You Don’t Always Have to Follow “The” Rules

A user was asking the following on the Agile Modeling list:

What experience does anyone have about standards for stories written for
non-UI components? I’m working with a proxy PO who feels the standard story
format (As a <user> I want to <activity> so that <purpose>) simply won’t
work for something that doesn’t have a user interface. Imagine, for this
example, a project that has the sole purpose of encrypting data without any
user interaction.

For my needs, I often apply the principles behind the concepts, if not always the exact template of a suggested practice. Take for example, the use of my favorite tool, Cucumber, to write Acceptance Tests. Typically, cukes are written from the user point of view in classic “Given – When – Then.” But sometimes I like to use the cucumber style for testing APIs that I am building.

Here is one example at the Cucumber level (with the companion RSpec shown below):

Feature: Version 2.0: As we parse PDFs, we need to be able to collect a list of fonts
  as a way to help discern the structure of the parsed document based on
  heading levels, density of upper case text, and what not.

Scenario: Parsing a simple document
  Given a sample set of text
  |R9| 10| Patient: FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN|
  When i parse the text
  And provide a set of base fonts
  |ref |basefont|
  | R9 | Helvetica-Bold|
  |R10 | Helvetica     |
  Then I should have the following font stats
  |R9       | 10   | 4       | 1       | 83    |
  And the following font names
  |reference |points|basefont|
  |   R9     |  10  |Helvetica-Bold|
  |  R10     |  10  |Helvetica     |

Scenario Outline: Parsing a simple document
  When collecting a set of text , ,
  Then I should have  and  word counts and  Uppercase stats

  # Note: the counts are cumulative
    | R9| 10| "Patient: FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN" |  2 |  1 | 66 |
    | R9| 10| "CHIEF COMPLAINT:"            |  4 |  1 | 83 |
    | R9| 10| "PRESCRIPTIONS"               |  5 |  1 | 89 |
    |R10|  9| "Motrin 600mg, Thirty (30), Take one q.i.d. as needed for pain, Note: Take with food, Refills: None."| 0 | 13 | 0 |
    |R10|  9| "(Discount Medication) < Michael L. Panera, PA-C 7/13/2010 17:40>"| 0 | 17 | 0 |

And here’s another one:

Feature: Extract meaningful data from Discharge Message

  Scenario: Extract headings
    Given a discharge message
    When the message is parsed
    Then I should see meaningful information, structured as headings and paragraphs
    And I can get formatted values for HTML display

  Scenario: Extract headings from second message
    Given a second discharge message
    When the message is parsed
    Then I can get formatted values for HTML display

But wait! There is more!

At the “Unit Test” level, RSpec’s can be made rather “english friendly” yet still be all about the underlying API as this diagram and snippet show:

RSpec for an API

The Font Collector RSpec tests

describe PdfParser do
  describe PdfParser::FontCollector do

    before(:all) do

    context "initialize" do
      it "should reject missing font reference" do
      it "should reject missing points" do
      it "should reject missing value" do
      it "should accept valid inputs" do

      it "should start off with simple stats" do

      it "should recognize reference+size is unique" do

    context "clear" do
      it "should clear the font list" do


1 thought on “You Don’t Always Have to Follow “The” Rules

  1. Alejandro Pérez García

    Hi Jon, excellent!

    And as usually is not a problem with the tool, instead is a problem with the naming.

    Always you can “tune” your tool to get the “naming” you need in each occasion.

    Ok, ok, maybe with Ruby is more easy 😉

    Regards from Spain 🙂

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