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Discussion on: What’s an unpopular software opinion you have?

610yesnolovely profile image
Harvey Thompson • Edited

Given the current professional jobs I seem to have had these past 15 years or so, these are my "not popular opinion" with colleagues:

  • Using Unix/Cygwin command line and bash/python/awk/sed to automate things.
  • Using Emacs (or Vi) instead of Visual Studio.
  • Using git instead (or on top) of Perforce.
  • Preferring not to use a debugger, but rather writing tests (TDD) to discover and fix bugs.
  • Garbage collection has it's place and uses, it's not an abomination to be avoided.

Can you guess the particular part of the Software Industry I'm in?

turnerj profile image
James Turner

Preferring not to use a debugger, but rather writing tests (TDD) to discover and fix bugs.

That one hurts...

Writing tests is meant to help regression cases and in TDD, shape the application code. Debuggers aren't meant to be replaced by tests, they help you narrow the problem down so you easily see the code and conditions of a bug. This should (but maybe it hasn't in your experience) help you get to the source of the problem faster.

610yesnolovely profile image
Harvey Thompson

Okay, granted I'm talking more about a project on which I have full control and knowledge. On other projects, especially where I'm unfamiliar and/or there are less tests, I'll use a debugger more.

Also true that in some cases I do get out a debugger, but increasingly over the years I tend to already have a test for the code in question, and often it's simply obvious what's wrong (the test has failed on an assert), so I just fix the code because I already know what's wrong.

The time I do pull out the debugger is when either a) I don't have a test (I should write one then - so less likely) or b) it's making no sense at all and my mental model and tests don't match the code.

I'm going to say that in about the past 18 months I've used a debugger three times.

Stats on project I'm working on (alone):

  • 288000 lines
  • 1800 files
  • 1367 unit tests
  • 7000 test assertions

Hence: I prefer not to use a debugger, but rather write tests.

Bonus: Once you fix a bug by first writing a test that fails, you know when you've fixed it, you know you'll know if you ever break it again, and you have one more test.

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turnerj profile image
James Turner

Just out of curiousity now, what is the lines/files of code split between tests and application code?

And also curious, what programming language?

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610yesnolovely profile image
Harvey Thompson
  • The tests are in the same file as the class.
  • Approximately 65000 lines of tests, so about 20% is test code.
  • The programming language is called XXXXX (*)

(*) Name redacted because it's a new unreleased and in-development. Doubt it will see the public eye for a few years or more (if ever). It is however written in itself because "Dog Fooding" (and heavy testing) is the only way to hope to succeed at such insanity.

FYI - The counts are pretty inaccurate, I didn't use sloc tools, just find/xargs/wc. I'd say there's about 15% of blank lines/comments/junk at a guess.

I guess we can add one more unpopular software opinion:

We do need Yet Another Programming Language!