Tech Debt Detectors

When I wrote Use Your First Commit to Fix CRAP I said that “there are extensions for many IDEs to get you the [CRAP] metric directly”, but I hadn’t installed any. I thought that the two components of CRAP were easy enough to notice without them, but that’s only half-way true. Today, I use two extensions for Visual Studio Code to help make CRAP-y more evident to me.

Note: The CRAP metric indicates that a function is risky to change because it’s complex and undertested. To fix the function, you either need to break it into smaller functions or add tests—both actions are generally good, so it’s a metric that’s hard to game.

The first component of a CRAP-y function is its complexity, which you can estimate by counting its branches. So, count each if/else-if/else, case in a switch, loop/break/continue, and each or/and in your boolean expressions. You are trying to get an idea of how many paths there are. Since, you want to keep function complexity very low, you really don’t need to count every branch—you can stop at some low (single-digit) number. It isn’t hard to estimate a YES/NO answer to the question of complexity for any particular function, but the problem is remembering to ask.

To get complexity in Visual Studio Code, I am using CodeMetrics by Kiss Tamás. For each function, the extension shows a green, yellow, or red indicator and a short message above the function.

The second component of CRAP is test coverage. To show that in my editor, I use Coverage Gutters. This extension shows red and green markers to the left of the code to indicate if a line was run during tests. It needs you to generate standard code coverage files, which jest can do for me. It should support any language that has standard coverage support (i.e. in lcov format).

I’ll show some examples of what this looks like and how I fixed problem areas in upcoming posts.