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a library of stock mock objects?

P: n/a
There is a (relatively) widely used technique in unit testing, called
mock objects. There is even a pMock library which provides a Mock class
for a Python environment.

Given the "duck typing" nature of the Python itself, it's pretty
trivial to build mocks without using any pre-built libraries. What is
less trivial and potentially more worthwhile is to have a library of
"stock" mock objects.

For instance, I found myself re-implementing ConnectionStub class again
and again for different projects. And there is no shortage of other
good candidates as well: socket, web request/response, thread objects,
etc. Someone on a Python mailing list asks whether anyone implemented a
mock filesystem interface, for example.

Having a library of such mock classes, realizing widely-used and
"heavy" interfaces may be a good idea.

The only real problem I can think of is whether it's possible to make
these mocks generic enough. Mocks often contain some
(application-specific) hard-coded rules and data to realize desired
behavior. For instance, socket mock may fail when user attempts to
write a "foobar" string - and unit test will use this to check
how code handle these kind of errors. These rules may be generalized
but it may lead to mock classes becoming unwieldy.

Even keeping this problem in mind, it's still a reasonable idea for a
library, but obviously I'm biased.

What do you think?

Jul 19 '05 #1
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P: n/a
> Given the "duck typing" nature of the Python itself, it's pretty
trivial to build mocks without using any pre-built libraries.
I've also found it trivial to build a custom mock object whenever the
need arises.
What is
less trivial and potentially more worthwhile is to have a library of
"stock" mock objects. . . . Having a library of such mock classes, realizing widely-used and
"heavy" interfaces may be a good idea.

The only real problem I can think of is whether it's possible to make
these mocks generic enough.
There's the rub.

In writing tests, we frequently want to simulate only a tiny subset of
behaviors and that subset varies dramatically depending on who is
writing the test and what is being tested. For the most part, there is
no "one size fits all".

Given the ease of writing minimal, custom mock objects, I think it is
not worthwhile to try to create a library of them.
Mocks often contain some
(application-specific) hard-coded rules and data to realize desired
behavior. For instance, socket mock may fail when user attempts to
write a "foobar" string - and unit test will use this to check
how code handle these kind of errors. These rules may be generalized
but it may lead to mock classes becoming unwieldy.
And also hard to learn, maintain, etc.

When it comes to writing unittests, there is a distinct advangtage from
writing your own, minimal mock objects. The writer knows exactly which
behaviors are being modeled. In constrast, a library of heavy-weight
mock objects promises to model many, but not all behaviors. Without a
thorough knowledge of the library's fidelity, there is an undue risk of
writing tests that look more thorough than they actually are.

Likewise, there arises a double maitainance issue of keeping the mock
object library in-sync with the real library being simulated.
Even keeping this problem in mind, it's still a reasonable idea for a
library, but obviously I'm biased.

What do you think?


I think it is like trying to market custom-cut, application specific
duck tape. The generic tear-it-and-tape-it solution is far easier and
more versatile than having a "library" of pre-cut tape.
Raymond Hettinger

Jul 19 '05 #2

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