Sunday, August 30, 2009

The debate is over, TDD won.

I find that I have very little to add to the words of Robert Martin (Uncle Bob).

I highly recommend people to look at the available videos of him and his talks about professionalism.

Our profession as programmers is very much immature. We have hard to accommodate accountability and transparency. We have little regard of what constitutes a true "Deliverable". And, to paraphrase Ken Schwaber, we have a very odd understand of what it means to be "done".
Basically, we like to do the algorithm, but we do not like to bridge the algorithm to the world.
A nice analogy is the difference between a hobby mechanic and a professional service business.

We put juniors in our office space and we expect them to produce.
Even a person operating the fryer at McDonalds gets some sort of apprenticeship.

We resist change. We resist being scrutinized. We resist being managed. We seldom recognize business value. We resist comparison.
We do not have objective standards or engineering principles. The only professional criticism from programmer to programmer is "that's not how I would do it".

But there are standards to be had. Engineering principles exist. But I sincerely do not know if you will actually appreciate them if you have no experience in the industry. I have yet to see this successfully condensed into a learning experience that mentor can bestow on apprentice. Or in the class room.

Uncle Bob has the comparison of when doctors learnt to wash their hands when walking from an autopsy to the maternity ward. It took a generation change to implement it. And the problem domain was unknown to anybody fresh out of the contemporary version of "med school". One may even argue wether or not it still was the same profession before and after knowing about germs.

Even though I don't think a serious argument still exist against Test Driven Development as a whole. It is still an immature practice which a significant part of the developer community still resist.

Without a frame of reference, it is hard to separate the community from the practices. It has become a part of the expected norm that software has bugs and that software development is an inherent financial liability.

I believe and hope that this will change.

Just fifteen years ago (being careful to pick a timeframe that excludes me), programmers were stereotyped to be socially awkward, cave dwelling magic workers with questionable antics and hygiene. Approachable only by the specially trained project manager who knew better than to hint at a questionable decision or belated milestone.
Today, most project managers are quite capable of programming in MS Excel and the sacred art of programming "magic" has unraveled.
Even though I presented a caricature strawman, something has certainly changed.

I hope that they will keep changing. That technical debt, development liability, Test Code coverage, Continuous Integration and automated deployment will be common case real life business metrics KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) for the future.

The debate is over, TDD won. Will the community inertia demand another 15 years before the change is de facto?

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