Respond_to? check in rspec-mocks

One of the primary dangers of using mocks is that your unit tests may
be testing against an interface that is different from that of your
production objects. You may simply have misspelled the method (e.g.
object.should_receive(:methd_name) rather than method_name), or you
may have changed the interface of your production object without
updating your tests.

Obviously, you should have some integration coverage that will catch
these kinds of errors (and I do), but it’s nice when they’re caught by
your unit tests since they’re so much faster than integration tests.
I’ve been using a pattern to help with this for a while:

it “safely mocks a method” do
object.should respond_to(:foo)
object.should_receive(:foo).and_return(:bar)
object.do_something_that_calls_foo
end

Basically, I add a respond_to? check before mocking or stubbing a
concrete object (obviously, I don’t do this for a pure mock object).
If/when I rename the mocked method, I’ll get a test failure. I think
it’d be nice to add this to rspec-mocks itself. A few additional
thoughts about this potential feature:

  • This would only apply when you’re mocking/stubbing concrete objects;
    on a pure mock or stub it wouldn’t do the check.
  • Should this print a warning or raise an error so the test fails?
  • Should it be configurable? I could see some people not wanting this
    feature, particularly if you’re strictly following the outside-in BDD
    process where the specs on the outer layers (say, a controller in a
    rails app) mock methods that have not yet been defined on the inner
    layers (say, a model in a rails app).
  • This feature could potentially take things a step further and when
    you specify mock arguments using with, it could check the arity of
    the method and be sure that the method accepts that number of
    arguments.

What do people think about this idea?

Myron

On Aug 27, 8:18 pm, Myron M. [email protected] wrote:

I’ve been using a pattern to help with this for a while:
it’d be nice to add this to rspec-mocks itself. A few additional

  • This feature could potentially take things a step further and when
    you specify mock arguments using with, it could check the arity of
    the method and be sure that the method accepts that number of
    arguments.

What do people think about this idea?

Myron


rspec-users mailing list
[email protected]://rubyforge.org/mailman/listinfo/rspec-users

What defines a “concrete object”?

On Aug 27, 8:24 pm, Justin Ko [email protected] wrote:

may have changed the interface of your production object without
object.do_something_that_calls_foo

  • Should this print a warning or raise an error so the test fails?
    What do people think about this idea?

Myron


rspec-users mailing list
[email protected]://rubyforge.org/mailman/listinfo/rspec-users

What defines a “concrete object”?


rspec-users mailing list
[email protected]://rubyforge.org/mailman/listinfo/rspec-users

Anything that is not an RSpec stub object?

What defines a “concrete object”?
Anything that is not an RSpec stub object?

Yep, that’s how I’m using the term. It doesn’t make sense to do a
respond_to? check on a pure mock or stub object, since it doesn’t
initially have a defined interface (outside of the interface of
Object).

On Aug 27, 8:18 pm, Myron M. [email protected] wrote:

I’ve been using a pattern to help with this for a while:
it’d be nice to add this to rspec-mocks itself. A few additional

  • This feature could potentially take things a step further and when
    you specify mock arguments using with, it could check the arity of
    the method and be sure that the method accepts that number of
    arguments.

What do people think about this idea?

Myron


rspec-users mailing list
[email protected]://rubyforge.org/mailman/listinfo/rspec-users

I’m confused on why you need to use respond_to. The purpose of a stub
is to change the behavior of an object. Therefore, if the behavior is
not being changed, your specs should fail. If the spec does not
fail, then the stub was worthless in the first place.

I suspect that your specs are not doing their job correctly. Could you
provide a real world example and maybe I can provide some pointers?

On Aug 27, 2010, at 7:18 PM, Myron M. wrote:

I’ve been using a pattern to help with this for a while:
it’d be nice to add this to rspec-mocks itself. A few additional

  • This feature could potentially take things a step further and when
    you specify mock arguments using with, it could check the arity of
    the method and be sure that the method accepts that number of
    arguments.

What do people think about this idea?

Myron

This idea has come up numerous times on this list over the years, but
have yet to see the suggestion or patch that makes it work for me. It’s
definitely not something I’ve ever felt RSpec was missing, probably
because I tend to write specs at multiple levels and I don’t recall ever
deploying something to production that failed due to an API getting
misaligned. Not saying it’s never come up in the development process,
but the restrictions imposed by such a feature, in my view, would cost
me more than the safety net it provides.

My other objection is that we’re dealing with a dynamic language here,
and there are going to be cases in which methods are defined
dynamically. For average users, this is likely not a problem (as long as
the check is done at the time the stub is invoked rather than when the
stub is defined), but for anyone starting to explore meta-programming
this would make things more confusing, IMO.

I’ve also seen plenty of cases where respond_to fails to handle a case
that method_missing handles. In these cases, users would get misleading
information back, making things more confusing.

With all this, there is one idea that I’ve floated that I’d be open to:
an audit flag which could be used to generate a report separate from the
spec run. Specs would not fail due to any misalignment, but you’d simply
get report saying something like:

###############################
Spec: Account#deposit adds deposited amount to its balance #
./spec/bank/account_spec.rb:37
Stub: ledger.record_deposit # ./lib/bank/account.rb:42

  • ledger object did not respond to #record_deposit
  • ledger.methods => [ … list of public instance methods that are not
    already part of Object … ]
    ###############################

This would be disconnected enough from the examples that it would stay
out of the way, and it would make misalignments (the common case) easy
to see.

Thoughts?

On Aug 27, 2010, at 10:52 PM, Justin Ko wrote:

Obviously, you should have some integration coverage that will catch
Basically, I add a respond_to? check before mocking or stubbing a
process where the specs on the outer layers (say, a controller in a


rspec-users mailing list
[email protected]://rubyforge.org/mailman/listinfo/rspec-users

I’m confused on why you need to use respond_to. The purpose of a stub
is to change the behavior of an object. Therefore, if the behavior is
not being changed, your specs should fail. If the spec does not
fail, then the stub was worthless in the first place.

Not necessarily. In the case of a stub on a real object, the purpose is
to control the environment in which the example runs. Consider a method
on an object that returns one value before noon and a different value at
noon and after. In an example for another object that depends on the
time-dependent object, we might stub that method to respond as though it
were before noon in one example, and after noon in another. This means
that when you run this spec in the morning, the example that stubs
morning-like behaviour is not changing anything or needing to fail. Same
for the other example in the afternoon.

Cheers,
David

My other objection is that we’re dealing with a dynamic
language here, and there are going to be cases in which methods
are defined dynamically. For average users, this is likely not
a problem (as long as the check is done at the time the stub is
invoked rather than when the stub is defined)

I was originally thinking the checking would happen when the stub is
defined, but I think you’re right about it being better to check when
the stub is invoked.

I’ve also seen plenty of cases where respond_to fails to handle
a case that method_missing handles. In these cases, users would
get misleading information back, making things more confusing.

That’s a valid point, but IMHO an object that overrides method_missing
but not respond_to? is pretty poorly behaved object. You’re
essentially breaking the semantics of how objects are expected to work
in ruby. I’d personally want an error or warning when I did this, so
that I’m alerted to the problem and can go fix it by properly defining
respond_to?.

With all this, there is one idea that I’ve floated that I’d be
open to: an audit flag which could be used to generate a report
separate from the spec run.

Would this report wind up in a separate file that I’d have to open and
look at separately? That would reduce the usefulness of this a lot, I
think.

Instead, could we make it configurable? That way people can set it up
to fit their development workflow. I’ve been thinking that this
should be configurable, since people have a variety of development
styles. Here’s some thoughts about how that configuration could work:

  • In the RSpec.configure block, you set a default. Something like
    config.undefined_method_stubs = :error/:warn/nil.
  • In a spec, you can disable this checking for any object, using
    something like object.allow_undefined_method_stubs!. This would work
    well for an object that overrides method_missing, if you really don’t
    want to also override respond_to?.
  • In a before(:each) block, you can modify the configuration for that
    example group using something like RSpec::Mocks.undefined_method_stubs
    = :error/:warn/nil.

Note that your separate report idea could easily be accommodated here;
it could be an additional allowed value to undefined_method_stubs
(maybe :separate_report ?).

Myron

Not necessarily. In the case of a stub on a real object, the purpose is to control the environment in which the example runs. Consider a method on an object that returns one value before noon and a different value at noon and after. In an example for another object that depends on the time-dependent object, we might stub that method to respond as though it were before noon in one example, and after noon in another. This means that when you run this spec in the morning, the example that stubs morning-like behaviour is not changing anything or needing to fail. Same for the other example in the afternoon.

Cheers,
David

This is true, but the “morning” spec would fail in the afternoon (or/
and the afternoon spec would fail in the morning).

If the stub is not being touched, it should fail at some point in
time
.

If the stub is not being touched, yet your specs are passing, then
technically there is nothing wrong with your app.

On Aug 28, 2010, at 11:32 AM, Myron M. wrote:

I’ve also seen plenty of cases where respond_to fails to handle
a case that method_missing handles. In these cases, users would
get misleading information back, making things more confusing.

That’s a valid point, but IMHO an object that overrides method_missing
but not respond_to? is pretty poorly behaved object. You’re
essentially breaking the semantics of how objects are expected to work
in ruby.

Agreed, but in pretty much every case that I’ve seen this it’s been in a
3rd party library that I am not in control of.

I’d personally want an error or warning when I did this, so
that I’m alerted to the problem and can go fix it by properly defining
respond_to?.

Interesting side effect of this. I can see how this can help nudge a
developer in the right direction.

With all this, there is one idea that I’ve floated that I’d be
open to: an audit flag which could be used to generate a report
separate from the spec run.

Would this report wind up in a separate file that I’d have to open and
look at separately?

I think “separate from the spec run” mislead you as to my intention
here. What I mean is that I don’t want this to raise errors, but rather
it would be part of the output, just like pending and failed examples.

  • In a spec, you can disable this checking for any object, using
    something like object.allow_undefined_method_stubs!. This would work
    well for an object that overrides method_missing, if you really don’t
    want to also override respond_to?.
  • In a before(:each) block, you can modify the configuration for that
    example group using something like RSpec::Mocks.undefined_method_stubs
    = :error/:warn/nil.

I was resistant to the idea when it was simpler, but this additional
complexity makes me even moreso :slight_smile:

Without getting into a debate about its relative merits, here’s what I’d
really like to see: an API in the rspec-mocks framework that would allow
you to extend it to do all this in a separate gem. Then you could build
this, release it, refine it, etc.

What do you think would be necessary in rspec-mocks to support that?

Note that your separate report idea could easily be accommodated here;
it could be an additional allowed value to undefined_method_stubs
(maybe :separate_report ?).

No need for a separate report - again - poor choice of words on my part.

I think “separate from the spec run” mislead you as to my intention here.
What I mean is that I don’t want this to raise errors, but rather it
would be part of the output, just like pending and failed examples.

I’m OK with this idea. I just didn’t want to have a separate file to
read :).

I was resistant to the idea when it was simpler, but this additional
complexity makes me even moreso :slight_smile:

Fair enough.

Without getting into a debate about its relative merits, here’s what
I’d really like to see: an API in the rspec-mocks framework that would
allow you to extend it to do all this in a separate gem. Then you
could build this, release it, refine it, etc.

What do you think would be necessary in rspec-mocks to support that?

I appreciate your willingness to make changes to RSpec to support 3rd
party libraries…but I honestly think that the necessary changes to
rspec-mocks for the API plus the separate gem would be far more work
than just implementing a simple version of this (as you’ve suggested)
in rspec mocks itself. Plus I doubt that a separate gem that did this
one simple thing would get much use by other developers.

Now that I understand that you just meant to have this print out a
report as part of the main spec output, I’m completely satisfied with
your suggestion. I’ll start working on something in a branch and I’ll
see what I can come up with.

Myron

On Aug 29, 2010, at 1:30 AM, Myron M. wrote:

Fair enough.
rspec-mocks for the API plus the separate gem would be far more work
than just implementing a simple version of this (as you’ve suggested)
in rspec mocks itself. Plus I doubt that a separate gem that did this
one simple thing would get much use by other developers.

Now that I understand that you just meant to have this print out a
report as part of the main spec output, I’m completely satisfied with
your suggestion. I’ll start working on something in a branch and I’ll
see what I can come up with.

Cool. Thanks.

Cheers,
David

This forum is not affiliated to the Ruby language, Ruby on Rails framework, nor any Ruby applications discussed here.

| Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Remote Ruby Jobs