Thursday, February 9, 2012

TDD is good for you. But it's a hard habit to form

I've been thinking a lot about TDD, agile training and the long term behaviour of teams after such training. I've met far more programmers who have had training in TDD than I know programmers who practice TDD. And I've heard all the excuses

  • You can't do TDD with this language
  • You can't do TDD with this framework
  • You can't do TDD with this database
  • You can't do TDD with this hardware
  • You can't do TDD with this schedule

All bullshit, believe me. I may have said some of those myself once

But once you get past all that you get programmers who will give you a lucid agreement that TDD is good and they should use it more. You train them and show them how it's done as well as push past the issues above.

And then they don't use it.

But why? They agreed it's a good idea and they should do more. We solved all the serious issues that were stopping them from trying. Why wont they even try and put it into their routine?

Routine. That's part of the problem. They still follow the old patterns all programmers learn. "I need to make something to do X. Not sure how to do it"... write write write "still not there"... write write write "okay it works. oh wait! I forgot to write any tests"

I want to delete that programmer's code and make him write it again. Seriously! You're so focused on writing code you forget how important it's function, adaptability and readability is. And the tools that help you get there are tests. Yes you solved X but I can't test it, can't easily change it and can't easily extend it. At least if I deleted his/her files that programmer would get some more practice at TDD.

Practice. That's part of it too. Do your TDD homework! Spend each working day after training with "what can I apply TDD to today?" Consider it incidental exercise to help improve your TDD muscles.

Is learning TDD like learning an exercise routine? Making part of it your daily routine. Setting achievable goals. Measuring your progress. And talk to others for encouragement and support. And if you get really stuck call in a personal trainer!