Tuesday, 8 November 2016

POODR Highlights Part 2

Two other stand out topics from POODR were the use of tests and inheritance. The first set of higlights covered dependencies and arguments.

Tests

A conclusion that I agree with is that in general most programmers write too many tests.. A great quote in the book sees tests (as) the canary in the coal mine; when the design is bad, testing is hard. Sadly too many poor tests are often written. Examples such as property or construction tests, framework tests or tests that are coupled to the implementation are all common problems. Instead we should aim to get better and more value out of our tests by writing fewer of them, but of higher quality. In short test everything once and only in the proper place. A first step is to simply focus on the ROI that tests give, and focus on the high risk areas.

The test categories are broken down into two core types of tests.

  • Incoming Public Messages (public API)
  • Outgoing Public Messages (To public API of another object)

State based tests should be used for incoming public messages. While verification based tests should be used for outgoing public messages as the state is tested on the receiver, elsewhere. The distinction between commands and queries is also highlighted. In summary incoming messages should be tested for the state they return. Outgoing commands should be tested to ensure they get sent. Outgoing query messages should not be tested, merely stubbed.

These testing rules are nothing new, but the summary and importance of following these guidelines is nicely summarized within the chapter covering testing principles.

Inheritance

Inheritance is widely abused and misunderstood. Either inheritance is the solution for all problems, or you're advised to never use inheritance. POODR takes a more pragmatic approach. Inheritance is a tool that can sometimes provide an excellent solution, however you are better off duplicating code and defer such decisions until you know more.

The wrong abstraction is harder to work with than duplicated code as duplication can easily be removed. A bad abstraction that is used in many places is much harder however. The application of the Rule of Three can help here.

Lessons

  • Tests are hard - write less but focus on the quality.
  • Minimize the number of tests you write by using boundaries via incoming/outgoing messages.
  • Inheritance is not all bad.
  • Defer or hold back using inheritance until you understand the problem.

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