[TIP] testing: why bother?

Michael Foord michael at voidspace.org.uk
Wed Mar 23 09:58:04 PDT 2011

On 23/03/2011 16:40, C. Titus Brown wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 04:26:02PM +0000, Michael Foord wrote:
>> On 23/03/2011 15:37, C. Titus Brown wrote:
>>> [snip...]
>>> Also I don't know of any actual evidence that TDD or agile actually improves
>>> programming speed, ability, thought, or anything else, over other methods of
>>> specification (more formal ones, for example).  Anecdotes need not apply.
>> Well sure, but unless you have evidence to the contrary (anecdotes need
>> not apply) that's entirely moot.
> This is an ... interesting opinion, actually.  If you're dealing with
> institutional inertia -- working within a large team, or on educational
> curricula -- then *positive* evidence is needed to effect a shift.
> It may not be sufficient, but it's certainly necessary.

Here's some anecdotal evidence that you should definitely ignore. At 
Resolver Systems we would (I say would because I no longer work there 
and can't speak as to their experiences for the last year or more) hire 
two interns every summer. Intern applicants were typically 
undergraduates and came from all over the world, including the most 
prestigious universities in the UK.

In interviewing it was striking that many of the Polish applicants were 
head and shoulders above the others because they had learned (horror of 
horrors) practices like testing and version control and had participated 
in group projects using them. Their teaching had been *relevant* and 
*useful* for real world programming. Certainly not what one expects from 
a typical university education. ;-)

For the three summers I was there we had six interns, five of them Polish.

All the best,


> Since the thread started with the question, "how can I convince people that
> testing is a good way to go?", which quickly morphed into people talking about
> how great TDD is, I think it's pretty relevant to ask why we should convince
> people.  If the answer is "because we like the color blue" (a.k.a. I have
> nothing but personal anecdotes that boil down to "I'm an awesome programmer
> /work with awesome programmers, and I/we do TDD, and you should too!") then
> that's not very convincing.
> Maybe I'm just being curmudgeonly... but "drink the kool-aid, it's tasty!" has
> never struck me as a good argument :)
> Of course, given that I'm still in the backwaters of scientific programming
> trying to convince people that *version control* is a good idea, I clearly have
> other things to work on!
> cheers,
> --titus


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