Integrated Tests Are a Scam Comments

I’ve taken this verbatim from a thread in the Google group for Steve Freeman and Nat Pryce’s excellent work, Growing Object-Oriented Systems Guided by Tests. As I’ve said before, they’ve written the book I wish I’d written. I quote Rick Pingry below.

My partner and I were just looking at a video you made a while back about integration tests being snake oil. The GOOS book of course talks about Acceptance Tests, but perhaps you are making a differentiation between acceptance tests and integration tests. I bring it up in this thread because I think it is relevant.

Short version: Don’t use end-to-end tests to avoid flaws in the basic correctness of your system.

The crux of the problem: The Average Person™ conflates “Acceptance test” (help the Customer feel good that the feature is present) with “System test” (help the Programmer feel good that the system components work together correctly) because they tend both to be end-to-end tests. As a result, the Average Person doesn’t write enough microtests.

GOOS uses Acceptance Tests to guide programming and help Programmers know when they’ve built enough stuff. Because they choose to implement those tests in Java, the Average Reader™ might interpret those tests as System Tests, and believe that they serve the purpose of making sure the whole system works. Even when GOOS does use them as System Tests, the book also shows many, many microtests, thereby avoiding the logic error that the Average Person™ makes.

In there you take the approach that you should mock ALL collaborators. In a bit of code we wrote recently, we did that very thing, but find that making changes to how the thing works is hard. Refactoring becomes harder. (I wrote about this before and got lots of great advice from you guys, but I think I understand better about what is going on now so I can speak a little more intelligently about it). The tests become glue that makes any kind of change to HOW a class is implemented difficult if you ever want to extract an internal. The GOOS book and this thread talk about a difference between peers and internals, and I get the impression that you should mock the peers and not mock the internals. I am not so sure now after hearing your talk about that. Am I missing something?

No. I agree about using test doubles for peers, not internals. I simply use the painful pressure from trying to use test doubles for all collaborators to help me classify them as peers or internals. Sometimes I guess well about that classification as a shortcut, but when I don’t guess well, I can always take the long route.

If you are mocking out every collaboration between every class in your system, how do you refactor anything without breaking tests? Are you supposed to be able to refactor without breaking tests? Could you provide an example of how you do that?

I tend more often to throw away tests than break them. If changing a client leads to changing a peer interface, then I switch to revising the contract tests for that interface. Sometimes this means throwing tests away, because sometimes this means throwing an interface away.

I’m afraid I have no example to show you, because contrived examples don’t demonstrate the point adequately, and I don’t own the IP rights to the real-life examples I’ve used.


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