February 12, 2009

I can’t go to bed right now

Someone is wrong on the internet.

In the past few episodes of the stackoverflow podcast Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood already talked about SOLID principles and TDD saying they don’t really care for it, they both seem to have been successful without it. They also admitted neither of them had any real experience with this style of programming. This is why I find it really surprising Jeff even took the trouble of writing another blog post about this voicing his opinions about a set of principles he clearly has never practiced.

First of all I find this post very unprofessional. In the short ten years I’ve been programming I’ve seen lots of practices, rules, patterns, principles, styles and methodologies. Some of them are successful, some of them aren’t. Some of them work in some situations and some of them never work and I never get tired of hearing people talk about what worked for them, what didn’t work for them and why. This post isn’t about that. Jeff admitted to not having much experience trying these principles, he does seem to have a couple of issues with rules though.

Jeff also seems to completely miss the point on what principles actually are. He goes on a rant of why rules are bad but principles aren't rules. In fact I think they are almost the opposite of rules. Rules are what made the 2Life Crew change the lyrics of their hit song Me so horny without changing its meaning. Principles are what drives you to not let your little sister listen to it. Rules tell you what to do in any situations. Principles describe where you want to go leaving you to decide what the next step will be to get you just a little closer.

The case for or against SOLID and TDD seems familiar. It’s an old discussion of efficiency vs. effectiveness. Not doing TDD and not doing things SOLID lets me write loads of code really fast, its really efficient. But programming is not about writing code. This may surprise some people. Programming is design. It’s about thinking. It will surprise you how few lines of code an average programmer writes, so typing is not a bottleneck. There are other bottlenecks. Maintenance and readability. SOLID and TDD address these bottlenecks leading to well partitioned readable code. The dynamics of writing code change from frantic sprints and evenings of bug-hunting to a sustainable pace.

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