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. First up we got something working with the current implementation of cucumber-js https://github.com/antonydenyer/zombiejsplayground. The progress formatter works fine and the usual "you can implement step definitions for undefined steps" are a real help. Interestingly rather than requiring zombie.js in our step definitions we ended up going down the route of implementing our own DSL inside world.js. We could have used another DSL like capybara to protect us from changing the browser/driver we use. This is currently done with our Ruby implementation, the problem is that we've ending up implementing our own hacks to get round the limitations/flakiness of selnium/webdriver and to date we have never 'just swapped out the driver' to see what happens when they run against chrome/ie. That said should you be using cucumber tests to test the browser? I don't think you should. With that in mind we ended up implementing directly against zombie.js from our own DSL. Extending cucmber-js https://github.com/antonydenyer/cucumber-js There are a lot things yet to be implemented in cucmber.js one that gives me great satisfaction is the pretty formatter. Look everything is green!  It's no where near ready for production but you do get a nice pretty formatter. Thanks to Raoul Millais for helping out with command line parsing and general hand holding around JavaScript first steps.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 12:53

Somewhere in the 7digital.com web site infrastructure there are classes that override the default controller and view factories (it is an ASP MVC project). Why did we do this? In our opinion, the default project layout is a hindrance to code readability.

The idea is explained by Uncle Bob in his concept of “screaming architecture”.  i.e. if you glance at the program's folder structure, what is the most blatant thing about it, what is it “screaming about”?

If there's a folder full of controllers, and a folder full of views, and another for models, then it's screaming “I am an ASP.Net MVC project! I do ASP MVC things!”. If there's a folder called “Artists” and another called “Genres”, each containing controllers, views and other classes related to that feature, it's instead saying “I am a music catalogue on the web”.

I personally feel that “screaming architecture” is a very poor name for a very good concept. The architecture isn't having a crisis. It's not running around with hair on fire shouting “aaargh!!!”.  Maybe Uncle Bob has more positive associations with the word “screaming”? With his meaning of “screaming”, every architecture is screaming about something, but what is the important thing. 

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 10:11


We’re primarily driven by meeting 7digital’s goals and objectives

  • Everything we do should be driven by clear business goals and objectives. Where they are lacking we should go and find them.
  • We expect business needs to be provided as problems that need solving with clear expectations and measurables without prejudice towards the implementation.

Release Early and Often; Fail Early and LOUDLY!

  • It’s essential we can respond quickly to changing business requirements. The best measure of our effectiveness in doing so is via frequent predictable releases through a steady rhythm of working. Things need to be easy to change (maintainable) and delivered at a sustainable pace.
  • It’s far more preferable to get something in production as soon as possible and develop iteratively based on feedback than to get bogged down in speculative analysis or a fear of not making all the right decisions up front (be that regarding technology choices or requirements).
  • Failures are expected, and welcome. When projects fail, we learn about other routes that might work. When software fails, it tells us about invalid assumptions we’ve made. The earlier and louder the failure, the more valuable that information is.

The best solutions come from everyone working together

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 09:51


Servicestack is a comprehensive web framework for .NET that allows you to quickly and easily set up a REST web service with very little effort. We already use OpenRasta to achieve this same goal within our stack, so I thought it would be interesting to compare the two and see how quickly I could get something up and running. The thing that most interested me initially about ServiceStack was the fact that it claims out of the box support for Memcached, something we already use extensively to cache DTOs, and Redis, the ubiquitous NoSql namevaluecollection store.

Getting cracking

I set myself the task of creating a basic endpoint for accessing 7digital artist, release and track details. Whilst taking advantage of ServiceStack’s ability to create a listener from a console window so I didn’t have to waste time attempting to set it up via IIS:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 16:40

Over the last month we've started using ServiceStack for a couple of our api endpoints (go to the full ServiceStack story here) . We're hosting these projects on a Debian Squeeze vm using nginx and Mono. We ran into various problems along the way which we'll explain, but we also managed to achieve some interesting things; here's a summary. Hopefully you'll find this useful.


We're using nginx and fastcgi to host the application. This is good from a systems perspective because our applications can run without root privileges. For the communication between mono-fastcgi and nginx, we are using a unix socket file instead of proxying through a local port. This makes configuration much easier, as you map applications to files rather than port numbers, so the convention rules for this are much more straightforward. (Besides, you may be hit by a memory leak if you don't use unix socket files.) Furthermore, using files instead of ports has made our life easier for automated deployments because: