Buildbot v0.8.6p1 documentation

Buildbot Coding Style

Symbol Names

Buildbot follows PEP8 <> regarding the formatting of symbol names.

The single exception in naming of functions and methods. Because Buildbot uses Twisted so heavily, and Twisted uses interCaps, Buildbot methods should do the same. That is, methods and functions should be spelled with the first character in lower-case, and the first letter of subsequent words capitalized, e.g., compareToOther or getChangesGreaterThan. This point is not applied very consistently in Buildbot, but let's try to be consistent in new code.

Twisted Idioms

Programming with Twisted Python can be daunting. But sticking to a few well-defined patterns can help avoid surprises.

Prefer to Return Deferreds

If you're writing a method that doesn't currently block, but could conceivably block sometime in the future, return a Deferred and document that it does so. Just about anything might block - even getters and setters!

Helpful Twisted Classes

Twisted has some useful, but little-known classes. They are listed here with brief descriptions, but you should consult the API documentation or source code for the full details.

Calls an asynchronous function repeatedly at set intervals.
Similar to t.i.t.LoopingCall, but implemented as a service that will automatically start and stop the function calls when the service is started and stopped.

Sequences of Operations

Especially in Buildbot, we're often faced with executing a sequence of operations, many of which may block.

In all cases where this occurs, there is a danger of pre-emption, so exercise the same caution you would if writing a threaded application.

For simple cases, you can use nested callback functions. For more complex cases, deferredGenerator is appropriate.

Nested Callbacks

First, an admonition: do not create extra class methods that represent the continuations of the first:

def myMethod(self):
    d = ...
    d.addCallback(self._myMethod_2) # BAD!
def _myMethod_2(self, res):         # BAD!
    # ...

Invariably, this extra method gets separated from its parent as the code evolves, and the result is completely unreadable. Instead, include all of the code for a particular function or method within the same indented block, using nested functions:

def getRevInfo(revname):
    results = {}
    d = defer.succeed(None)
    def rev_parse(_): # note use of '_' to quietly indicate an ignored parameter
        return utils.getProcessOutput(git, [ 'rev-parse', revname ])
    def parse_rev_parse(res):
        results['rev'] = res.strip()
        return utils.getProcessOutput(git, [ 'log', '-1', '--format=%s%n%b', results['rev'] ])
    def parse_log(res):
        results['comments'] = res.strip()
    def set_results(_):
        return results
    return d

it is usually best to make the first operation occur within a callback, as the deferred machinery will then handle any exceptions as a failure in the outer Deferred. As a shortcut, d.addCallback works as a decorator:

d = defer.succeed(None)
def rev_parse(_): # note use of '_' to quietly indicate an ignored parameter
    return utils.getProcessOutput(git, [ 'rev-parse', revname ])

Be careful with local variables. For example, if parse_rev_parse, above, merely assigned rev = res.strip(), then that variable would be local to parse_rev_parse and not available in set_results. Mutable variables (dicts and lists) at the outer function level are appropriate for this purpose.


do not try to build a loop in this style by chaining multiple Deferreds! Unbounded chaining can result in stack overflows, at least on older versions of Twisted. Use deferredGenerator instead.


twisted.internet.defer.deferredGenerator is a great help to writing code that makes a lot of asynchronous calls. Refer to the Twisted documentation for the details, but the style within Buildbot is as follows:

from twisted.internet import defer

def mymethod(self, x, y):
    wfd = defer.waitForDeferred(
    yield wfd
    xval = wfd.getResult()

    yield xval + y # return value

The key points to notice here:

  • Always import defer as a module, not the names within it.
  • Use the decorator form of deferredGenerator
  • For each waitForDeferred call, use the variable wfd, and assign to it on one line, with the operation returning the Deferred on the next.
  • While wfd.getResult() can be used in an expression, if that expression is complex, pull it out into a simple assignment. This helps reviewers scanning the code for missing getResult calls.
  • When yield is used to return a value, add a comment to that effect, since this can often be missed.

The great advantage of deferredGenerator is that it allows you to use all of the usual Pythonic control structures in their natural form. In particular, it is easy to represent a loop, or even nested loops, in this style without losing any readability. The downside, of course, is the rather verbose style and the requirement that getResult be called even when no result is needed - this is easy to forget! Twisted's inlineCallbacks fixes many of these shortcomings, but is not usable in Buildbot, because Buildbot is still compatible with Python-2.4. This will change after Buildbot-0.8.6 (bug #2157).

As a reminder, Python-2.4 also does not support try/finally blocks in generators.

Joining Sequences

It's often the case that you'll want to perform multiple operations in parallel, and re-join the results at the end. For this purpose, you'll want to use a DeferredList <>:

def getRevInfo(revname):
    results = {}
    finished = dict(rev_parse=False, log=False)

    rev_parse_d = utils.getProcessOutput(git, [ 'rev-parse', revname ])
    def parse_rev_parse(res):
        return res.strip()

    log_d = utils.getProcessOutput(git, [ 'log', '-1', '--format=%s%n%b', results['rev'] ]))
    def parse_log(res):
        return res.strip()

    d = defer.DeferredList([rev_parse_d, log_d], consumeErrors=1, fireOnFirstErrback=1)
    def handle_results(results):
        return dict(rev=results[0][1], log=results[1][1])
    return d

Here the deferred list will wait for both rev_parse_d and log_d to fire, or for one of them to fail. Callbacks and errbacks can be attached to a DeferredList just as for a deferred.

Writing Buildbot Tests

In general, we are trying to ensure that new tests are good. So what makes a good test?

Independent of Time

Tests that depend on wall time will fail. As a bonus, they run very slowly. Do not use reactor.callLater to wait "long enough" for something to happen.

For testing things that themselves depend on time, consider using twisted.internet.tasks.Clock. This may mean passing a clock instance to the code under test, and propagating that instance as necessary to ensure that all of the code using callLater uses it. Refactoring code for testability is difficult, but wortwhile.

For testing things that do not depend on time, but for which you cannot detect the "end" of an operation: add a way to detect the end of the operation!

Clean Code

Make your tests readable. This is no place to skimp on comments! Others will attempt to learn about the expected behavior of your class by reading the tests. As a side note, if you use a Deferred chain in your test, write the callbacks as nested functions, rather than using object methods with funny names:

def testSomething(self):
    d = doThisFirst()
    def andThisNext(res):
        pass # ...
    return d

This isolates the entire test into one indented block. It is OK to add methods for common functionality, but give them real names and explain in detail what they do.

Good Name

Your test module should be named after the package or class it tests, replacing . with _ and omitting the buildbot_. For example, tests the Authz class in buildbot/status/web/ Modules with only one class, or a few trivial classes, can be tested in a single test module. For more complex situations, prefer to use multiple test modules.

Test method names should follow the pattern test_METHOD_CONDITION where METHOD is the method being tested, and CONDITION is the condition under which it's tested. Since we can't always test a single method, this is not a hard-and-fast rule.

Assert Only One Thing

Each test should have a single assertion. This may require a little bit of work to get several related pieces of information into a single Python object for comparison. The problem with multiple assertions is that, if the first assertion fails, the remainder are not tested. The test results then do not tell the entire story.

If you need to make two unrelated assertions, you should be running two tests.

Use Mocks and Stubs

Mocks assert that they are called correctly. Stubs provide a predictable base on which to run the code under test. See Mock Object and Method Stub.

Mock objects can be constructed easily using the aptly-named mock module, which is a requirement for Buildbot's tests.

One of the difficulties with Buildbot is that interfaces are unstable and poorly documented, which makes it difficult to design stubs. A common repository for stubs, however, will allow any interface changes to be reflected in only one place in the test code.

Small Tests

The shorter each test is, the better. Test as little code as possible in each test.

It is fine, and in fact encouraged, to write the code under test in such a way as to facilitate this. As an illustrative example, if you are testing a new Step subclass, but your tests require instantiating a BuildMaster, you're probably doing something wrong! (Note that this rule is almost universally violated in the existing buildbot tests).

This also applies to test modules. Several short, easily-digested test modules are preferred over a 1000-line monster.


Each test should be maximally independent of other tests. Do not leave files laying around after your test has finished, and do not assume that some other test has run beforehand. It's fine to use caching techniques to avoid repeated, lengthy setup times.

Be Correct

Tests should be as robust as possible, which at a basic level means using the available frameworks correctly. All deferreds should have callbacks and be chained properly. Error conditions should be checked properly. Race conditions should not exist (see Independent of Time, above).

Be Helpful

Note that tests will pass most of the time, but the moment when they are most useful is when they fail.

When the test fails, it should produce output that is helpful to the person chasing it down. This is particularly important when the tests are run remotely, in which case the person chasing down the bug does not have access to the system on which the test fails. A test which fails sporadically with no more information than "AssertionFailed?" is a prime candidate for deletion if the error isn't obvious. Making the error obvious also includes adding comments describing the ways a test might fail.


Do not define setUp and tearDown directly in a mixin. This is the path to madness. Instead, define a myMixinNameSetUp and myMixinNameTearDown, and call them explicitly from the subclass's setUp and tearDown. This makes it perfectly clear what is being set up and torn down from a simple analysis of the test case.

Keeping State

Python does not allow assignment to anything but the innermost local scope or the global scope with the global keyword. This presents a problem when creating nested functions:

def test_localVariable(self):
    cb_called = False
    def cb():
        cb_called = True
    self.assertTrue(cb_called) # will fail!

The cb_called = True assigns to a different variable than cb_called = False. In production code, it's usually best to work around such problems, but in tests this is often the clearest way to express the behavior under test.

The solution is to change something in a common mutable object. While a simple list can serve as such a mutable object, this leads to code that is hard to read. Instead, use State:

from buildbot.test.state import State

def test_localVariable(self):
    state = State(cb_called=False)
    def cb():
        state.cb_called = True
    self.assertTrue(state.cb_called) # passes

This is almost as readable as the first example, but it actually works.