Exploration Through Example

Example-driven development, Agile testing, context-driven testing, Agile programming, Ruby, and other things of interest to Brian Marick
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Mon, 24 Mar 2003

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Chad Fowler has written a piece inspired by PragDave's essay on "artifacting". Chad writes:

there is one particular aspect of practicing "art" which seems conspicuously missing from the every day work of the programmer. As a musician, I might spend a significant portion of my practice schedule playing things that nobody would want to listen to. This might include scales, arpeggios, extended tones (good for improving control on wind instruments, for example), and various technical patterns.

This idea of practice has been a theme of Dick Gabriel's in recent years. Here's an abstract for a talk he gave at XP/Agile Universe 2001. The talk was titled "Triggers & Practice: How Extremes in Writing Relate to Creativity and Learning".

The thrust of the talk is that it is possible to teach creative activities through an MFA process and to get better by practicing, but computer science and software engineering education on one hand and software practices on the other do not begin to match up to the discipline the arts demonstrate. Get to work.

A final link: at an OOPSLA workshop on constructing software to outlive its creators, PragDave brought up the idea that we should be more ready to throw out our work and rewrite it. That ties in to a story Dick tells of the poet John Dickey. Here it is, from Dick's book Writers' Workshops and the Work of Making Things:

Dicky had numerous methods of revision. His favorite was redrafting, in which he would create new drafts of a poem until there were literally hundreds from which he could choose... Dicky viewed his process as one of experimentation. In the end, when he had hundreds of versions and drafts of a piece, he was able to choose from them. Surely some of them were better than others, and if he chose one of those, he was better off than he could have been.

PragDave inspired me to start throwing out and rewriting code, but I've done little of it yet. Unlike Dickey, I keep tweaking and tweaking and tweaking the same piece. There's never enough time to do it over, but there's always enough time to do it right...

## Posted at 15:13 in category /links [permalink] [top]

Two interesting reads this morning

Laurent on the principle of legitimate curiosity. How can you use questions about encapsulation to drive thoughts about what the real problems are?

PragDave on artifacting, our tendency to think too much in terms of nouns, too little in terms of verbs. That's also a hobbyhorse of mine. (Hence my slogan: "No slogan without a verb!")

Reading Dave's piece, I realized part of the reason I like verbs. We think of actual things in the world - rocks, trees, etc. - as standing alone. They are what they are, independent of things around them. That property we see in concrete objects is carried along into language, where we apply it to very abstract nouns like "requirements" and "quality". Those are not actual things, and they do not stand alone in any meaningful sense, but the conventions of language let us treat them as if they were and did.

In contrast, verbs customarily don't stand alone. In sentences, they take subjects and objects. Contrast two conversations.

Betty: What did you work on this morning?
Sue: Quality.
Betty: Ah... So, where to for lunch?

Betty: What did you do this morning?
Sue: Coded.
Betty: Coded what?

Now, in the second conversation, Betty could have skipped the followup question. And, in the first, Betty could have said, "What does it mean to work on 'quality'?" My point, though, is that verbs pull you to ask the next question, to look for subjects and objects and connections, whereas nouns make it perfectly easy to stop asking. Since one of our problems is that we stop conversations too soon (including our interior conversations), consciously using a lot of verbs helps us.

But now I must head back to the taxes... Why is it that a crash in a tax program is so much more disturbing than a crash in the operating system?

## Posted at 08:00 in category /links [permalink] [top]

About Brian Marick
I consult mainly on Agile software development, with a special focus on how testing fits in.

Contact me here: marick@exampler.com.




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Working your way out of the automated GUI testing tarpit
  1. Three ways of writing the same test
  2. A test should deduce its setup path
  3. Convert the suite one failure at a time
  4. You should be able to get to any page in one step
  5. Extract fast tests about single pages
  6. Link checking without clicking on links
  7. Workflow tests remain GUI tests
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Design-Driven Test-Driven Design
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Views and presenters appear
Hooking up the real GUI


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