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The TDD Experience

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The TDD Experience

#1Postby McDanielCA » Fri Feb 05, 2010 9:07 am

The TDD Experience was originally posted on the Projects page of LDSTech. It was written by Dax Haslam.

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Test Driven Development (TDD) is a development process based on very short testing and coding iterations where the test code for a block of functionality always precedes any actual implementation. A test should be written to fail before coding any sort of implementation; this follows the Red-Green-Refactor idea. I have been exposed to TDD in the past year or so and actually practiced it a little without knowing it while working on college projects.

The development team I belong to consists of Christian Hargraves (a strong proponent of TDD) and me. As a team we’ve been trying to do TDD and pair programming at least a couple of times a week. Our pattern is for one developer to write the unit test and create any classes or methods required to simply make the code compile and the test fail. At this point, the other developer takes the helm and does the bare minimum to make the test pass. He then writes the next failing test. The result is that the simplest solution is implemented first. This cycle continues until both developers are confident that the functionality will meet all the requirements and that the tests are all passing. This method of development is often referred to as ping pong programming.

Through my TDD experience I have gained a greater appreciation for several things that help maintain a good coding rhythm, and impact productivity. First of all, if you are writing a test for a nonexistent method or class, it can be tedious jumping back and forth between editor tabs creating this code. IDE integration here is amazing—the ability to create classes and methods on the fly from within a test is very helpful.

Something that may not initially seem too important is the execution time of tests being written. If you are constantly executing slow running tests during mini development cycles it can throw off the rhythm. Strategies such as stubbing, mocking, and simple code optimizations can increase the speed of your tests. Another tool is code coverage; a great metric but I’ve always been leery of using it as a measuring stick. This being said, code coverage can still be a great tool for identifying weaknesses in the current tests. If you are writing good tests, you get an extra little bit of confidence from knowing which code has been thoroughly tested.

An issue I’ve struggled with while doing TDD has been my tendency to approach everything with a black box testing mentality. I found that in order to turn a black box into a white box I needed to gain more confidence in that code by writing tests at a lower level (not always possible based upon available source). I found that as I did this, I felt my overall confidence in the code increased and my need for integration testing went down.

Our team is settling on a good balance on how we use TDD to develop new features. I think simple common sense can help find this balance—simply ask, “Is this testing adding any value or confidence?” The TDD process has helped me learn our existing code base faster, and I have a much higher level of confidence in the code we write. I wouldn’t hesitate to refactor any piece of our code.

Dax Haslam is a software engineer for the Church.
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#2Postby mkmurray » Fri Feb 05, 2010 9:51 am

Dax! You're working at the Church? Nice to hear from ya and I like your subject matter for this article!

I feel some of the same enthusiasm and caution about TDD myself. In fact, I sometimes feel TDD leads me to too much test of classes, methods, and getters and setters, instead of actually testing objects, behaviors, and business requirements (or user stories, or specifications). I am currently in the middle of a BDD (Behavior Driven Development) exploration blog post series on my personal blog. Any input you have based on your real-world experience using TDD in the work place would be totally appreciated (my blog and/or here). Anyone else that is interested in this kind of stuff is also welcome to follow my post series and comment as well:

http://murrayon.net/2009/11/anagram-code-kata-bdd-mspec.html

Just a few more follow up questions as well: TDD-like methodologies are commonly accompanied with Agile project management practices. Is your team also doing an Agile, Scrum, or Kanban project management and planning? It would be interesting to hear that commentary as well, especially within the unique environment of an organization like the Church.

Thanks!
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Black and white

#3Postby TrentJL » Fri Feb 05, 2010 2:45 pm

Dax, you speak of trying to make black box tests white box tests:

"I found that in order to turn a black box into a white box ..."

Usually, I try to go the other way. What advantages have you found to white box testing specifically?
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#4Postby HaslamJD » Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:13 pm

jtsnake wrote:Dax, you speak of trying to make black box tests white box tests:

"I found that in order to turn a black box into a white box ..."

Usually, I try to go the other way. What advantages have you found to white box testing specifically?


With my original blackbox testing I found that I wrote many exhaustive tests trying to test all possible combinations (well at least more than probably necessary). By doing a whitebox approach I wrote fewer tests because I understood what the code was doing and could pick and choose more applicable test cases. Fewer high-quality tests resulted in less test maintenance and quicker code refactoring.
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#5Postby mkmurray » Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:19 pm

daximus wrote:With my original blackbox testing I found that I wrote many exhaustive tests trying to test all possible combinations (well at least more than probably necessary). By doing a whitebox approach I wrote fewer tests because I understood what the code was doing and could pick and choose more applicable test cases. Fewer high-quality tests resulted in less test maintenance and quicker code refactoring.

Personally, I like the idea of having your tests know as little about the implementation as possible. With the whitebox appraoch, it feels like another form of coupling in your code, which would make it harder to maintain both tests and code over time.
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#6Postby gpsin » Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:23 am

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Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="19" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="21" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="31" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="32" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="33" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" Name="Bibliography"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading"/> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} </style> <![endif]--> [font="] Hey, thanks for this wonderful article on such a less known subject. I have never heard or came to know about this kind of approach to programming. I was happy to know about a new kind of testing of codes. Thanks for this. I hope I will have a chance to experiment with this TDD.[/font]
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