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Test-Driven Development and Refactoring
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Coding isn t a simple task. Often designers and architects will attempt to find the best architecture ahead of time for their purposes. But the problem is finding the best architecture. It isn t that it s impossible or difficult, rather that it s tedious. Reports have to be generated, studies have to be carried out, and findings have to be analyzed. Imagine doing these tasks when all you wanted to know is how to write an assembly. The software industry does research to uncover findings for how the software needs to operate. Typically this is called requirements. When coding, executing large amounts of research is simply too tedious and in fact unnecessary. Software is malleable, and therefore can be made to be whatever the coder wants it to be. We should never ignore this.
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1. http://www.artima.com/lejava/articles/gammadp.html 2. William J. Brown et al., Anti Patterns: Refactoring Software, Architectures, and Projects in Crisis (Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, 1998).
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CHAPTER 9 REFACTORING TO PATTERNS
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What the software industry does need to realize is that being malleable is both a good and a bad thing. We re constantly looking for the holy grail the perfect algorithm. The answer is that there is no holy grail, because there are multiple good enough algorithms. Test-driven development was discussed in 2, but not discussed was the automatic refactoring. As you implement your application, you need to look at the resulting code and see if it resembles a design pattern. And if you find such a design pattern, then the code needs to be modified to resemble the design pattern. It may seem counterproductive to create some code and then fix it up. It isn t because you re learning about your code and what works best. Over a decade of coding has taught me that as much as developers would like to find the ideal design ahead of time, it s nearly impossible. There are simply too many permutations and combinations. What is important in this cycle is the implementation of small pieces of functionality. The trouble with refactoring is that the larger the time deltas between refactorings, the more costly the process becomes. Normally, you would think that refactoring is dependent on the size of the code, but in fact that isn t true. Consider it as follows: say you re building a house. You build the foundation, build the frame, and add the siding. Only after adding the siding do you inspect your work to see if everything is done correctly. If you realize that you built a house that is partially on another property, there will be quite a bit to tear down. Yet if you built the foundation and then checked if everything was OK, only the foundation needs to be ripped down. This is because the foundation has been checked and verified and assumed correct. Granted, it can happen that after building the house, the house still needs to be ripped down. The likelihood of that happening, though, is fairly remote.
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Writing That First Line of Code
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So let s say that you need to write that first line of code, and have no idea where to start. Well, as the famous Nike commercial says, Just do it. Write your code without regard to anything. Because if you re free in your mind, you ll make it happen. Of course, that doesn t mean you write your application with any old code. When implementing test-driven development, many believe it s best to write the tests first, and then implement the code. I differ in this opinion because it will confuse more than assist. Most modern integrated development environments (IDEs) are based on the idea of having a base functionality that they know about, and you want to manipulate. IntelliSense, compilation, and so on are all based on this idea. Hence, by going the other way, you re forced to remember method signatures, assembly names, and the like. This is baggage that you don t need to carry around. By implementing first, and then testing, you can focus on the higher-level semantic issue of making your application function. Implementing first doesn t mean writing lines and lines of code, and then testing. What it means is implementing an idea and then testing. The idea could be implemented in five minutes, ten minutes, three hours, maybe even two days. Of course, the idea should be simple and singular, not complex like Creating an invoice for a client. Creating an invoice for a client encompasses multiple ideas, namely creating the invoice, creating the client, associating the invoice with the client. Right there you have three ideas that can each be implemented and tested individually. This process of defining an idea, implementing the idea, and then testing the idea is an iterative test-driven development process. What you should realize is that the concept idea can be
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