TDD is for tired, imperfect minds. Eventually most of us will hit that point, where we just can’t think properly. Maybe we haven’t had our coffee, or maybe we’re 70 years old. Or maybe we’re distracted because our kid just started high school and how am I suddenly the parent of a high schooler and how can I give him a better start in life than I had.
In the past couple years, every single time I’ve written TDD on my own, without it being a requirement from an employer or client, I did it purely because I had no idea how this 7-line function is supposed to work, and the longer I stare at it, the less I’m sure that these are actual words I’m seeing on the screen and not just made up.
Just now as I was working on a client project, I was writing a
function that needs to return
true for a given set of complex
requirements. It has 2 if-statements, 4 assignments, and a value that
has 3 possible states. It’s not wrong, the function needs to do
exactly what it’s doing. It’s not doing too much. But it’s definitely
confusing. For me anyway, right now, in this moment.
So I was about to reach for tests. I literally could not understand what the code is doing at all, and I was hoping that writing automated tests that express my expectations about the code will help me to make the code work correctly, without needing to understand it. I could basically change little things and do some guesswork until the test passes. And only afterwards, I would be able to look at the code and suddenly say “ooooh, I get it now. Yeah that actually makes sense, it seems obvious looking back.” I’ve done exactly that enough times that I know it’ll play out this way again.
I’m not saying this is the purpose or primary benefit of TDD. But it’s one of the ways in which I found myself using it as a crutch.
But extrapolating from this, and from my 8 years of experiences of doing TDD individually or while pair-programming with really smart people, I can say with high confidence, that it is mostly used as a tool to de-confuse ourselves, either because the problem at hand is confusing, or because we know where we want to start from and where we want the code to go, but can’t clearly see how to get there.
For this reason I am strongly against TDD in terms of designing architecture. That’s something that needs to be felt out by a competent senior dev, who knows the upcoming requirements of a project and has the experience to know how to organize everything. I’ve seen projects go terribly, terribly wrong because people who fully believed in TDD decided to use it to drive architecture.
But I do believe that TDD is great for developing little isolated functions, when you know their ins and outs, but either are finding implementing it confusing, or your brain has just shut off.
Also try having an apple. Sometimes the natural sugar in it helps rejuvenate the mind, especially in the afternoon.
My name is Steven Degutis, and I've been writing software professionally for a decade. During that time, I've written many apps and websites, quite a few technical articles, and kept up-to-date with the rapidly evolving software industry.
If you have software needs for web, mobile, or desktop, and are looking for a seasoned software professional, please reach out to me at email@example.com to set up a phone call.
- Self-employed – present
- Clean Coders – 5 years
- 8th Light – 2 years
- Big Nerd Ranch – 1 year
- Self-employed - 1 year
- Web: full-stack
- iOS (UIKit)
- macOS (Cocoa)
- REST APIs
- AWS / EC2 / ELB
- HTML5 / CSS
Over the past decade, I've written a total of 172 technical articles on various programming languages, frameworks, best practices, and my own projects, as I kept up-to-date and active in the software industry.
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- 2017 — "Clean code" isn't actually clean
- 2017 — Passion in your field is overrated
- 2017 — What I learned in 5 days of writing an experimental website
- 2014 — Age of the Polyglot
- 2013 — How to Program
- 2013 — Ignore the Naysayers
- 2013 — Writing Clearly
- 2012 — Reinvent the wheel
- 2010 — Good usability
- 2009 — Twitter is the wrong tool
- 2009 — We're all pretty bad at driving
- 2008 — Why I Code
|August||NDD: Narrative Driven Development|
|August||The truth about TDD|
|August||Macroframeworks vs Microframeworks|
|March||Notes on Haskell Extensions|
|February||Second thoughts on front-end tools|
|February||First thoughts on front-end tools|
|February||Some thoughts on GUIs|
|February||First thoughts on OCaml|
|February||First thoughts on Haskell|
|August||Age of the Polyglot|
|August||The history of Mjolnir|
|August||Quitting the GUI wars|
|June||Lua: my new favorite extension language|
|January||My programming life-goals|
|January||Lingua Latina, Pars I|
|January||Allocating an AST on the stack|
|April||Ruby Accessors Considered Pernicious|
|March||Reinvent the wheel|
Here are some of the projects I'm most proud of. They were created using a variety of technologies, running on several different platforms and OSes. They're all finished products, and many of them are open source.
I made Docks in 2009 for users who wanted to swap out icons in their Dock with a single click. Its unique functionality and design aesthetic attracted the attention of Apple, Engadget, MacWorld, and led to an acquisition of my start-up by Big Nerd Ranch.
This toy was made in a weekend to entertain my 1 year old daughter. It lets you create bubbles with your fingers, which then simulate physics by bumping into each other and falling.
When I couldn't find an app in the App Store that let me make very simple lists extremely quickly, I made one myself. I use it almost every day to organize and track my activities.
I created this app to increase my productivity by letting me move windows around in macOS using keyboard shortcuts. It grew into a community-driven highly extensible app, using Lua for its plugin system.
Implementing this elite social network gave me experience integrating both Apple Pay and credit card payments (via Stripe.com) seamlessly into web apps, for a frictionless and pain-free payment experience.
This isn't just any chatroom. In this web app, you can see what everyone is typing while they type it. I made this in order to scratch my itch for making real-time apps and games, and learned how to use WebSockets in the process.
This was written in 2009, before the time of Slack, when IRC was the main way for programmers to get short-term assistance from each other. Its purpose was to be a beautiful app with an emphasis on simplicity and usability over technical power.
This is an app I actually use every single day. It lets you move windows with global keyboard shortcuts. Since it uses Vim-like key bindings, it should feel pretty natural to any programmer. There's no configuration needed; it Just Works™.
As an evolution of Phoenix, Hydra was my first attempt at embedding a full Lua virtual machine into an Objective-C app, to make a lightweight and efficient window manager that focused on speed, low memory usage, low CPU usage, and overall being gentle on laptop batteries.
These may be tiny, but they're interesting technical feats.
|Lua4Swift||Swift framework for embedding Lua with a native Swift API.|
|choose||Command line fuzzy-matching tool for macOS that uses a GUI|
|music||Command line music daemon for macOS that only speaks JSON|
|hecto||Command line text editor with an embedded Lua plugin system|
|ZephSharp||Window manager for Windows using Clojure for scripting|
|management||Minimalist EC2 configuration & deployment tool in Ruby.|
|go.assert||Assertion helper package for writing tests in Go.|
|go.shattr||Go library for printing shell-attributed strings to stdout.|
|OCDSpec2||Objective-C based testing framework with Xcode integration.|