Another name for unit tests…

There are so many names being used for TDD’ed unit tests right now:

  • Unit Tests (of course :))
  • Programmer Tests
  • Technology Facing Tests
  • and more I can’t think of right now

But, my friend Michael Hill (who doesn’t blog and I wish he would) came up with a different name for them at the XP Universe conference a few years ago. We were talking at the bar (where else would you find Hill???) with a bunch of people. For some reason, during the conversation, we started to think of different names for unit tests, probably to try to guide people away from the “test” aspect of them, and move them more towards what we considered to be the more important reasons to have them.

Hill came up with calling Mobility Tests, because they allow you to move your code wherever it needs to go, at will. This name brings up a totally different picture of unit/programmer/technology-facing tests to me. It brings to mind that the biggest benefit of having these tests after the code is written is that they let you say YES when asked to make a change. They give you the freedom to make changes you would never make otherwise.

Mobility tests. I really like that name.

— bab (first post through BlogJet. I hope it works!)

6 thoughts to “Another name for unit tests…”

  1. BAB,

    Mobility Tests.. Interesting.. I like to call them ‘Safety Nets’ as they provide you the safety where you do not need to hesitate to ‘do the right thing’ like:

    1) A major internal refactoring to patterns

    2) The substitution of a core third party component that was doing, say quantatative analysis

    3) Of course the ‘mobility’ to fundamentally refactor your OO design into something better.

    4) etc.

    As long as you are all green you are all good.

    I like to say to non-TDD developers ‘You are working without a net. Doesn’t that drmatically make your job much harder? You have almost no room for error and nobody can keep all that complexity in their head’.

    It’s true as they never really know without a lot of manual work if their changes didn’t really hurt them in other areas.

    And what I have seen this year a few months ago was even worse. At this global powerhouse organization I consulted they were PETIFIED to do anything with their code, as they were do afraid of change. They would NEVER install service packs and to this day are on .NET 1.0 – NO SERVICE PACKS! Needless to say I was not there long as they refused to change their culture of suicidal behavior (grin).

    "It works.. Why refactor. Don’t touch something that is not broken."

    Well with the ‘Safety Net’ you can easily see, step by step if you like (checking for greens), that your changes are not breaking your system.

    I keep waiting for my metaphor to fall apart, and if anyone can do it you can! <grin>. But so far Managers understand it, and I can say ‘So you want your developers to code without any safety net? That is incredibly dangerous I hope you realize.". They may have no idea what a Unit Test is, and good luck explaining the architectural, quality and productivity benefits to your average corporate manager. But safety is something they all want, in their jobs, and especially in their projects.

    Kind Regards,

    Damon Wilder Carr, Chief Technologist and CEO

    .NET SIG Leader – New York Software Industry Association (NYSIA

    Microsoft Certified Partner

    Visual Studio Industry Partner Affiliate

    Professional Member – Association for Computing Machinery (

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