Why I Hate Using Rails Fixtures in Tests/Specs

15 Jun 2007

(This is the first of three posts on Rails fixtures)

So you have a Person object that has a many to many relationship with Roles and Movies (maybe this is site where people track their favorite movies). So to test it you need to have the following files:

If you want to test that only people of a certain role can edit another person’s favorite movie list, then your test is spread out amongst 7 files (don’t forget the test file and the actual class file). Maddening enough when you’re writing it, but super crazy insane to debug when the test breaks. More than likely a developer will delete/comment out the the test when it breaks, or they will change it so passes but breaks functionality.

Long tests that repeat themselves look bad, from a DRY (don’t repeat yourself) point of view but consider this: A fixture that is useful for 10 tests tells you nothing about any one test. Many times I’ve faced a broken test that relies on a bloated fixture and been pretty well stumped. There’s all sorts of crap on this thing that have nothing to do with the test I’m trying to fix, so now I need to understand 10 tests to fix one. That takes time and makes people hate testing.

See my next post for why fixtures are still useful.

See also Jay Fields’s Testing: Inline Setup and Josh Cronemeyer’s Are Rails Test Fixtures Good or Evil?