Testing: Appetite Comes With Eating

I’ve written a lot about testing. Some tips on integration tests, some how-tos, some general opinions about tests. But I haven’t told my “personal story” about testing.

Why are tests needed should be obvious by now. It’s not all about finding bugs (because then you can use an excuse like “QAs will find them anyway”), it’s about having a codebase that can remain stable with changes. And it’s about writing better code, because testable code is cleaner.

I didn’t always write tests. Well, at least not the right amount. I had read a lot about testing, about the benefits of testing, about test-first / test-driven, about test coverage. And it seemed somewhat distant. The CRUD-like business logic seemed unworthy of testing. A few if-statements here, a few database queries there, what’s to be tested?

There are companies where tests were “desirable”, “optional”, “good, but maybe not now”. There are times when marking a test with @Ignore looks ok. And although that always bites you in the end, you can’t get yourself motivated to get your coverage up.

Yup, I’ve been there. I’ve written tests “every now and then”, and knew how to tests, but it wasn’t my “nature”. But I’m “clean” now – not only at work, but also in side-projects, I think I have a somehow different mentality – “how do I test that” and “how do I write that in order to be able to test it”.

I won’t go into the discussion of whether “test-first” is better. I don’t do it – I’ve done it, but I don’t find it that important, provided you have the right mindset towards your code. The fact that you write your tests after the code doesn’t mean the code isn’t written with the tests in mind.

How did that happen? I didn’t have a failed project because of lack of tests, and I didn’t go on a soul-searching trip to find out that I have to write tests to achieve inner peace. I think it’s a combination of several factors.

First, it’s the company/team culture. The team that I’m in now has the right practical approach to tests – it doesn’t have to be 100% coverage, but it has to cover all edge cases – we even have a task in most stories that makes us explicitly think of any possible edge cases. Even if you want to write test, if nobody around is, then you get demotivated. But when everyone around is doing it, it becomes a habit.

Then there’s experience. After years of years of reading about the benefits and seeing the problems of not having tests, and seeing that even your mere 25% of coverage has given you some freedom and that the tested pieces just look better, one should eventually do it. It’s the way of things.

And finally, it’s about what the French express as “appetite comes with eating”. The more you write tests, the more you want to write them.