[rspec-users] fills_in NoMethodError

Mark Thomson mark.thomson at ieee.org
Fri Oct 10 09:12:31 EDT 2008

Yeah, I think that would be a very good idea. Some info on how Webrat 
fits in with RSpec would be helpful also.

FWIW, from the perspective of someone coming to this with absolutely no 
past Rails testing experience and only a few months of RoR experience, 
here's what I saw when I started looking into stories for the first time 
at the beginning of the week...

1. the rspec.info home page begins with a description of how stories 
work in the old framework.

2. the most detailed information available on how to actually implement 
story-based testing applies to the old (or older) framework. In 
particular, the following were critical for me to get going (not all 
referenced on rspec.info) -

3. David's 9/22 blog post (http://blog.davidchelimsky.net/) seemed to 
indicate that cucumber was for the future and suggested (to me) that it 
might be premature for mainstream use before Rails 2.2.

4. Aslak's story migration posting seemed to involve a whole bunch of 
new things I was going to have to learn (of course it doesn't really)

So for me, just struggling to get my arms around how this thing works, 
Cucumber just looked like an unnecessary step too far. Of course I see 
now that it's not such a big deal, but that sure wasn't obvious at the 

Incidentally, I would not have come to RSpec at all had it not been for 
Obie Fernandez' book.


Matt Wynne wrote:
> Do we need to make it a bit clearer on the rspec.info site that 
> cucumber is the way forward? The trail of blog posts etc with the 
> up-to-date info is probably fairly bewildering to a newbie.
> On 9 Oct 2008, at 19:38, Mark Thomson wrote:
>> Thanks guys. I took your advice and moved to cucumber. It did turn 
>> out to be useful in that the more verbose error reporting led me to 
>> dive more deeply into the webrat source, eventually leading me to my 
>> problem - which actually was essentially the same noob error I made a 
>> few days when I failed to realize my development code had a data 
>> migration that hadn't populated the test db.
>> In this case the updated form mentioned in my earlier post had 
>> selection inputs whose options are meant to be stored in the db. 
>> Since they weren't actually there, there were no select options in 
>> the form.
>> What was puzzling initially was that an error related to selection 
>> inputs was showing up in the fills_in call. But it turns out that 
>> webrat looks for the named text field by searching over all the input 
>> tags in the form. In the process of parsing the selection inputs it 
>> was throwing up when it didn't find the option tags it was expecting.
>> Mark.
>> David Chelimsky wrote:
>>> On Thu, Oct 9, 2008 at 1:57 AM, Matt Wynne <matt at mattwynne.net> wrote:
>>>> On 9 Oct 2008, at 02:55, Mark Thomson wrote:
>>>>> I have an RSpec story with an overall structure that looks 
>>>>> something like
>>>>> this -
>>>>> ----
>>>>> Given the user is on the start page
>>>>> When the user clicks the 'new' button
>>>>> Then the 'new record' page should be displayed
>>>>> When the user fills in the form
>>>>> And the user submits the form
>>>>> Then the updated form should be displayed
>>>>> When the user fills in the updated form
>>>>> And the user submits the form
>>>>> Then a conformation message should be displayed
>>>>> ----
>>>>> In the last When step, I have a fills_in call that is failing with 
>>>>> the
>>>>> following:
>>>>> ----
>>>>> NoMethodError: You have a nil object when you didn't expect it! 
>>>>> You might
>>>>> have expected an instance of ActiveRecord::Base. The error 
>>>>> occurred while
>>>>> evaluating nil.attributes.
>>>>> ----
>>>>> I think the ActiveRecord thing is a red herring. Poking through 
>>>>> the Webrat
>>>>> source code, it seems like the problem is more likely a failure to 
>>>>> find any
>>>>> input fields. But I'm not sure why. Is there anything 
>>>>> inappropriate with the
>>>>> way I've organized the story, stringing together multiple When-Then
>>>>> segments? One thing that seems curious is that I have a completely 
>>>>> identical
>>>>> fills_in call in the When step that precedes the one that is 
>>>>> failing and yet
>>>>> that one runs without any problem.
>>>> I think this sort of error tends to happen while a view is being 
>>>> rendered,
>>>> so my guess is it's something to do with your data setup.
>>>> Sorry to bang on about this, but cucumber has much better support 
>>>> for error
>>>> messages - you might want to consider making the switch before you 
>>>> waste too
>>>> much time on this issue.
>>> Matt is correct, you should definitely consider moving to cucumber,
>>> though I don't know that cucumber will necessary help you shed any
>>> more light on this particular issue.
>>> Mark, with the little bit of information you've provided, my best
>>> guess would be that the :new action is providing some instance
>>> variable that is not being provided by the :create action in the case
>>> where the data from "When the user fills in the form" is incorrect or
>>> insufficient to save the model.
>>> If that's not correct, please post the code for the steps and the
>>> relevant controller actions.
>>> Cheers,
>>> David
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