Monthly archives: August, 2015

Do you test your tests?

Weird shapesThe first time I read about serious testing was in The Pragmatic Programmer. The book explains the usual (boring) benefits of testing, but a twisted detail rolled my eyes up: also test your tests. Testing is a net that helps you to change the code without breaking the logic, and as a real life net, you should verify it works as expected. Tests should be in a tight relation with the code.

When is a test good? Trying to find the differences between a good test and a bad one is not obvious, however. Looking for lacks or anti-patterns in our tests is a good option to improve them.

Thanks to PHPUnit and Xdebug, the PHP community started to care about testing years ago. Since then, the easiest way to show the quality of a test suite is the code coverage, that is, the percentage of the code the test stresses. That worked until programmers started to focus on a 100% coverage, creating artificial tests that doesn’t stress the logic correctly, but instead get a fake 100% line coverage. If a line is executed once, even if the subject was a different test unit that uses that class, the line “is tested”.

Are you really testing each class? Following the logic? Even if you use proper unit tests, you may be missing things.

Let’s start with a stupid example, a function that does an “AND”, and a tests that gets a 100% coverage:

The test is only stressing 2 cases! Actually an “AND” has 4 possible cases, so the 2 missing cases (false-true, false-false) were totally ignored, despite you get a 100% line coverage.

This was a basic example to show the difference between line coverage and path coverage (in this case, 4 possible paths). The good news is that Derick Rethans is working on it. I wonder how many programmers will get surprised while seeing their code’s path coverage is low.

Another way to test your tests is to change the source code and see if the test fails (it should!) or not. This is called Mutation Testing, and helps to detect when a test is not working perfectly. For instance:

This test looks complete, but there is no test for the bound case, biggerThat5(5). This test is not really accurate.

In the PHP ecosystem there are 2 only available Mutation Testing tools: Humbug and Mutatesting. The second one, despite the author is also the creator of the excellent PHP-metrics, seems abandoned.

So the only real option is Humbug, developed by the author of Mockery. Unluckily it only works with PHPUnit for the moment. It basically finds places where the code can be easily changed, like a true for a false, or a number N for N+1, and runs the tests to see if that mutation is killed (that is, the test fails). For instance, in the previous example it changes 5 to 6, and the tests still work, so the mutation was not killed.

I just hope these tools become more popular, in order to improve the quality of our industry. And let’s hope soon Humbug will work in PHPspec too, as many companies are moving from PHPUnit to Behat-PHPspec.

The code of this post can be find at its github repo.

The most required PHP packages

composerComposer is the most used package dependency manager in PHP ecosystem since a few years. It manages complex dependecies with an easy syntax, and you can easily search among all available packages in, where you can publish your own too.

It was interesting to find a list of the most required packages. Some of them are part of a framework, while others are lonely gems. As a person that values professionalism, it should be a must to have some experience, or at least know, the most popular packages. Here I’m having a look at some of them.

phpunitsThe absolute #1 is PHPUnit. If you are programming in PHP and have never used it, go and get a position as consultant, please. The PHP unit testing framework has been a popular choice since years ago (I’ve even posted about it in 2008). A must you should know.

The list contains other testing related packages too. #4 Mockery is an object mocking package widely used. In my personal case, I use Prophecy for mocking, which comes with #21 phpspec, a test framework that can complement or substitute PHPUnit. In the list also appears #44 behat, a tool for making scenario-oriented BDD that is rising popularity.

symfonyRegarding complete frameworks, the list includes lots of Symfony framework packages. #3 symfony/framework-bundle, #5 symfony/symfony, #8 symfony/console, #10 symfony/yaml, etc. Some of them are core to symfony framework, while others are so independent that are widely used, even without using this framework. A clear example of that is yaml package, which (obviously) processes yaml files.

Of course not only Symfony appears in the list, but also other popular frameworks like: Laravel (#2 illuminate/support, #47 laravel/framework), Zend (#13 zendframework/zendframework), Yii (#17 yiisoft/yii2) and Silex (#22 silex/silex).

doctrineApart from complete frameworks, the list comes with some other must-know packages. The DB-related Doctrine is the first to appear (#6 doctrine/orm, #31 doctrine/common, #38 doctrine/dbal). There are some code-quality related packages, like #7 PHP Coveralls, #11 PHP_CodeSniffer and #33 PHP Mess Detector. Finally some usual suspects, like #15 Guzzle (HTTP client), #19 Monolog (the standard way of logging, already included everywhere).

Finally, some packages in the list were a surprise to me, as I had no idea about them. For instance, #9 composer/installers (an multi-framework installer), #16 silverstripe/framework (a CMS) or #29 nette (another framework).

leagueLogoDefinitively it’s a great collection of packages, and if you combine them with the ones from The League of Extraordinary Packages, you will get a great stuff to learn from: 1st, know about them; 2nd, try to use them; and 3rd, read their source code.