Tuesday July 28th

Monday July 27th

TDD Proven Effective! Or is it?

So when Phil Haack announced that Research Supports the Effectiveness of TDD I was more than a little interested in seeing what the linked report actually contained.

5 comments

This guy is a piece of work. He starts his post by talking about how great his college statistics class was--which I took to mean he was going to show how any 1-semester statistics student could debunk some awful study’s findings. Pretty much all I learned from the rest of his post is that he finds it easier to FUD than provide evidence when he disagrees with something, and that he himself seems strongly biased against TDD.

After a quick nod to the “remarkably well thought-out” study, he inexplicably spends the majority of the remainder simultaneously casting doubts on the quality of the study, and reinterpreting its findings using his unsubstantiated opinions about what the results really mean. At one point he actually implies that the authors wrote their abstract with the intention to mislead the reader and/or misconstrue the results. This nonsense proceeds for a while, and then several people write comments.

Those comments which disagree with Jacob’s reinterpretation of the study’s findings (which Jacob has mistaken for fact) receive sometimes harsh replies, revealing what seems like an unreasonably thin skin for a blogger. In one of Jacob’s comments, he links to another of his blog entries that FUDs TDD based on the straw man that (and I quote) "Part of my problem with TDD has been that it claims to provide complete testing." Apparently the irony is lost on Jacob, because many of his responses rely on his belief that everyone's using logical fallacies but him.

When one of the study’s actual authors writes a long and cogent reply to correct many of Jacob's misconceptions--even addressing Jacob’s concern (more like allegation) of confirmation bias--Jacob's reply is "I'm particularly flattered that Hakan Erdogmus (one of the study's three very handsome authors) dropped by. I started addressing some of his points, but it got kind of long and I wanted to spend more time on what I had to say. I'll post something later[...]" He never got around to it. I'd imagine because of the strength of Hakan's arguments and the weakness of Jacob’s.

Good grief. Two entries later ( http://scruffylookingcatherder.com/archive/2008/01/29/post-comments.aspx ) it looks like Jacob has recanted by writing:

“First, I want to emphasize something that I could have made clearer in my original post. The original study was extremely well designed and I have no issues with how it was conducted or how it was structured. I described the report in my prior post but neglected to give my opinion of the setup. Let me correct that now: this is an exceptionally well-designed, well-executed, and well-written study. And I’ll point out that my criticisms were not with the data collection or design. If you go back over what I said, you’ll see that my concerns are with presentation and interpretation.”

Yes, it is rough when someone writes an “exceptionally well-designed, well executed, and well-written study” that doesn’t agree with your world view, isn’t it? He spends the rest of the post giving highly ironic advice to would-be blog comment writers about rhetorical etiquette and avoiding fallacious thinking.

In the very next entry on his blog ( http://scruffylookingcatherder.com/archive/2008/01/31/tdd-or-pout.aspx ), the aforementioned straw man is employed to frame TDD as having promised impossible claims. No references or links needed, of course--we’re talking about a rhetorical master here people! He then caps the whole brilliant enterprise with the amazing logical reduction that everyone should just stop talking about TDD unless they accept his terms and conditions:

“So here’s my request for those of you who are using and enjoying TDD who want to invite us all to partake of its superior benefits: please couch your arguments in the assumption that I am already [Plain Old Unit Testing], that my [Plain Old Unit Testing] already delivers substantial benefit, and that adopting TDD is a non-trivial training and practice burden. Thank you.”

You heard him: everyone just pipe down unless you can argue inside Jacob’s rhetorical ghetto when it comes to religious matters like development methodologies! Oiy.

To me, there's no question that TDD appears to have become YARD* (among other things). Obviously the author, Jacob, has triggered emotions even in this very DNK article page by strongly questioning the pro-TDD community.

What's refreshing about this article is that it fills a void in that there seems to be few developers questioning the mostly unquestioned pro-TDD arguments. Even fewer are the number of developers who are articulate and not simply dismissing TDD because it is new.

No, I don't agree 100% with all that Jacob professes, nor do I think that his logic is 100% logical / objective. For that matter, I personally don't believe that any** human's logic is 100% objective. Mine sure as hell isn't.

I think it's worth noting that, if we, as a society, threw out all arguments where the author wasn't 100% on the mark, then we would've missed out on many scientific advances to date.

Debate encourages critical thinking. If one feels the debator is significantly irrelevant, showing cognitive bias, etc., then one would normally dismiss the debate as foolish and unworthy of building an argument to the contrary.

*Yet Another Religious Debate

**Baring any brain deficiency where the emotions are suppressed or where the Corpus Callosum is abnormal, etc.

Wow Jesse. Way to present the reasoned side of TDD. I'm glad you didn't resort to any ad hominem or vituperation here. I'm particularly glad you didn't take the time to actually point out the actual, no doubt myriad, flaws in those posts. You spend a lot of time characterizing them, but never seemed to have gotten around to dazzling us with your reasoning genius. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting your no doubt profound and enlightening rebuttals of the actual points made in those posts.

Never mind whether Jacob is wrong or right. The fact remains that he has taken a critical point of view on a hyped topic and whether one agrees with his statements or not, they are worth considering. Leave the emotions out of your comments and focus on the facts, would you? (We ought not to join the lemmings and there is no need to be touchy just because someone does not agree.)

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