Monthly Archives: October 2011

I use nosetests when running my python tests. It is a really neat little tool that will automatically discover and run all tests in the project with one single command line command - nosetests.

But it has more neatness then this. With a simple option it will also print test coverage for the project: --with-coverage, and if coverage should be calculated base on specific packages then use --cover-package which takes a list of packages to calculate coverage on. This is useful when there are library packages for a virtual env or similar within the same directory as you run nose.

I don't like to leave lose ends so to ensure that there are no lingering compiled *.pyc files sitting around I run the following script before commit:

Where <source-dir> should be replaced with directories where source files are. This is a space delimited list. And <package> is replaced with packages which should have coverage statistics calculated.

DRY (as in Don't Repeat Yourself) is one of the corner stones of a clean and agile code. This is especially so with the production code but also with test code where finding good abstractions will greatly increase speed and lower maintenance.

When working with python I have found a very nice tool called Clone Digger that helps finding repetitions in code. It is easy to set up and work with and the report is clear and easy to read.

Install it with pip:

pip install clonedigger

When installed it is automatically added to the tool chain. To run it use the following command:

clonedigger package

Package is the directory where the python code is to be found. Clone digger takes a list of packages separated with space. --help will show help on options and configuration.

Clone digger will work it's way through all files in each package and compare them, both within each package and across package listed in the same invocation. If there is code, such as auto generated code, that is not modifiable, it needs to be removed from the packages added in order for the tool not to analyse them.

It will generate a report looking like the one below to output.html (this is configurable).

Clone Digger output

Working with tools like this makes it easy to spot where new abstractions should be added to remove code duplication. Both in test and production code. Where ever repetition is found which does not fill an important documenting function (which is sometimes the case in tests) it is easy to spot where and how a method should be added to pull the functionality together. It will also help in naming such methods. There are of cause some false positives. Especially in the test code where method bodies are often descriptive rather then dry. But even here it helps to find common assertions which can be pulled up and made into new descriptive methods. This becomes especially valuable when working with given-when-then in tests.

I have recently been looking how to create a clean Domain Driven Design architecture using SQLAlchemy and specifically how to map domain classes to tables. This post will discuss the two techniques available and why to choose one over the other.

Lets start with looking at the two strategies available. SQLAlchemy offers a Data Mapper out of the box. It is also possible to use an Active Record approach by using the Declarative Base ORM extension.

The Active Record approach is a very attractive way of working. It adds metadata to the domain objects that tells the engine how to save them to the database. It's quick and easy to use and avoids extra classes or configurations that handles the database mapping. It's a perfect fit for most web applications. The main drawback is that storage logic is tightly coupled with the domain objects. This can make the domain difficult to work with over time. It also means that any changes required in storage logic will force changes into the domain breaking the Single Responsibility Principle. Active Record will also prove very costly if the project finds that a change of storage technology would be beneficial. A not to unlikely event with such a variation in industry strength storage technologies available.

Data Mappers provides high decoupling by keeping all meta data for mapping objects to tables separate from the domain. The mapping can be placed in its own module which makes it easy to divide the domain into coherent modules with no need to cater for storage concerns. It also makes it easy to model more advanced relational concepts in a large database. Since it allows for complete separation of concerns for domain and data access it is also easy to change or swap out the data storage technology completely without any needs to change the domain. It does however increase the complexity of the application since it adds an extra module/package.

If the project in question is going to use a clean implementation of Domain Driven Design only the Data Mapper works. It is also the only possible choice if it is likely that the project will be changing storage technology.

If, however, the project is a traditional web application with a domain model that is simple or close to non-existing then Active Record is a good choice. It will provide more speed of development. Making a clear distinction between domain logic tests and data access tests will make it easier to later extract data access out into Data Mappers if needed.