Thursday 24 August 2017

Mocking Large Interfaces Using Embedding


On the topic of embedding, Sean Kelly gave a great talk on embedding at this year's golang uk conference, it was quite dense but lightened with constant pictures of his pet corgi!

If you are not familiar with embedding in go, it is sort of like inheritance. Only it is based upon a 'has a' rather than the 'is a' relationship of traditional inheritance in object orientated languages, this can be seen as a sort of 'sideways inheritance' or composition of one object upon another.

See example:

In the above example we can see struct E embedded in struct S. This allows struct S to inherit members of E into its own namespace.
This is useful as it enables us to reuse functionality provided by an embedded type across different structs as though this struct provided this functionality. This allows us to reuse objects across classes in the same way that we would functions.

Mocking Large Interfaces using Embedding

When we embed an interface in a struct the compiler is satisfied that the struct satisfies the interface. This allows us to create mocks with much less boilerplate than stubbing every member of the interface. The caveat is that if we don't implement a member of the interface on the mock and it is called then that will generate a nil pointer runtime error - a panic. See example:

An alternative is to use a mock generation tool such as counterfeiter which generates the mock code itself given the interface definition.

Bear in mind when mocking a large interface we should ask ourselves if a smaller one would suffice. As the go proverb says 'The bigger the interface, the weaker the abstraction'. Larger interfaces are less expressive and less composable. I have had to deal with large interfaces mainly generated from protobuf service definitions. But if you must mock a large interface embedding or generation may save you time.

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