Time for Testing

Michael Bolton’s post How Long Will the Testing Take? on his blog DevelopSense goes into depth on how long testing takes. Bolton claims good software testing as a process takes just as long as development, because the two are actually interwoven as processes and should happen simultaneously.

I think a lot of people brush off testing systems and software because of the idea that it takes additional time and can make the release of a project come later. However, as Bolton states, testing actually occurs simultaneously to development, as things are tested as they are implemented into the system to make sure they interact correctly. With this in mind, the program should be fully tested not long after it is completely developed. It doesn’t really cost much extra time, just the extra costs of developing tests. However, doing it this way also allows you to fix issues that come up along the way, before they become larger issues.

In some of my earlier programming classes, students were often encouraged to write one test and make sure it works before moving onto the next test. We were also encouraged to write tests after every method we made in our programs. In a way, we were clearly being prepared for this approach to development and testing, and it was clear even then why it is a good way to work on a program. It is logical, as incremental development seems a lot safer. You avoid getting overwhelmed with errors and issues that all compound on each other at once when you write your tests this way.

The blog post also covers the silliness of the question of how long testing will take. If your developers and testers are working together and doing what they’re supposed to, testing will finish as soon as development does. Although you can test the system in post-production, it is entirely optional, and is only done with good reason. So in the future, if I am ever managing the development of a system, I will be able to recognize what the testers are doing and ask more productive questions.


Use Case Diagrams

In the post Grouping Components by Use Case, Robert Annet discusses a strategy he uses when making context diagrams. After determining the use cases of his program, the components involved in each of the seven use cases are divided into groups within the diagram with different colored barriers. Structurizr, the web application Annet used for his diagrams, allowed him to filter the diagrams by the use cases. This makes observing which components are involved even easier visually.

The benefits of using this strategy of dividing your context diagrams into use cases is clear if you are working with a program that is complex enough to warrant it. A complex program in this case being one with a lot of different components which all are involved in several different interactions. If you have to make changes to a certain interaction withing your program, you can look at the components involved in the use cases and identify what you have to change to make the desired effect. Since your program has a lot of different and interlaced interactions and components, using these use cases and filtering your diagram into smaller parts makes it easier to understand the interactions and whats happening with the involved components without being overwhelmed by a ton of different components that don’t have any involvement. In my opinion, it is much clearer when you only have to see two or three components when you want to change an interaction in the program.

Using this strategy can also help you find other issues or reliances in your program. For instance, you may find that most or all of your use cases use the same component. Since this component is so integral to the interactions in your program, it is likely not one you are going to want to change much. This strategy also can help you find components that are not being used in your program, and thus may be unnecessary or you may need to reassess your use cases.

Overall, I thought Robert Annet’s idea of dividing programs into different use cases is very interesting and obviously useful as a concept, so I’m sure I’ll use in the future. Whenever you are dealing with a large enough system, you should consider looking at the diagram from this angle to see if you can identify any problems or vulnerabilities.

The State Pattern

The State Behavioral Design Pattern is one of the GoF Design Patterns. In his series on the Gang of Four design patterns, John Thompson wrote an article on the State Pattern, which he defines as “an important pattern that allows an object to change its behavior when it’s[sic] internal state changes.”

He opens the article by providing an example of a Vending Machine program that will need the State Pattern to be applied to it. One thing I like about the way he writes his examples is how he uses variable names to make it very readable. He could have just had the states as the integers themselves, but his simple and clever use of variable names has given me ideas of how to make my programs more readable in the future.

In order to transform his Vending Machine program from a “monolithic class” into a more adaptable program, John shows us how to implement the State Pattern. He separates each of the four states of the vending machine into their own classes. They each implement an interface that defines the behaviors of the vending machine. These state classes each detail how they handle the behavior in that state. Finally, the vending machine itself which handles the inventory of the vending machine and has methods a lot of methods to handle changing the state of the machine.

Due to designing the code with this pattern, you can add a new state by creating a new concrete class and modifying the vending machine class to handle it. However the currently written states are closed to modification as well, following Open Closed principle. When you compare the example before and after the State Pattern was applied, it becomes apparent why it is so beneficial to use this pattern when it’s appropriate: it makes your code more open to modification and more easily-understood. You don’t have to spend as much time reading and understanding code under the State Design Pattern, and so it helps make your program easy to maintain, especially when multiple people might be going back to the code later. Having more classes isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Decision Graphs

The article I chose to cover for CS-443 this week is a research article titled Decision Graphs and Their Application to Software Testing by Robert Gold. This article goes in-depth on one of the subjects covered in our Activities, DD-path testing, as well as other decision-based testing methods. One of the things I like about this article is that it uses a lot of mathematical notation and logic to represent how the methods work. It also has very detailed proofs to show why the necessary branch/edge coverage is reached. There are several different examples of code that have corresponding decision graphs, to show the different parts of making a decision graph.

Looking at the example of the function f1 given in the article (Figure 3), there is something this article did with DD-path graphs that we did differently in class. whereas our DD-paths were just all the nodes in between with an in-degree and out-degree of 1, when Robert combines several D-nodes into one DD-path, he includes the first node that has an in-degree of 2 and the last node which has an out-degree of 0 along with the rest of the nodes. Therefore, his DD-Path graph for f1 is a lot simpler than what we would have made doing what we did in class. I’m curious which way is better. The article also dives into a topic about path testing we discussed but did not have an example of, that is when code branches into multiple different endpoints. In order to achieve branch coverage in these examples, you have to have multiple tests with different inputs that satisfy every branch.

Overall, the abundance of examples in both code and their associated graphs, as well as the very clear mathematical notation and rigorous proofs makes this article a really interesting read if you are a Mathematics major/minor. The conclusion at the end details a major application of this are modeling programs with flow graphs to represent programs. There are many different kinds of decision based testing methods that you can use, and if you have any questions about one of them or how they work, this is an amazing resource.

The Test Pyramid

For my post this week, I found an excellent blog post by Martin Fowler on his personal website that details the “Test Pyramid.” The test pyramid is a way of representing the proportion of different tests you should be using for the purposes of keeping a balanced portfolio of tests.


As you can see by the pyramid, user-interface testing is slower and more expensive, moving to service testing which finds itself in the middle and then on towards unit testing which is speedier and less costly. This would imply that in general you want to rely more on unit testing than UI or service based testing, although all of these types of tests have a purpose.

Martin talks about the disadvantages of relying too heavily on user-interface testing. The slow testing increases build times and can require installed licenses for test automation software, which costs money and limits which machine the tests can be run on. The largest con Martin details was how brittle the tests were. That is, any small change to the system could break several tests and require them to be re-recorded. All these reasons show why the pyramid is the way it is, putting UI testing on the higher, smaller end. Fowler makes a point that often the usage of the high-level tests is as a second line of test defense. These tests are able to capture a bug you might have missed or not written tests for, and enables you to write a unit test to ensure the bug is taken care of.

I think the test pyramid is an interesting idea that highlights the importance of unit testing and helps define the priorities we should have as testers. Although it does not dismiss UI or service testing, it clearly demonstrates as testers that we should primarily be using unit testing to fix bugs in the code and make sure they stay fixed. High-level testing can be used to find things that are missed, but shouldn’t be relied on to catch bugs, and they won’t necessarily stay stable when you make changes to your program.


Factory Design Pattern – Factory Method

In this week’s blog post I decided to share an informative post by Henri Idrovo on dev.to detailing the implementation and usage of the factory design pattern, specifically the “Factory Method.” Henri starts the blog by introducing the problem the factory design pattern is aiming to solve: using the ‘new’ keyword creates dependencies on concrete classes within our program. When many new objects are being created, this tends to get out of hand. Henri introduced the dependency inversion principle, stating “Depend upon abstractions. Do not depend on concrete classes.”

To show how to implement and improve your code using the factory design pattern, an example is introduced that involves a Pizza Store that has to create different types of pizzas. Without the design pattern in place, every type of pizza you would want to make would require another if-statement, so clearly something needs to be fixed. In order to use the factory pattern, we need to separate what is likely to change from what is not, and put what will change in a class of their own.

In Henri’s example everything that is common to pizza creation is placed in an abstract creator class, and the specifics are placed in concrete creator classes that extend the abstract class. Similarly, the different kinds of Pizza are each given their own concrete product class that extends the abstract Pizza class.

The factory method seemed hard to understand at first, but after going through the examples given in the blog it became clear to me, and the advantages of using the factory method are clear. By relying on abstractions instead of concrete classes, you are removing dependencies within your code and making it much more open for modification. Whereas prior to applying the method, the handling of creation of pizza objects was handled within the PizzaStore class itself, it is now handled within concrete sub-classes that can also handle different categories of pizzas. Also, personally it is easier to read the code of the PizzaStore class after applying the factory method, and it is much more clean in the abstraction. I can see the factory method being useful in any situation where you have to deal with the creation of a lot of categorically related but different objects.


A Brief (Second) Introduction

Hello again! My name is Nicholas Coutu. I am a senior attending Worcester State University. I major in Computer Science with a concentration in Software Development and am also attempting a minor in Mathematics. I intend to use this blog to record my opinions on various articles related to my classes throughout my final year, and have further plans to use this blog for my professional career to document my work-related activities.