Test Driven Development Book Review

Jun 16, 2007 testing
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(“the triangle”) just recently purchased a book for the library at my request, Test-Driven Development by example by Kent Beck. The current Amazon price for this book is $35. The book took me about 2 weeks of sporadic reading to finish. The first section took the first week, the remaining 2 sections and appendix flew by.

This book is an easy reader.

While it is a technical concept, the author writes in a conversational way - which is helpful when you’re learning new concepts. He also makes jokes from time to time, and relates his writing to his previous development experiences. Since the ideas were new to me, this type of writing had more of a personal test and was able to ease along that “horrible” process of learning something new.

After reading this book, I have a handle on test driven development.

I’ve heard of it before, specifically with PHPUnit and JUnit (Somehow, that makes me wanna scream like a fiddy cent lover, G-UNIT!). I had, however, never used any of those frameworks. A few open source projects I’ve come across had their testing suites online with progress indicators (ie: 90% of our tests are green in this development branch), but I never knew what they were actually talking about. After the first section of this book which is littered with examples, I was able to get a handle on the value of this. I still had questions about practical implementation, but I was actually looking forward (I KNOW!! what???) to reading the next sections for some practical advice and design patterns.

Practical Advice and Design Patterns were lacking in this book.

I was looking forward to the practical implementation - but those examples were between Python and Java - which maybe I missed something in the reading - but he seemed to switch back and forth between those two languages without a hint. That made the thought process a bit more convoluted. Additionally, the design patterns seemed more programmer-school-college-boy and not real life descriptions. For example, talking about a value or null object just didn’t seem to have a lot of real world implementation in what I do… but that brings me to my next point:

This book was more valuable to native java programmers, and maybe less to languages with their roots in scripting.

I’m a PHP programmer by trade - but I use both the top down and object oriented development features. However, being a PHP programmer for so long, before they had object support, a lot of the concepts of simplification, removing duplication, etc, were already notions I had deep within my programming techniques already. I noticed a lot of patterns from normal java programmers being modified in this book - so as to simple down some of the object usage … and make a more testing compatible flow. The last few sections of the last part of the book were pretty much useless for me - they were very abstract theoretical thoughts on patterns. While this may be valuable for some people, I’m more of a by-example and hands on learner.

My final verdict:

How often I finish a book or article and think: “Boy, if I could just get that time back… what a waste.” This was NOT the case with Test-Driven Development by Example by Kent Beck. Two things really are notable about my experience: The first section’s examples and simpler look at the concept were extremely valuable into whetting my appetite for Test Driven Development and I’d have gained more value from a book based around PHP with the same concepts emphasized. I don’t know if I would have bought the book personally, but (“the triangle”)’s purchase of this was totally warranted (with their programming staff of about 25…).

As a side note: I plan to attempt test driven development with my website monitoring project - so watch for more real life examples and updates with PHP!

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