Here at 7digital, we see the relationship between the customer and the developer as one of the most important aspects of software development. We treat software development as more of a craft than an engineering discipline. Craftsmen back in the day would have constant communication with their customers, receiving regular visits from their customer to discuss progress and alterations as the item takes shape.

 

Over the last twenty years, the agile software movement and extreme programming in particular has championed this with its short iterations, customer showcases and active customer participation in the creation of features.

 

Processes like Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) have attempted to bridge the gap between craftsman and customer, giving developers processes to guide software development based on the desired behaviour of the system rather than through more traditional software engineering disciplines.

 

Tools, such as Cucumber, actualise this process. Cucumber (and similar, older tools such as Fit, Fitnesse and Storyteller) provides an interface between the customer and the developer by providing a human readable specification of the software that is also understood by the computer. Based on the description, the computer executes the software accordingly.  The customer can then see immediately if the software behaves according to the specification.

 

Of course, translating human text into instructions for a computer isn’t easy. While modern programming languages on the surface do read like English, and tend to use English words, it takes a certain amount of experience to appreciate what the actual behavior of a piece of software is just by reading the code. The skill in using tools like Cucumber is in translating what the customer understands into something the machine can interpret.

 

If you’ve been looking for some time for a resource that offers a good grounding in using a tool like Cucumber then you’ll be pleased to hear that one has arrived courtesy of Matt Wynne and his Cucumber School.

 

The Cucumber School is a series of video tutorials for learning and practising how to do this. Matt Wynne takes you on a journey from the initial planning session with the customer through developing an application (‘Shouty’ - a social networking app). Throughout he highlights potential pitfalls that many teams using this tooling hit the first time they try it out. He does this with wit and aplomb. The videos are lovingly animated and include advice that Matt has built up from his many years of using and contributing to Cucumber. All this advice is condensed into six 20 minute chapters and it is advice that would otherwise take you hours and hours of trawling through blog posts and talks to discover.

 

Cucumber School covers just about everything you would want to tell developers about BDD in a little over 2 hours. To get a flavour of the style of the course the first video is available for free at the Cucumber School website and in itself demonstrates the power of BDD as a communication tool.

 

At the heart of successful software development is constant communication between the development team and customers with a business problem to solve. Cucumber provides an effective way of taking these conversations and turning them into a set of automated specifications that describe the software built. Introducing Cucumber to your development process can initially seem daunting so to get you started try The Cucumber School, which will help you to get well on the way to making it a useful and valuable part of your development process.

 

 

About the author:

For nearly two decades Leon Hewitt has been creating software to solve people's problems. He has worked at 7digital since 2012. When he's not waxing lyrical about software you can hear him chat about his favourite television programme Doctor Who on the Never Cruel or Cowardly podcast. @DocLeon

 

Tag: 
Cucumber
Learning
Code Learning
Test Framework
sharri.morris@7digital.com
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 12:49

I wanted to start looking at alternatives to our current set of cucumber feature tests. At the moment on the web team we're using using FireWatir and Capybara. So I though I'd take at look at what was available in Node.js. Many people think it's strange that a .Net shop would use a something written for testing Ruby or even consider something that isn't from the .Net community. Personally I think it's a benefit to truly look at something form the outside in.  Should it matter what you're using to drive your end product or what language your using to test it? Not really. So what are the motivations for moving away from Ruby, Capybara and FireWatir? In a word 'flaky', we've had heaps of issues getting our feature tests, AATs and smoke tests reliable. When it comes to testing, consistency should be king. They should be as solid as your unit tests.  If they fail you want to know that for definite you've broken something, rather than thinking it's a problem with the webdriver. It is with this aim in mind that I started looking at the following. Cucumber.js is definitely in it's infancy, there's lots of stuff missing but there's enough there to get going. Zombie.js is a headless browser, it claims to be insanely fast, no complaints here.

sharri.morris@7digital.com
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 12:44

After seeing some relative success in our Solr implementations xml response times by switching on Tomcats http gzip compression, I've been doing some comparisons between the other formats solr can return. We use Solrnet, an excellent open source .NET Solr client. At the moment, it only supports xml responses, but every request sends the "Accept-encoding:gzip" header as standard, so all you have to do is switch it on on your server and you've got some nicely compressed responses. There is talk of supporting javabin de-serialisation, but it's not there yet. I've decided to compare the following using curl with 1000 rows and 10000 rows in json, javabin, json/gzip compressed and javabin/gzip compressed.

anna.siegel@7digital.com
Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 12:27

 

Following changes to our Catalogue API, we are releasing a change to the Basket API to support premium quality formats.

This release adds a package element below basketItem in all basket responses. This is to support the sale of music in different audio formats.

An example response would now look like this:

Anonymous
Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 03:08

Guest Blog by John Nye on His First Week at 7digital

I have recently started at 7digital and already there are a few things of note that may seem small, but highlight the differences in attitude 7digital take over other companies I have worked for. Below are a few thoughts from my first week at 7digital.

Day 1 - Meet the team

After an incredibly frustrating start, owing to a 4 hour delay on my train journey, I was introduced to everyone, given my security pass and directed to a new starter guide that had a series of tasks that needed to be completed. These tasks ranged from installing software to getting added to email groups to reading up on the 7digital handbooks. So I logged into my Ubuntu machine and started going through the list... wait... Ubuntu?

Thoughts from the day:

  • Incredibly welcoming bunch.
  • Locate an Ubuntu book!

Day 2 - Empowerment