Monday, April 07, 2008

Easy Does It With easyb

I just got back from the CITcon conference, which is the thrice-yearly confab of agile developers who use continuous integration (the "CIT" in the conference name). This was my second time at CITcon. It's an open-space conference that is--surprise!--free, and chock-a-block full of good information. The principal reason it's so informative is that anyone committed enough to CI to go to a conference has probably spent a lot of time thinking about how to solve problems of build and test at his/her site. And this concern and reflection on these issues is amply evident in the discussions in the hallways and the informal presentations.

All the sessions I attended were thought-provoking. But probably the most interesting was a presentation by Andy Glover, the president of Stelligent, an agile consultancy. He runs a great blog in which has been touting a tool called easyb, which enables you to script unit tests so that they describe a scenario (rather than a code feature) and then test for the expected result. I've read Andy's enthusiasm for easyb, but it wasn't until I saw him demo it that I understood what the excitement was about.

The key benefits are 1) you can show a non-programmer (like the manager who is expecting the software any day now) that you have written tests that match every one of his requirements--easyb enables you to do this by writing the test in near English language; 2) you can test at a slightly higher level than the unit test: rather than test tiny features individually, you can quite easily test a succession of conditions that are chained together.

This approach is called--a little misleadingly,--behavior-driven development; which was an immediate turn off for me. I really don't want to learn another x-driven development. I just want to do what I do better. And I think easyb might just be such a tool. So, don't worry about the name, and hop over to the easyb website for a quick look-see. You'll like what you find.

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