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An ordinary afternoon and I'd wanted to work on some code locally on my machine. I knew the tests previously ran without any issue. So, after I'd cloned the repository locally, I ran nosetests to make sure everything was OK with my setup before I started.

What I expected is the tests to run pretty quickly as before.

What happened instead is that Python started hogging a CPU and I saw a lonely blinking cursor where I expected my test results.

Something was happening, but none of the tests were seemingly running. That is, I wasn't seeing any pass/fail indicators, which was strange.

What actually happened

Something was running that evidently wasn't what I intended.

On inspection, one of the import statements in the test code had a structure somewhat like:

def some_function():
    do some things

def another_function():
    do some other things

def really_long_winded_scraping_function():
    do lots of things


Bear in mind that when you import a module, the statements are actually executed. If you've just got function and class definitions in there, then this means that they get defined, but they aren't executed until you call them.

However, if functions are called in the module's flow of execution, then they'll be called when you import it too.

So, when this module was being imported by the test module, the really_long_winded_scraping_function() was being called. So, yes, eventually, the tests would have run, but they'd run after the code in the import had finished, which would have taken hours.

Fixing the problem

Normally, I routinely use:

if __name__ == '__main__':

in Python code that I start writing.

From the official documentation:

"Within a module, the module’s name (as a string) is available as the value of the global variable __name__."

What it also does is assigns '__main__' to __name__ if the module is being executed directly. This gives you a way to specify different behaviour depending on whether the module itself is run or just imported.

If you're importing the module to reuse the code elsewhere, you can then just access the relevant functions and classes that you need, rather than running code that actually starts doing things.

In this case, for some reason, we'd just quickly thrown some functions together, then found that the function that actually initiates all of the scraping wasn't being called. So, we'd just quickly added a call to what was our at the bottom of the module, set the code going to do the scraping and not run the tests again.

This was fine, until I forgot about this and came to run the tests again later! It's a good case for running your tests regularly; the reason it took me so long was that we hadn't run the tests since getting the main code working. If we had, I think I'd have been more likely to spot the connection between our fix to the code and the tests taking an age.

(This isn't a test specific problem. You'd notice it whenever you imported the code into another module. It just happened to be that the tests were the only other module that we'd imported the code into.)