Continuous Testing

Continuous testing is one of those things that has crept up on me slowly. About two years ago I was aware of people using a trigger on their TextMate save to run tests and, if green, commit to git. At the time it felt too much effort for too little gain but it was a cool trick.

Now as we forage out into the post-Java world we are starting to get some pretty cool revisions of familiar tools and one of the most engaging for me are continuous build tools. The daddy is clearly SBT, which while simple is also tremendously sophisticated. Adding a REPL to a build is a simple change but has all kinds of nice consequences, my favourite of which currently is the continuous test (~test) target that detects changes in your source and test files, compiles them and runs your tests. SBT cuts out the whole compile-link-run cycle for you, you just make a change, hit save, see the consequences and code again. It’s very fast and far more effective in giving feedback than any of the current IDEs (all of which need to get on this bandwagon fast is they want to stay relevant).

Clojure by comparison has been suffering in this regard with Leiningen becoming an unfortunately early defacto standard despite it standing shoulder to shoulder with the benighted Maven. The key thing that Leiningen does wrong is stay at the command-line and force you to cold-boot a JVM with each new command (the second is dependency resolution, SBT favours Ivy). Fortunately Lazytest by Stuart Sierra can hopefully save us here. Although still alpha Lazytest is an awesome way of developing Clojure and it’s hard to beat that feeling of smug satisfaction as the tests go green.

It is these kind of step change enhancements in development that are going to carry us forward more than shopping list of features that the new languages have or lack.


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