[rspec-users] [Cucumber] Level of features / Feature dependent steps

Josh Chisholm joshuachisholm at gmail.com
Wed Feb 18 08:12:13 EST 2009

I find that the _first_ example of some functionality should be
imperative (say specifically how to achieve something step by step)
and subsequent mentions of the same functionality should be more
declarative (say in abstract terms what to achieve, but spare the step
by step details). For me, this is consistent with discussing features
with customers: it starts out step by step, then in subsequent
conversations (especially after implementation of the imperative
steps) we can discuss the same thing in more abstract terms.

An obvious example is login

# login.feature
Scenario: Successful login
Given there is a user 'josh'
And the user 'josh' has the password 'pass'
When I visit the login page
And I enter the username 'josh'
And I enter the password 'pass'
And click 'submit'
Then I should see 'welcome josh'

# some-other.feature
Scenario: Something that requires login
Given I have logged in successfully

# login_steps.rb
Given /I have logged in successfully/ do
  Given "there is a user 'josh'"
  Given "the user 'josh' has the password 'pass'"
  When "I enter the username 'josh'"

There is duplication between the first imperative feature and the
login steps, but I think that's a slightly different issue from
"Feature coupled steps". The "Given I have logged in successfully"
step is not coupled to a particular feature, it is an aggregation of
other steps. It is designed to be used in different features.

Going back to your example, I would use the first style. Later, I
would introduce the aggregate step "Given I have paid a bill with
sufficient funds" as and when I needed to. Like Jonathan said, there
is still the issue of shared state, but arguments can be passed
through the aggregate steps to the imperative steps depending on how
you feel about this.


On Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 8:45 AM, Matt Wynne <matt at mattwynne.net> wrote:
> On 17 Feb 2009, at 20:27, Lenny Marks wrote:
>> Forgive the long post, just looking for input/advice/alternate opinions..
>> Like many I think that going through the exercise of framing user requests
>> in Cucumber terms(Features, Scenarios..) really helps facilitate necessary
>> conversations and avoid time wasted implementing the wrong thing(e.g. as a
>> requirement/specification tool). However, I'm a bit confused when it comes
>> to tying this in with Cucumber.  I've come across many suggestions about
>> audience being king as far as language used in features, but when writing
>> features as part of a specification for a new feature, I consistently find
>> myself writing at a higher level than most any examples I've come across(See
>> example below).
>> In the past we've typically relied on very informal means of specifying
>> new features(Wiki pages, paper, and verbal communication). No that's not our
>> problem..;-) TPI, Even with extensive object level specs, the full details
>> of what an application does and how it is expected to behave from the
>> outside tends to get lost in the app over time. For example, we have a few
>> applications that were developed by a consulting company. Even concentrating
>> only on the UI and the flow of the application, there are many features that
>> are kind of hidden within the app(ex. assign to drop down that should keep
>> most recently used names first). Without being extremely familiar with the
>> app, all you really know(as a developer or tester) is that it renders
>> successfully, which is an obvious maintenance problem. Even with newer apps,
>> after a feature is implemented it tends to get lost inside the application.
>> I was thinking that Cucumber could really work here as a full life cycle
>> tool because the same artifacts that were initially used to specify a
>> feature, could be kept and re-used as documentation for users and testers.
>> Unlike alternatives such as keeping a Wiki page up to date, having features
>> linked to implemented steps serves as integration tests and also ensures
>> that the feature as written, is still accurate/up to date. (Even link
>> Cucumber output to Wiki page)
>> Anyway, reading through Cucumber docs and examples, I almost always see
>> much more specific examples.
>> e.g. (from RSpec book)
>> Feature: Pay bill on line
>> Scenario: Pay a bill
>>        Given a checking account with $50
>>        And a payee named Acme
>>       And an Acme bill for $37
>>        When I pay the Acme bill
>>        Then I should have $13 remaining in my checking account
>>       And the payment of $37 to Acme should be listed in Recent Payments
>> That makes sense to me from a testing perspective, but it just doesn't
>> seem right to me from the perspective I speak of above. If I were flushing
>> out this feature with users, I'd have probably wound up with something more
>> like:
>> Scenario: Pay a bill with sufficient funds
>>        Given I have a bill to pay
>>        And I have enough money in my checking account to cover it
>>        When I pay the bill
>>        Then my checking account should be debited by the amount payed
>>       And the payment  should be listed in Recent Payments
>> One problem is that obviously this way involves always writing an extra
>> level of feature dependent steps. It just seems to me that the specific
>> version tends to distract from the actual story. I'm sure I'm looking at
>> this backwards, but does anyone else use Cucumber similarly?
>> Thanks,
>> -lenny
> My view is, prefer the latter (abstract) style, use the former (specific)
> style when you have to for clarity. Each can make sense in the right
> context, but the latter style is definitely much easier to read.
> In the end I find you usually need some specific examples to drive out a
> working system if the feature is at all interesting, but trying to stick to
> the abstract style as long as possible is a good habit to get into.
> There was a discussion some time ago about calling these two styles
> 'declarative' and 'imperative'. I'm afraid I'm still too dumb to remember
> which one is which, but someone else will surely chip in. 'Abstract' and
> 'Specific' are feeling better to me as I type this.
> Matt Wynne
> http://blog.mattwynne.net
> http://www.songkick.com
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