Monthly Archives: June 2013

Mental Health Referrals – First Feature Acceptance Test

I’ve been working on this for a few weeks now, half an hour at a time in the evenings and I can safely say it’s pretty hard to maintain a train of thought in thirty minute intervals. However a bare minimum implementation is complete and ready to discuss.

We start with an acceptance test:

The first part of the feature describes the user story and the second part tells us that when we load three patient referrals then the total count should be 3 with 1 on the 1st January.

I’m using SpecFlow for acceptance tests since it is very easy to define tables and there are some useful binding utilities as we will see. After entering the test we can immediately compile the application and run the tests without writing anything else. The test will obviously fail since we haven’t written any code. In fact the acceptance test will stay broken for some time as we write code and unit tests. When it passes we know the feature is done.

So thinking about this functionally we effectively want to write a function that transforms an enumerable of source referral records into an enumerable of referral facts; then pipe this iterator into a SqlBulkCopy instance. Effectively this code needs to work:

referralrepository.BulkCopy(referrals.Select(x => mapper.Map(x)));

This is a Linq transform with a mapping function applied to each item in the source list. In the next few posts I’m going to break it into bite size chunks to implement.

Tableau European Customer Conference 2013

This week has been dominated by the Tableau Customer Conference. I was fortunate to get a ticket since it was sold out but one of our architects couldn’t go so I filled in. I’m glad I did.

It’s been a while since I got to learn about a completely new technology so it is a refreshing change to be a bit of a novice. After a number of Microsoft conferences this one felt quite different too – less geeky with a more mixed crowd. It was interesting to be able to talk with non-technical types such as data analysts, business managers and statisticians.

I mainly went to the technical sessions but a couple of the keynote sessions were really interesting. Firstly ‘Creating a culture of data at Facebook’ gave some useful ideas about creating communities and getting more staff comfortable with visualizations. It was also nice to listen to a blogger I’ve read for a while (but only just discovered worked for Facebook). The second was Prof. Hans Rosling. I’ve seen his TED talk but in person was completely different – probably because he was talking to a room full of data visualisation professionals. He had plenty of anecdotes about how his famous visualizations came about. Ellie Fields gives a good description of his talk.

So back to the day job now but with some new ideas about business intelligence and data visualization.

Mental Health Project Automated Builds

Last time we were looking at the mental health project I was discussing the dimensional model. I think its time to have a crack at some code now. But this first session is just about setting up my project.

There are some key things every agile project should do:

  • Automated build with acceptance and unit tests
  • Automated code analysis
  • Automated deployment with integration tests

Note everything is automated – it has to be repeatable and not need human intervention or it won’t get done. I’m a big fan of continuous integration and continuous deployment so I’m going to use Team City as a build service since its free for a single agent.

Team City is a very configurable and powerful tool but I want to make sure that I can build and deploy from my local command line in exactly the same way that the Team City agent will since it makes debugging issues easier and allows developers to check the build works before committing.

There are lots of build script tools around such as FinalBuilder but I prefer MSBuild since its readily available and a text format. Visual Studio uses MSBuild internally but we are not going to change project files; we are going to create a higher level script to tie everything together. Since this is a simple start it’s all going in one build file.

The build script is split into 2 main parts. At the top are property and item definitions – this is the build metadata controlling what and how the build will happen. Below that are Imports and Targets which deal with the mechanics of building. This split makes it easy to add new projects and settings without having to change your overall build script.

There are four main targets listed which are Clean, SourceAnalysis, Compile and Test. The last three of which make a build. It’s fairly self-explanatory but if you don’t know MSBuild script imagine anything in a $() is a single value or variable, @() is a list of items. Each target has a list of tasks which are executed in order to complete the target.

So, this script is very simple; it just runs StyleCop over a set of source files, builds a Visual Studio solution and runs Xunit against a set of assemblies. Not much but it gives us a single command line action to build and test the solution as we add features:

C:\ > msbuild draco.proj

This is then setup as a single step in TeamCity. Every check-in causes the build to run and tests to execute.

The complete set of source for this project is available at