opinionated or not

June 2, 2012

Opinionated framework on top of an unopinionated toolkit. If I had to choose my favorite engineering principle behind Gradle, there you go.

Sticking to the principle is challenging. Imagine a subdomain where the are no clear conventions, no popular, easy-to-harvest patterns. How do you come of with the “opinion” in such a field? We gather use cases and then try to resolve them in the best way we can. Sometimes the convention emerges organically and we can unanimously rejoice. Sometimes several conventions emerge and we are not quite sure which one to pick. We might choose the one most fitting or wait until we gather more knowledge, more use cases. Sometimes, we don’t see any reasonable conventions and we refrain from the opinion for the time being.

Good old ant doesn’t have many opinions. It is a toolkit. It lets me script the project automation in an imperative fashion. Kick starting a new software project almost always started with taking the build.xml from the previous project. The level of copy-paste in the build.xmls is legendary. Yet, back in the days, I loved ant as it allowed me to do amazing automation in projects. Thank you ant!

Maven delivers plenty opinions. It is a framework. However if my context does not quite fit maven’s opinion then I might be in trouble. It was a great technological leap from ant to maven. I can still remember my feverish efforts advocating maven2, pulling my conservative team mates into the new era of declarative dependencies and convention-over-configuration. Thanks, maven!

We want Gradle to offer the inspiring technological leap you might remember when you migrated your first project from ant to maven. This time, though, you will taste it when upgrading from maven. Some of you have enjoyed that feeling already and I am so glad to have you on board. Some of you will come along at some point I’m sure. We want to deliver opinionated conventions so that you can build your standard projects with a one-liner build scripts. We also want to provide an unopinionated toolkit so that you are never lock down with the design choices we have made.

I’ve just got back to Krakow from the amazing city of Berlin. I had a pleasure to brainstorm, debate and drink cytrynowka with the fellow Gradle gang members. Among many things that are crystal clear to me now is this one: The question is not IF Gradle will dominate the space of project automation but WHEN. Have a great weekend everybody :)

IDE & patterns for huge maven project

December 11, 2010

I started working on a huge multi-module maven project these days. Trust me, working with ~150 maven modules at a time is a pain for a developer. On the other hand there’s a lot of room for me to improve the development environment & make dev cycles efficient.

Some more context: The team is pretty big; over 100 developers on a single codebase working in a ‘continuous integration’ fashion: little branching, keeping the integration gap small, automated testing, CI servers etc. Each developer checks-out entire trunk that contains ~150 maven modules linked via the default ‘x-SNAPSHOT’ dependency. Maven veterans probably flinch now because this way of managing internal dependencies in a large project is probably considered ‘lame’. Maven ‘by-the-book’ approach may put emphasis on keeping the internal dependency links to a specific version. I’m a pragmatic developer and I see pros & cons of both approaches. This blog post, however, does not dwell on the subject of internal dependencies. I want to focus on the most effective dev environment set-up and the choice of the IDE.

“Toggle IDE/local-repo dependency” pattern

Couldn’t find a good name for this pattern. Theoretically, it can give a nice dev performance boost in a huge multi-module project. Here’s the idea: out of the 150 modules we will work on the handful only. Therefore I want to be able to quickly decide which module should be a concrete project/module in the IDE and which should a mere jar dependency resolved via the local maven repo. It is a sort of a toggling dependency IDE/local-repo.

Here’s how I see it working:

1. The developer pulls in a smaller module set into an IDE by selecting a relevant sub-parent in the multi-module tree.
2. At some point the developer needs to perform changes in the module that is not pulled into the IDE. He pulls in the relevant module(s). Dependencies inside IDE are updated from jar-dependencies to: project-dependencies (Eclipse) or module-dependencies (IDEA).

Here’s how my team so far coped with the project and how the above pattern could be used.

eclipse:eclipse or idea:idea

At the moment I think more than half of the team uses maven eclipse:eclipse plugin to generate configuration that is consumable by Eclipse. In our environment it is not very efficient because after every svn update developer has to regenerate project configs (in case someone changed internal/external dependencies) and restart Eclipse (‘just’ refreshing Eclipse didn’t work well occasionally).

Team members who use IntelliJ IDEA never use idea:idea maven plugin. I cannot confirm that but I heard feedback that it was not generating the correct configurations for latest & greatest IDEA. However, most devs simply don’t need idea:idea because maven support built-in to IDEA 9+ is simply brilliant. I hardly imagine someone wanting to step back and generate configurations via idea:idea.

Toggling dependencies IDE/local-repo is possible but somewhat inconvenient. It requires specifying project names by hand at command line; then refreshing/restarting IDE.


I don’t recall anyone using it in my team. The plugin seems to be making progress – I heard several good reviews. In our particular environment developers complained on reduced perceived performance of Eclipse and they fell back to generating configs via eclipse:eclipse. I tested m2eclipse myself recently with our project; there were things I liked about it. Yet, I still found Eclipse choking (even If I fine-tuned the plugin).

Toggling dependencies IDE/local-repo is possible but I cannot comment how it behaves as we haven’t used m2eclipse too much.

IntelliJ IDEA

The built-in maven plugin for IDEA is getting more & more popular in my team. It does not seem to reduce the perceived performance of the IDE. However, IDEA tends to be a bit slower than Eclipse anyway. IDEA 9+ is fast enough for me – I tend to use it more often than Eclipse. My experience with IDEA 8- is limited because I rarely had enough patience to wait until it started. Spanking new IDEA 10 is marketed as faster than 9. I have not tested it yet but I want to extend my thanks to JetBrains for working on it!!!

Back to the maven support in IDEA and the context of our huge multi-module project. Options that we absolutely needed to tweak were:
1. Disable files/folders synchronization on IDEA frame activation. In our case, IDEA choked every time one ran any maven goal outside of the IDEA.
2. Disable automatic maven project reimporting (it’s the default anyway). It is related to the #1.

Also, be sure to read some of the posts on how to improve IDEA performance in general (most notable: choose wisely the plug-in set enabled at IDEA; get SSD drive; etc.)

In our project we found this feature very useful: the separation of 2 different actions: ‘reimporting maven projects’ and ‘updating folders’. The first one makes sure the project internal/external dependencies are linked well. The latter makes sure sources are generated for modules that need them (generate-sources).

Finally, toggling dependencies IDE/local-repo works like a charm in IntelliJ!!! Basically, all I need to do is “Import module from existing model”, point out the relevant pom.xml. IDEA takes care of updating the dependency links of my existing modules to use IDE links rather than local-repo links. How cool is that?!

I still keep myself using both Eclipse & IDEA as I work with various developers. However, it’s going to be harder to get back to Eclipse…

Disclaimer: Please notice the date of this blog post! I don’t know if the problems I mentioned with some of the tools will still be valid in future. Hopefully all those tools will be great, fast & very convenient for working with huge maven projects. Respect to all the people who work on the dev tools that we use today (Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, eclipse:eclipse, idea:idea, m2eclipse). Thanks a lot!!!

XML please, I don’t want to recompile

November 15, 2010

There’s one quite naive argument that sometimes determines the technology choice. I want to write about it because this argument I’ve been hearing on and off for years. It’s about favouring XML to avoid recompilation.

I remember in the late days of EJB2, one of the selling points of Spring was that you can reconfigure the wiring of your beans without recompilation. At that time I was quite enthusiastic about this feature… even though the argument was almost completely negligible.

My friend said today:

“Another advantage [of XML workflow] is you can do some modification to the flow without recompiling the whole app”

It’s true that you don’t need to recompile. However, if you want fully implement the change to the XML workflow you probably still have to:

  • run tests
  • validate the app works
  • check-in the change to your VCS (new revision created)
  • make sure the integration build on newly created revision works OK
  • validate the application (built with the new revision) works on the integration box

In most cases, updating XML by hand on the integration/prod box is not practical. Don’t fall for the ‘no recompilation’ argument because it is negligable. Usually you still need a build & QA cycle.

This post is not intended to claim that XML is bad for you (although I probably agree with that statement =)). This post claims that ‘no recompilation’ argument is void.

Nevertheless, If I have to use a workflow in my java app it will declared in java and not in xml. I’m great fan of fluent, type-safe & intellisense-ready configurations!

expected exception in tests

July 26, 2010

I have a feeling too many people get it wrong so let me stress:

@Test(expected = SomeException.class) // IS BAD FOR YOU

I do enjoy jUnit a lot, thanks guys for sharing! Yet, I don’t like @Test(expected) feature of jUnit. In my TDD classes I simply teach to avoid using it. I admit the feature can potentially make few tests cleaner. However, it tends to bring more trouble than value. Newbies too often misuse it which leads to poor quality tests. Therefore:

Rule 1: don’t use @Test(expected)

My colleague (cheers Bartek!) pursues Master at the Uni. They teach him testing. One day a lecturer was presenting some test code:

public void testSomething() {
  //line 1: throws NullPointerException
  //lines 2-30: some crappy test code

The test is useless. Due to some bug in the setup the test method breaks in line 1. Therefore most of the test code is not even executed. The expected exception does great job in hiding this issue; the test is green! Therefore:

Rule 2: If you violate Rule #1 then at least make the exception very specific. Example:

public void shouldBuyBread() {}

Even if you use specific exception then the test does not document exactly where the exception is thrown. Sometimes it may lead to subtle bugs. Therefore:

Rule 3: Don’t violate Rule #1 when the test method has multiple lines.

Instead you can simply write:

public void shouldBuyBread() throws Exception {

  try {
  } catch (BreadOutOfStockException e) {}

Above is my preferred way of documenting ‘exceptional’ behavior. There you go, it is The Ultimate Test Template for ‘exceptional’ behavior.

JUnit is getting better. New goodies for exception handling in tests arrive. @Rule ExpectedException better documents what action triggers the exception. Also, it nicely maps to //given //when //then style. The downside is that you need some extra code if you want to interrogate the exception, for example if you want assert if exception message contains a substring (api as of 07-2010). Nevertheless:

Rule 4: Favor @Rule ExpectedException over @Test(expected) when test method has multiple lines.

Rule 5: Keep an eye on new versions of your testing libraries.

If you are already at RI in TDD than consider my Rule #1 as a safety net. You’ll never know when a new junior team member joins. He may easily misuse the patterns he sees in the codebase. Javadoc for JUnit does not say how to safely use @Test(expected) (at the moment).

If you are learning testing don’t get too upset with my dogmatic rules. If only you write any tests then I am smiling already. You smile too, write tests and be happy. Soon you’ll get your RI rank in TDD.

Rule 6: Write tests & smile!

//given //when //then forever

December 7, 2009
public void shouldDoSomethingCool() throws Exception {


I like to call it the Ultimate Test Template. I’m so fond of those 3 little comments but surprisingly, I didn’t buy it at first. Micheal (it’s you, tapestry-maven-iPhone fan boy =), friend from ThoughtWorks showed me it a couple of years ago. Actually, he didn’t show it to me – I just overheard him coaching a young dev about it. That day I thought I didn’t need any hip comments because my tests were great anyway. It was foolish.

Don’t be a fool like me and start writing //given //when //then today. Life is too short for messing around – you want to get level 85 in software craftsmanship soon, right? Here’s the deal: use the template for 1 iteration and if you don’t like the results then I will give you your money back. Seriously, no matter what you think about it – buy it! BTW. If you need to document some ‘exceptional’ behavior in your test somewhere there is the template for tests with exceptions.

Lately, I’ve been selling //given //when //then quite relentlessly. I even try to sell it via Mockito api. (The link also shows how to install the template in Eclipse so don’t miss it!)

I tried to lobby for the Church of given-when-then in Krakow, Warsaw & Kiev. I heard rumors that Wroclaw develops a growing number of brothers and sisters in faith =)

I think I forgot to thank Dan North for given-when-then and Liz Keogh for the idea of BDD aliases in Mockito. There you go!

Mockito in Zurich

June 21, 2009

I will have a pleasure presenting Mockito at Jazoon in Zurich. My session is on Thursday – make sure you don’t miss it. During the session I’m going to show few slides and do live TDD with Mockito & other mocking frameworks. I’m going to use Infinitest. Guys, it’s huge. Brett Schuchert wrote about it, Bartek told me to try it several times. Finally I did and I must say I’m impressed. Infinitest is like transcending to a real TDD.

is debugger a modern translator?

May 19, 2009

Couple of days ago we interviewed a young adept of the craft. We let him code but he got stressed out a bit and wrote very complicated code. At some point he stopped understanding the code he wrote. So he started using debugger to figure out the meaning of the code. This is when debugger became sort of a modern electronic translator.

The thing is we probably don’t want to use debugger as a translator. We prefer to understand the code we write. Instead of debugging I usually recommend writing a small test that covers the logic in question. You can try this exercise next time you are about to launch the debugger.

Don’t get me wrong – debugger is a handy tool in every developer’s kit. It’s just the less you use it the better you are in producing high quality code. Actually, it’s probably other way around – when you get fluency with TDD/simple design you will soon discover how rarely you use debugger.