this. The greeter uses this implementation during its execution, the test fixture can then assert or set state.


  • Quick and simple to get up and running.
  • Most commands fall into the category of invoke something with some parameters, with little more complexity.
  • Forces you to respect the Interface Segregation Principle, otherwise this technique can become painful. A framework usually masks this complexity.
  • Code is inline to the test or fixtures.
  • Exposes and explains how frameworks work conceptually to new developers - removing some of the magic.

The Self Shunt is my default approach for testing commands which are usually local to test fixtures. Queries default to hand crafted stubs which are usually shared amongst tests. If further tests need the same configuration the shunt can be promoted to a full object that lives independently of the test fixture. Finally if this starts to become difficult to work with I would reach for a framework - commands usually reach this point first.


  1. Never came across this idea before. Very interesting approach, thanks for sharing!


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