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    Unit testing is anti-productive

    • Salish Mist
      Salish Mist

      Image by ecstaticist via Flickr

    Today I finally got my feet wet with something I've been meaning to try on for size ever since reading Clean Code, during my trip to Vienna last autumn; wow has it really been that long already, where'd winter and spring hide?

    Anyway, so at about midnight last night I finally embarked on the process of coding up a new feature for Twitulater, or at least its server-side bits, after some prep work. Now since this is a rather mission critical system that I'd very much like to be somewhat reliable and rock-solid, unit testing seemed to be the way to go.

    Downloading PHPUnit gave me some headaches, because ubuntu's package managers fucked something up. Why is it I can't install Pear if there are broken packages for something completely different? Then came the figuring out of how to actually do unit testing and I must say, it was incredibly simple. Of course I did have eight months' time for the principles grokked from Clean Code to seep in, but still.

    Mostly I was suprised to finally confirm that I have been doing test driven development (TDD for you acronym junkies) for a long while. Just in reverse. Whereas now, with automated unit tests, I first write a test, then the code, I used to write the code then test the hell out of it. With PHPUnit testing has become much less of a hassle - run a command, make sure everything works. Nice!

    However, unit testing has one large drawback. It took me a solid six hours of coding to produce ... nothing. I have in my possession now 200 lines of real code that doesn't implement much other than making sure users exist and authenticating them, and a bunch of tests taking up a full ... 170 lines of code. This is of course after some refactoring and whatnot, the original ratio was always that there were twice as many tests as there was actual code. Yummie.

    Now I'm sure many of you will bash me for being such a dirty little blasphemer, but fuck it. Despite all the headaches saved with testing, despite making testing a lot simpler and quicker. It still took me SIX BLOODY HOURS to create some functionality that never used to take more than two hours to code and debug.

    Did you enjoy this article?

    Published on June 23rd, 2009 in food for thought, Programming, testing, Twitulater, Uncategorized

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