Thursday, March 30, 2006

Test Driven Development and the Romantic Programmer

Stressing on test activities is part of my usual job as a consultant. Sometimes we can push till the test first practice as recommended by XP and TDD, sometimes we just promote xUnit test cases to primary level project artifacts, meaning that an iteration is not completed if there’s no working test in place to testify it. Testing is different from developing in many ways – honestly, you need a different mindset to be an effective tester – but after learning a couple of tricks, developers easily comply to the new methodology.

Even if you can achieve some success with heavy testing practices, you can’t leave the field unattended. What I observed in many cases is that quite a few developers tend to shift back to the usual methodology, even if they recognized that test driven development was better. There is no rational answer for this, except that the old way was more amazing. I know what they mean: in some way it’s just gambling applied to software development: it’s the thrill of fixing a bug changing a couple of lines of code and deploying it right in production, or assembling an integration version just the night before the final release. It’s just thousand miles away from being professional, but it’s just the same feeling of the good old days of the university, or the first garage programming experience. Some people are just in search of this thrill, and that’s the reason why they like this job, and they’re probably getting terribly bored, if the system doesn’t do anything else than growing smoothly milestone after milestone without a complete crash in the middle, and a miracle hack recovery, of course…

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