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On testing code

Unit testing seems like a very sensible thing to do. Having tests that ensure that your code is doing what you expect is an obviously good idea. I’m a very cautious person by nature, so testing appeals to me very strongly. Nonetheless I’ve been slow to add it to my workflow.

In part this is because most of the projects I’ve made have leaned heavily on external APIs. Mocking out an API for testing is an intimidating way for a beginner to start testing, so I’ve hesitated repeatedly. Also most of the tools I’ve built have not been critical infrastructure, so no one is relying on them very much, which also (unfortunately) helped me justify my procrastination.

However, more recently, I’ve been automating our library’s gathering and parsing of Counter reports. Counter reports are standardized usage reports that show how much our electronic collections have been used by our patrons. It’s critical stuff for our library, so the data we draw from them needs to be correct.

This finally motivated me to figure out how to write unit tests. Because I’m comparing static files, no complicated techniques are needed. Even my very elementary understanding of pytest is enough to get me through. Now my tests give me confidence that my scripts are reporting the correct data. It’s reassuring.

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