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Discussion on: TDD Practicality

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sargalias profile image
Spyros Argalias

Thank you :). In general I do TDD whenever I can (assuming I'm not working on something where I wouldn't write tests). I think it's a very efficient workflow, for many reasons.

But as I mentioned, you can get the benefits of TDD by doing them manually. TDD is slightly more efficient, for example, as mentioned above, for writing a failing test.

So for me personally. I feel a very small difference when using TDD or not using it.

However, I imagine that there are many people who wouldn't do anything that TDD helps you with unless they used TDD. For them, TDD would be a much more efficient process and result in much cleaner code.

When I don't use TDD

If I write tests and if I have a general idea of what I need to do, I use TDD. If I'm not sure what to do, I mess around with code a bit first, until I have a general idea of what to do.

Unfortunately, I can't think of a good example at the moment. Let's say, for the sake of example, that you have no idea what your implementation should be. You then mess with some code and discover that promises may be good to use. At this point, you have some idea of what kind of tests you can write. So you can either re-write the code with TDD, or just refactor what you've got so far and add tests.

When I don't write tests at all

This is a separate topic to TDD, but in general I don't write tests if I'm creating a quick prototype for something. That's because I don't need the code to be robust, and I'm not going to be working on the code for months to come. I just need something quick and dirty to see if I've got the right idea in what I'm creating. Spending time writing tests will probably just be wasted time.

Another example is some hobby game development I've been doing. I've learned that, during initial development, I change how things work a lot. In other words, things stay in the trial or prototype stage for a long time. For these kinds of projects, I'm avoiding writing tests more and more, until I feel like the requirements are more stable. (Or until I feel like I'm spending too much time debugging and I'd rather automate the bug-finding process by writing tests.)

The thing with tests is that they aren't free. They take time to create. Further, if you change the public API of the code, you also need to modify the tests. So they make it harder to make large changes. So, for prototype code where things may change a lot, tests are too costly. They are worth it in enterprise projects because their benefits outweigh their costs. They reduce bugs in your code (critical for real applications but not important for prototypes), they reduce time spent debugging and reduce time to do manual testing (which would be significant in large applications, but low in small applications or prototypes).

Okay, that was an essay... I hope it's somewhat useful. If you have any questions, comments or even different opinions, let me know :).

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cariehl profile image
Cooper Riehl • Edited

I love and appreciate this "essay"! I read the whole thing, and I think you and I have similar thoughts on TDD in general. I especially agree with this point:

I've learned that, during initial development, I change how things work a lot. In other words, things stay in the trial or prototype stage for a long time. For these kinds of projects, I'm avoiding writing tests more and more, until I feel like the requirements are more stable.

I am the same way. When I work on my personal projects, I tend to spend way more time reorganizing systems, just because I find it enjoyable. If I forced myself to write tests for every change, I would get way less enjoyment out of my projects, which would defeat the purpose! I program as a hobby because I find it fun, not because I feel the need to create a useful product. That's what programming professionally is for ;)

I do try to force myself to remember TDD principles whenever starting a new project, and I'll often start by writing a few tests for a component. But similar to you, as soon as the tests get in the way of my enjoyment/productivity, I stop forcing myself to write them. In a workplace setting, I would be more hesitant to abandon my TDD approach; but in a hobby setting, the only person I'm trying to please is myself.

Thanks for your response :) if you have a response to this one, I'll happily keep the conversation going!

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sargalias profile image
Spyros Argalias

Nice yeah, seems like we have similar thoughts indeed :).

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bertilmuth profile image
Bertil Muth

One situation where I don't use TDD is when I need to call some framework/library methods, but don't know how to use it yet. I would rather "play around" with the library a bit, until I know how to use it, without writing tests, and then start my own development based on it.

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sargalias profile image
Spyros Argalias

Good example, thanks :)

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