Category Archives: Unit Testing

Code Kata: FizzBuzz–How did you fare?

In my last post, I introduced the concept of a code-kata (coding exercises) and gave an example problem to solve:

Write a program that prints the numbers from 1 to 100. But for multiples of three print “Fizz” instead of the number and for the multiples of five print “Buzz”. For numbers which are multiples of both three and five print “FizzBuzz”.

For those of you who tried the example, how did you find it? Pretty simple right?

Did you make it look this easy though? Whoever recorded that video is nicely demonstrating the benefits of honing their development environment – he/she even goes as far as disabling their mouse to train themselves to use the keyboard more effectively.

How well was your code designed? Is it adaptable to change?

Let’s move the goal posts

In real life, requirements change all the time. We can easily practice writing adaptable code by throwing some new requirements into the mix.

Try to take these steps one by one, as if a client was drip feeding them to you – try not to read ahead too far!

  • Try extending the application to support another range of numbers, such as 15-175
  • Try extending the application such that a user could provide any range of numbers (such as from the console, or from configuration)
  • Try extending the application to support new rules – output “Baz” for numbers divisible by 4
  • Instead of printing the numbers to the console, try extending the app to write to a file

Put your money where your mouth is, show me the codez!

Ok, my C# kata can be found on my github page here: Over time, perhaps we’ll see more implementations of this appear on my github page in other languages, such as F#. Interestingly enough, I used this example to hone my environment; to learn the GIT commands (instead of using a GUI) by practicing them over and over with this small simple example.

Code Kata: Training for your mind

The concept of a code-kata is a simple one and its premise is borrowed from its martial arts counter part:

Kata (型 or 形 literally: form) is a Japanese word describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs.


In a code-kata, we practice coding problems to train our minds muscle-memory such that when faced with real-world coding problems, the solutions are at the forefront of our mind.

The general idea is to practice solving problems in new ways, new languages, or in new environments. By practicing techniques that are just outside of our comfort zone, we can push ourselves to learn. Additionally, we can use this same approach to tune our environment in an observable manner in order to reduce any friction in the way we are working.



I came across the FizzBuzz code-kata a few years back and I’ve seen a few slightly different versions of it in my travels. In fact, this “problem” even came up in an interview I had once, so practicing the kata definitely paid off!

Here’s the FizzBuzz problem description:

Imagine the scene. You are eleven years old, and in the five minutes before the end of the lesson, your math teacher decides he should make his class more "fun" by introducing a "game". He explains that he is going to point at each pupil in turn and ask them to say the next number in sequence, starting from one. The "fun" part is that if the number is divisible by three, you instead say "Fizz" and if it is divisible by five you say "Buzz". So now your math teacher is pointing at all of your classmates in turn, and they happily shout "one!", "two!", "Fizz!", "four!", "Buzz!"… until he very deliberately points at you, fixing you with a steely gaze… time stands still, your mouth dries up, your palms become sweatier and sweatier until you finally manage to croak "Fizz!". Doom is avoided, and the pointing finger moves on.

So of course in order to avoid embarrassment in front of your whole class, you have to get the full list printed out so you know what to say. Your class has about 33 pupils and he might go round three times before the bell rings for break time. Next math lesson is on Thursday. Get coding!

Write a program that prints the numbers from 1 to 100. But for multiples of three print "Fizz" instead of the number and for the multiples of five print "Buzz". For numbers which are multiples of both three and five print "FizzBuzz".

This Kata is best used to introduce the concepts of Test-Driven Development; Red-Green-Refactor! If you’re new to TDD, or even if you’re just looking to hone your technique, this is a neat little example to try, and there are dozens (if not more) ways to solve this problem.

Write your first test, watch it fail, fill out the implementation, make it pass, then clean up (refactor).

In my next post, I’ll spice it up a little. If you haven’t tried the Kata yet, don’t peek -  I don’t want to spoil your fun!

Pagination in MvcContrib

Over the next month or so, I’m hoping to write a couple of posts on some work I’ve undertaken in extending the original pager implementation that compliments the MvcContrib grid component.

The work I’ve undertaken so far has focused on the following areas:

Customisable Pager Rendering

The existing pager is rather limited in the HTML rendered out of the box. Currently the only means to gaining more control over the output would be to inherit from the existing Pager, override a few methods (you’d probably need to dig into the source to identify which ones), and to implement a new HTML helper. Support for this approach is limited by the current unit tests making expectations based on the complete mark-up.

The new pager will support complete customisation of rendering through custom templates, and

Support for Numeric Pagination (in addition to Next/Previous)

The existing pager component outputs as a “Next/Previous” style pager, with links for next/previous/first/last.

The new pager implementation will allow a choice of pager, with Next/Previous and Numeric pagers provided OOTB.

Separate Pagination Summary

Although the existing pager provides a summary with localization support, its implementation is embedded within the current pager. I would like to break this component out and separate its unit tests from the pager implementation, such that this component is optional and can change independently from the pager.

I’m looking for feedback on the work I’ve undertaken so far, and would welcome additional ideas and suggestions. The fork containing my work so far can be found here:

Best and Worst Practises in Unit Testing

Ok, so I had been in the process of writing a blog to summarize my opinions on TDD etc, and this article popped up on my feed reader – it covers a good deal of the things I had wanted to discuss, and is summarized in a very well constructed way. So rather repeating everything, I’ll focus on a couple the issues discussed that I feel are important.

The point I’d like to emphasize in this article, that truly strikes a chord with me is:

 a suite of bad unit tests is immensely painful: it doesn’t prove anything clearly, and can severely inhibit your ability to refactor or alter your code in any way


In fact, I can’t emphasize this point enough. A suite of bad tests inhibit change. Brittle unit tests, like brittle code, need to be refactored/replaced. I think the points made under the section “Name your unit tests clearly and consistently” I think are crucial here. Just today for instance, I came across the following tests methods in a class named DutyAssignmentChecks:






I was only looking at the test code so get a feel for the current behavior of the system; after all, tests should be executable specifications that define the behavior of our code, what better way to document the system! Looking at this “unit test” code however did not help one bit. Maintenance is hard when you don’t know what you’re maintaining. If I break these tests when modifying the original code base, what value do these tests provide? If I’m changing the expected behavior of the system, then breaking a test may be valid, but how am I to know this is the case, if I can’t deduce what the expected behavior under test is! The article suggests using  the subject, the scenario, and the result in the test name to clarify the behavior under test. This pattern of specifying is the basis of what has evolved into the Behavior Driven Development technique coined by Dan North.  


The style of text naming I prefer is as follows:

     using Skynet.Core


     public class when_initializing_core_module : concerns


       SkynetCoreModule _core;


       public void context()


         //we’ll stub it…you know…just in case

        var skynetController = stub<ISkynetMasterController>();

        _core = new SkynetCoreModule(skynetController);





       public void it_should_not_become_self_aware()


       _core.should_not_have_received_the_call(x => x.InitializeAutonomousExecutionMode());




       public void it_should_default_to_human_friendly_mode()





       // more specifications under this same context

       // …


I think this kind of style of testing greatly improves the clarity and purpose of both the test, and the therefore subject under test.

The only point the article suggests that I’d take with a small pinch of salt is in the section “Unit testing is not about finding bugs”. I think the author slightly underplays the effectiveness of unit tests detecting regression bugs when you’re making any changes to the existing code. He does mention that unit testing can be effective in finding bugs when refactoring,  which I completely agree with – it’s this factor that makes refactoring confidently possible. I’d also argue however, that it helps find bugs introduced when a developer is extending the code base without following the Open/Closed Principal. In this scenario, the developer is modifying and existing code base to add a new feature or function. Although this scenario is undesirable (see the link to O/C P for details), and I would rather see the developers trained in good OO practice, in my experience I would say this scenario is extremely common in teams without much experience in good OO development. Under these conditions, unit tests are still quiet valuable in finding regression bugs.


What do you think?

Implementing a Customer Search Service – Part 2

Continuing on from my previous post, let’s start off by coding up the unit tests based on the behaviour scenarios we laid out. To ease my transition towards the BDD-like way of writing tests, I’m using xUnit along with a really handy base class and observation attribute developed by Fredrik Kalseth (check out his blog post here to see how this all works). As a refresher, the scenario I’ll be testing first is:

WHEN searching for customers

GIVEN customers exist matching the search criteria

THEN records matching the criteria will be retrieved from the persistence store AND customer summaries are returned AND the search is successful

And the coded test looks like this:

public class When_Searching_For_Customers 
              : Given_Customers_Exist_Matching_Criteria
    private ISearchResult<ICustomerSummary> _result;

    protected override void Observe()
        ICustomerSearchService service = 
           new CustomerSearchService(_repository, _customerSummaryMapper);
        _result = service.Find(_criteria);

    public void Records_Matching_criteria_are_requested_from_repository()
        Assert.Equal(1, _repositoryInvocationCount);

    public void Customer_Summaries_are_returned()

    public void The_Search_is_successful()

Pretty simple stuff. Following the Arrange, Act, Assert pattern for authoring tests, the “arranging” of the test takes place in the base class (which I’ll cover shortly), the “act” takes place by creating and invoking the service,  and finally there is then an assertion for each observation that we are hoping to prove.

The base class that manages the set-up of the test context looks like this:

public abstract class Given_Customers_Exist_Matching_Criteria 
                       : Specification
    protected IRepository<Customer> _repository;
    protected ICustomerSummaryMapper _customerSummaryMapper;
    protected ISearchCriteria<Customer> _criteria;
    protected int _repositoryInvocationCount;

    protected override void InitializeContext()
        _repository = GetMockRepository();
       _customerSummaryMapper = GetMockCustomerMapper();

    private static ICustomerSummaryMapper GetMockCustomerMapper()
        var mock = new Mock<ICustomerSummaryMapper>();
        mock.Expect(map => map.MapFrom(It.IsAny<IList<Customer>>()))
            .Returns(new List<ICustomerSummary>());
        return mock.Object;

    private IRepository<Customer> GetMockRepository()
        var mockRepository = new Mock<IRepository<Customer>>();
        var mockCustomers = GetMockCustomers();
        mockRepository.Expect(rep => rep.Find(_criteria))
            .Callback(() => _repositoryInvocationCount++);
        return mockRepository.Object;

    private static IList<Customer> GetMockCustomers()
        var mockCustomers = new Mock<IList<Customer>>();
        mockCustomers.Expect(customers => customers.Count).Returns(10);
        return mockCustomers.Object;

This class simply creates mocks for the dependencies of the SUT, such that we can test the unit in isolation. The only little extra here is that the mock repository behaves more like a test spy, since it allows us to monitor the number of times that the Find() method has been invoked.


Implementing the Service

Since I want to be completely flexible with my search criteria, I want the contract of my service to take in an abstraction of the Customer search criteria, rather than specifying a finite set of inputs. I think the following contract describes this quite well:

ISearchResult<ICustomerSummary> Find(ISearchCriteria<Customer> criteria);


I don’t want any of my data retrieval responsibilities leaking into the application layer. This work should be delegated repository. I therefore want my service to pass-through the search parameters into a repository implementation. Rather than making the repository aware of the presentation layer object ISearchCriteria, it is better to use a common, shared abstraction. A suitable abstraction to use here would be to use the specification pattern for the search criteria, and passing this abstraction to the repository.

As discussed briefly in my previous posts (and in detail here), I believe my repository should behave like a collection of entities (rather than serving up a query in the form IQueryable<T>). I also know my repository can only return a reference to entities defined as the root of an Aggregate.

Taking all this into account, I can specify my repository interface as:

public interface IRepository<TAggregateRoot>
    where TAggregateRoot : class, IAggregateRoot
    /// <summary>
    /// Find entities by specification.
    /// </summary>
    IList<TAggregateRoot> Find(ISpecificationExpression<TAggregateRoot> criteria);

NB: It’s likely that my Repository Interface will later include the ability to save new and updated entities, however as per YAGNI, I won’t include this for the moment.


Since my repository can only return a reference to an Aggregate Root, the Customer aggregate root will need to be mapped to the required CustomerSummary presentation object. A suitable interface for this mapper object could be:

ICustomerSummary MapFrom(Customer customer);
IEnumerable<ICustomerSummary> MapFrom(IList<Customer> customers);

All that remains then is to create an implementation of the service based on these interfaces. This is quite simply:

public ISearchResult<ICustomerSummary> Find(ISearchCriteria<Customer> criteria)
    var customers = _repository.Find(criteria);

    if (customers == null || customers.Count == 0)
        return new CustomerSearchResult
            IsSuccessful = false,
            FailureReasons = new[] { "No Customers found." }

    var summary = _mapper.MapFrom(customers);

    return new CustomerSearchResult { IsSuccessful = true, Hits = summary };


All that’s left is to create simple implementations for the remaining objects (CustomerSearchResult, CustomerSummary CustomerSearchCriteria) and we’re ready to rock. Now the logic of the Application Service is created and the tests pass, we can create a repository implementation making use of the Entity Framework sample’s EFPocoAdapter project. I’ll cover this in my next post.

Pluggable Dependencies demo part 1

I’ve been itching to build a “modern” application using an Agile approach with TDD since being inspired by Rob Conery’s MVC Storefront application, so  I figured the small example I discussed in my last post would be a good starting point for me to take my first baby steps.

To briefly re-cap and pad out the initial requirement, the idea is to build a small app where a person (and their address details) can be stored. There will be a minimum requirement that a person must have a full name (forename and surname) and an address for that person to be “published” to a list of people on the system. Draft person records can be created with incomplete details, and stored until such a time when they can be completed and published.

Please keep in mind as you read this that this will be this first time I’ve *attempted to* use TDD in anger, so please feel free to confront me about any questionable decisions I make, and I’ll try and make time to adjust the app/discuss the issues further!

Right, without further ado I’ll begin!

The first unit test

In attempting to follow the TDD mantra, the first step is to code out my first test. I figure I’d start with trying to return a list of people (or Persons) and since I know from my last post I want program against an abstraction, I know this list will be of type IPerson. Since I also know I wish to filter this list, I want my return type to be IQueryable. So this leaves me with:

public void Repository_ShouldReturn_Persons_AsQueryable()
    IDataContext rep = new InMemoryRepository();
    var query = from persons in rep.Repository<IPerson>()
                select persons;

    Assert.IsInstanceOfType(query, typeof(IQueryable<IPerson>));
    Assert.IsTrue(query.Count() > 0);

Of course since the none of these objects exist yet, the code will not build. With a little help from Resharper it’s easy to create some empty interfaces for IDataContext and IPerson and a basic implementation of InMemoryRepository to enable this code to build. These interfaces and classes now sit in the test project, within the InMemoryRepositoryTests code file and are marked as internal. At this point, this doesn’t matter. There’ll be a time to sort this out later in the process.

Now at this point, I run my first test, and of course, it fails – my repository method throws a NotImplementedException. At this point I really want to cheat a little since I already have an implementation I can use for this method that I’d like to use, but I know I would probably be burnt at the stake for such a blatant abuse of TDD, so I grit my teeth and continue. The TDD process tells me I should be adding the simplest implementation possible to make the test pass, so I write:

public IQueryable<T> Repository<T>()
    IList<T> items = new List<T>();

    return items.AsQueryable();

…and it fails again. This time with the message "Assert.IsTrue failed." – of course, there is no data being returned. Duh! This is easy to fix, I know I need to return a list of IQueryable<Person> so I add the following lines just above the return statement:

IPerson person = new Person();

This time, I run my test, and watch it pass!

Now I’m allowed to refactor. This is once again where Resharper comes in really handy; a few Alt+Enters and I’ve separated my objects and interfaces into separate files. I can then move IPerson and Person into a separate project called business objects (for want of a better name) and move IDataContext and InMemoryRepository into their own project (aptly named DataAccess). A few more tweaks are needed (like changing the protection level of the classes from internal to public, and altering namespaces) and I hit my next point requiring consideration – since I am making reference to the person object in the InMemoryRepository class, there is a one-way project dependency from my DataAccess project, to my BusinessObjects project and it appears that the dependency is avoidable. Since I want to avoid this dependency, I refactor the implementation to allow items to be inserted to an internally maintained list of objects:

private readonly List<object> _inMemoryDataStore = new List<object>();

public IQueryable<T> Repository<T>()
    var query = from objects in _inMemoryDataStore 
                where typeof(T).IsAssignableFrom(objects.GetType()) 
                select objects; 
    return query.Select(o => (T)o).AsQueryable();

public void Insert<T>(T item)

I then add the Insert definition to my IDataContext so I can initialise the test with some data. Now my code builds again, I can now run my test again watch it pass!

Phew! That’s all I’m going to cover in this post. In later posts I will try to cover off returning Address details related to a person, implementing repositories that persist data to a database, implementing a “draft” repository, and switching between the pluggable dependencies.

Program against an abstraction, not an implementation

I was asked by another developer today how I would go about enabling an application to record “temporary” incomplete data for a particular object (lets say, a person) where usually that object would require particular attributes to contain values, and perhaps pass some other validation (lets say, the person must have address details). Now my first thought was that I’d require different objects for the temporary person record, and the final, published person record, and that each could have different levels of validation applied. At this point, my mind wandered to a blog post I’d read somewhere before…

In the end, I answered his question by pointing him to the blog that I had read. This blog discusses the Repository Pattern and goes on to propose a super-flexible repository interface that allows different implementations of the repository to be swapped out – the primary goal being the ability to run unit tests in isolation (without hitting the database). The blog also emphasises that the power of an abstraction is it’s transparent plugability; the ability to swap in a “draft repository” is now made possible and changes made in draft can be persisted to a different storage location than the live data.

It’s not a big leap from here to see how different implementations of an IPerson interface could have differing validation logic depending on the context (draft or published). By programming against the abstraction of the repository interface, and against abstractions of the returned types, we can (with minimal effort) swap out different implementations to provide the required functionality. I’d quite like to have a go at implementing this technique myself to see what I can come up with. Perhaps in future posts I’ll explore this technique further.


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