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on March 12, 2004
This Kent Beck title is an introduction to the world of Test-Driven Development (TDD). The book teaches the concepts of TDD by working through two complete sample projects. Along the way, Beck gives the reader valuable insight into the thought process and techniques behind successful test-driven development. When the reader has finished working through these sample projects, he should know enough about TDD to get started working on a TDD project.
The book is divided into three sections. The first two sections are each walkthroughs of the aforementioned sample projects using TDD. The third section is a collection of notes and useful tips to try to get the most out of TDD. If you've ever read anything from Beck, then you should be familiar with his style. If you haven't, Beck is an engaging enough writer, and the text flows smoothly and is fairly pleasant to read.
It would help to be familiar with some member of the xUnit family prior to reading this book. Beck uses Java and JUnit for the first section, but never really goes into discussing the JUnit API. Readers unfamiliar with xUnit may have no idea how to proceed with writing their own tests using one of these frameworks. True the API is simple enough that its functions may be ascertained simply by reading the code, but this is no reason not to provide explanation. The second sample project is an actual implementation of xUnit, so a bit more information may be gleaned here. Beck made the curious decision to use Python as the language of implementation for the second project, although he does provide explanation of the language's fundamentals. Finally, none of the sample projects are really complicated enough to do more than get us going on the path of TDD. There will still be many hurdles to climb when working on a real-world project.
If you are seeking a basic introduction to test-driven development, then you might enjoy this title. If you are a Java developer interested in exploring TDD more in-depth, there are better books out there.
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on September 12, 2003
This is the most interesting book that I have read. During the first 20 pages, I dispise it. After 20 pages, I get it. After part I, I love it. At part III, I worship it!
The book start with example that involves teeny, weeny steps of test driven development that made me think this is really for people who don't know how to write test. And I consider myself to be a fully test-infected developer -- well, until I finally understand the idea that Kent is trying to convey here. It shows not only how to create a test case for a class, but also how to use test as the driving tool to assist refactoring for a better cleaner code. Becaus the way of development process is so much different from the normally way (well, depends on what you think is normally, isn't it), Kent carefully makes sure that the user doesn't get ahead of himself or herself. With little jokes here and little comments there, it really feels like being pair-programming with an XP mentor (it does, because I have been pair-programming with an XP mentor), who paitiently explains everything that is going on in his or her mind.
The second part of the book is also very unique. It goes through a process of using TDD to write a unit test framework. It shows, nicely, how to do TDD before the testing framework is in place, thus really tells what is the heart of TDD, and teaches a great lesson that TDD is not just writing test cases, but also a revolutionary development process.
The third part summrized patterns used in TDD, need I say more?
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on April 6, 2004
I enjoyed reading this book, however I must advise that non-coders will probably have difficulty in staying with it. I don't mean that as a put-down of any kind. It's obvious that the intended audience is the developer who is trying to understand the concept of test-driven development. A tester, however, would learn in this book that test-driven development uses tests that are different in nature and rigor than those commonly thought of as "unit tests."
I think Beck does a good job in explaining test-driven development in a way that is easy to understand. I still have some concerns about the nature of test-driven development, such as the emphasis on function over design. But I think Beck achieved a reasonable goal of presenting by example what test-driven development is all about.
The goal of test-driven development is a reasonable way to achieve "clean code that works - now." As a tester, I think the awareness of test-driven development is a good thing. I also think that this technique must be combined with other methods, such as getting quality requirements, verification and validation, to achieve a final result that meets the users' needs.
Readability - 4
Coverage of topics - 5
Depth of coverage - 5
Credibility - 5
Accuracy - 5
Relevance to software quality - 5
Overall - 5
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on January 5, 2003
I bought this book with high expectations. I'm a true believer in testing early and often. Basically, I think the techniques have merit, but the presentation was lacking.
I was disappointed with the writing -- all of the little asides that were attempts at humor fell flat and were distracting. The biggest disappointment was that a chapter on how to integrate these techniques into the processes of a project, especially a large project, was ommitted.
At one point, the book states rather flippantly something to the effect that "You'll have to come up with your own argument to convince your boss to let you spend the time writing all these tests." I think that since he's the one promoting these techniques, he should be able to come up with those arguments. Personally, I think the argument is something like this:
- helps produce clean, modular code by forcing the designer to think about interfaces of the objects first. Coming up with good interfaces is half the battle.
- reduces defects tremendously because automated tests are available from the beginning and are used constantly.
- combines aspects of design and testing into the construction phase. So, the argument is that the "added" time spent writing tests saves time in the design and testing phases.
I would have also liked to have seen a section on the dangers of stubbed out code. Since the technique causes you to stub out a lot of methods, as you go through the process and people are fallable, it warrants discussion. Sometimes they forget that some of the code is stubbed. I've seen situations where stubbed out code (ie, return true) provided the correct answer for a surprisingly long time. It wasn't until it got into system testing that some of the less frequently encountered data caused mysterious problems to come up in supposedly working code.
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on June 13, 2003
I like the way Kent Beck writes his books. And it's sometimes thrilling to read his strange ideas. Having seen so many projects skip unit testing completely the idea of writing tests first strikes me as very good. Mr Beck presents his ideas very clearly and leads the reader through all subtleties and traps of a small example. That's exactly the point where things become interesting for me: How does the academic idea scale when being faced with Web apps, EJBs, XML/XSLT and so on? Hardly any hints about that which makes me wondering if the approach can be used for real projects.
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on April 17, 2003
Let me say first off that I agree with much that Kent Beck has to say: 1. Testing should be done along with the coding. 2. Use regression tests to be confident of making changes. 3. In many ways testing can be used as documentation since it is much more definitive than specification documents. 4. Testing should be used to have the client sign off on a product. In reading the book I learned the specifics of how tests are designed in TDD. It seems reasonable and I am going to make a conscious effort at designing my tests in the way suggested.
Where I disagree is in the use of the tests to drive software design. In the first part of the book, which I think is the most important part, a very good coding problem is analyzed - it is realistic, limited in scope and far from trivial. I followed along until I reached a point where things stopped making sense. I skipped ahead to see where things were headed and then things became clear.
What is being advocated is a type of bottom up design approach. This may work for some. It may even be that the book faithfully reproduced Beck's reasoning process. It does not work for me. I first have to see the larger picture, what he refers to as the "metaphor." The whole thing would have been much clearer to me if at the beginning I was told that one approach to summing money in different currencies would be to use an array to store the information but that instead the implementation would create a list similar to how things are done in LISP.
I urge the reader to judge for him/herself. Like I said this is a good example to go through. I even learned some things about more advanced uses of object oriented programming. As for software design I am going to stick with dataflow diagrams. They are still the best tool that I know of for putting together software, UML notwithstanding.
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on December 9, 2002
Everyone who's read about XP has wanted a book like this forever, so a decent performance was bound to be a happy occasion (a hot dog is a feast to a starving man). I would disagree with the last reviewer and say that the first part of the book is the good part, when the author works through his 'money' example. At the end of it, there's a great moment when Beck acknowledges the importance of metaphor, claiming that he'd done the same exercise a number of times, though this time, he had picked a better metaphor and it subsequently went a lot faster. I have to laugh at this. This is a case of obiter dicta (giving away the key to something in passing). But the funny thing is that Beck doesn't notice how important it is. He proceeds to just meander through the rest of the book. Then, the book just goes down the rathole as we feel like we're being treated to a prof who's run through his material and is just waiting for the bell. The section on patterns is abominable, ending with a thing on Singleton that says something like 'Don't use global variables, your programs will be happier,' which is a ridiculous capsulization of an issue that a lot of people have discussed many times before. A Singleton is globally available. It's not a variable. Mail servers are globally available too. Guess we shouldn't use them either.
Let me also say that I am really kind of fed up with Kent Beck's Opi Taylor writing style. It's ok when the focus is on the KISS side of the equation and generally positive, but his snide little sideswipes throughout this book on everything from the open-closed principle to the idea of doing specifications (another searing, strong argument that boils down to the root of the word being the same as for the word speculation (!)) are really laughable. Makes me wanna say, yeah, who needs a spec if all they are doing is the 10 millionth payroll program or a currency converter. Don't look to Kent Beck for big answers, as a matter of fact, by his own half-conscious admission, he's as much in search of them as we are.
So why 4 stars? Per the subject, the Woody Allen principle. Another hysterical part of this book is at the very end he shows a list of things someone else suggested, none of which are covered in the book, as if he had to tell us, at the end, that he knew just how much was missing.
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on November 28, 2003
If you've never done or are curious about TDD, this is a great book to carefully walk you through learning how and why to do it. After following its practices a bit, I've also found it an indispensible way to write new projects, modules, and code. However, the book doesn't address what happens when:
- The code base is old, and doesn't have any tests or isn't designed testable. It makes it hard to do anything other than introduce integration-level tests and tweak to success.
- You're writing UI code for a serious application. It's straightforward to solve for a dialog framework, but when you're integrating with a major windowing framework that embeds serious functionality (Avalon, in my case), there are a whole set of issues he doesn't talk about.
- Design is part of your deliverable. I don't disagree that you can get pretty reasonble designs out of TDD & refactor. But I *do* disagree that, in practice, you get designs intended to version well, that your company is willing to support for the next decade or more. I've seen the code produced, and it just doesn't happen.
A good introduction, nonetheless. But watch out before you put on the preacher-hat after reading it and doing the exercises -- at least try to do it in part of one large, real-world product.
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on February 14, 2003
Test-Driven Development is one of the few technical books that I have gotten a great deal of pleasure out of reading. At times it feels like Kent Beck is right beside you teaching you the concepts in a way that rings true. Beck does not simply present the techniques in a set of dry rules to be followed. You get a feel for how he has learned this method of development, which is a better way for me to learn as well.
The only complaint about the book that I have is that the second larger example on xUnit is disappointing. It comes across as though Beck wanted to play with Python and as he states, the way he learns a new language is to implement xUnit. However, from a reader's perspective, I found the chapter confusing and not very helpful over the first money example. I would really have liked to see a more realistic example dealing with a business application and the issues of test-driving databases and GUIs.
However, the book is a joy to read and is nice and small. I hate 1000 page tech books, and this one is easy to carry. Highly recommended!
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on February 4, 2003
The are a small number of writers who can teach programming skills effectively. Kent Beck is one of them. There are a small set of practices that you can adopt on your own that will have an clearly observable impact on the quality of your results and the quality of your work day. Test Driven Develoment (TDD) is one of them. If you are a software developer, you want to buy, read and study this book.
TDD fits development into a three micro-phase cycle: create a test that embodies your requirement, write code that passes the test, make the code run clean. Each phase has different goals, patterns and pitfalls. Like any good coach, Beck walks you through these in detail. He uses multiple examples: most notably a business model in Java and a unit testing framework in Phython. He follows up with a question and answer section that reviews common patterns in test driven development cycle.
The level of learning involved in doing TDD is profound. The best way to read the book is to do the book. Skills come from doing not reading. I did the examples (in another language) and it made all the difference in what I learned.
A footnote for managers: TDD is the opening wedge for a set of practices known as extreme programming (XP) or agile development. Test driven development is powerful enough to work on its own for the single delevoper. If you want to realize its full value, however, you need to embrace the full set of XP practices for the whole organization.
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