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Personal Details in Tests is Unnecessary Distraction
One of the first things you have to do in unit test is to decide which values to pass to your system under test. Task seems to be very straightforward, but not that easy after all. Have you ever seen funny data values? Like this one:
Or maybe not so funny, but being your colleague’s name?
While good sense of humor is great strength in social life, it easily
distracts us from the problem we are solving. In tests it is just additional
load for our brains.
But the second example isn’t related to humour. “What’s wrong with it?” you may ask. A problem here is social impact of a personalization.
Imagine situation where this code was written by senior developer and he has used his name and surname in the test data.
A person who just joined the company needs to make changes to this test as part of her new task. If she wants to change it, she may think, if it is allowed to change the name, does it have any meaning, is there a practice to name data after yourself. Would it be offensive if she deletes unneeded tests with senior developer’s name and then adds a new one with her name? This looks like a small issue - it is easy to ask that person right? But what if he is on month long vacation? Or maybe there’s another reason why it is hard to reach him. Situations like this add additional load for our brains.
Personal details prevent us from cleaning after ourselves. And they must be avoided. In addition irrelevant details disguise the real meaning of test data and thus fail to communicate test’s intent. For example, it is not clear if we are working with a person that has to be our employee or not.
Test data values should communicate their meaning well. I use boring names like CustomerName, CustomerSurname. You may develop different naming convention, it does not really matter as long as it helps communication. If I need a list of multiple names, I suffix values with numbers - TestCustomer01. It helps tracing failed tests so that you can quickly spot if your naming maps to the correct order of elements in the resulting list.