On DHH on TDD

It’s not that I could argue with DHH regarding TDD—in technology he’s at a level that I may never reach. Mr. Kent Beck had his say on that article, and also Mr. Robert C. Martin, although not as to-the-point as Mr. Beck’s.

I have little to say about the article itself. My take is that DHH simply had a bad day. Generally speaking, when I hear that kind of tone, I tend to think that the author just had a hard time with the subject of the story. Bit by bit it accumulated and now it exploded. And this tells more about author’s misuse/misconception of the subject rather than about the subject itself.

Anyway, I think this is a good time to look at my own TDD practice and tell how it works for me.

  1. Coming from a recent failure with a “legacy” codebase, having a single command that tells me that everything is fine after a change is a Pretty Big Deal™.
  2. It helps me to look at my production code from another developer’s perspective: would this method name make sense with these arguments? When I write my test first, I have the answer.
  3. It helps keep units small. If I have a big setup for the test, this is telling me that that module may be doing too much.
  4. It helps me limit the dependencies. This is a variation of the previous: if I have a big setup and I have to prepare a lot of dependencies to inject, this tells me that I may need to rethink that unit.
  5. It helps me document the functionality. I have moments when I come back to a piece of code I wrote a few weeks ago and I can’t remember why I did it that way. With good tests I can make peace with that.

Sometimes I write tests for configuration or default settings. I confess that I had mixed feelings about that in the beginning, but later I realized that in case I get those settings wrong, I will also have to change tests, which makes it harder to make mistakes. Later I found Mr. Martin’s analogy to double-entry bookkeeping, which is basically the same reasoning.

The conclusion I have for my relatively short first-hand experience with TDD is that it really helps me do a better job as a developer.