C. Keith Ray

C. Keith Ray is developing software for Sizeography and Upstart Technology. He writes code for multiple platforms and languages, including iOS® and Macintosh®.
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Technical Reviews, More on Test Driven Design

(Originally posted 2003.Mar.26 Wed; links may have expired.)

Scott's essay on TDD is up here and Ron Jeffries's critique is there. I'll have more to say about it after reading it a couple of times.

That recent issue of STQE Magazine also has a great short essay by Jerry Weinberg on technical reviews being a learning accelerator. One thing I want to point out is that junior programmers should be reviewing the work of master programmers, not necessarily to find errors, but to learn from the master - and of course, master programmers can make mistakes too, which are often visible to junior programmers as well as other master programmers. If the master programmer is humble, he/she can learn from a junior programmer, too.

I've been reading Weinberg and Freedman's book on the subject of technical reviews Handbook of Walkthroughs, Inspections and Technical Reviews (which was written in FAQ style - question/answer), and was a bit surprised by their recommendation that when people are being trained on how to technical (code) reviews, they should have some practice at conducting a review in the presence of hidden agendas.

Some examples of hidden agendas in code reviews: person A wants to impress person B. Person B wants to make person C look bad. Person C needs to go to the restroom, but doesn't want to say so. Person D is distracted by illness of his/her spouse.

Only Weinberg would write about hidden agendas in code reviews - too many writers and books on software development practices seem to assume that people act like machines.

On Weinberg's SHAPE forum, Charlie Adams wrote: "When people are getting tense about their software being reviewed, use Jerry's phrase, 'Yes, I trust your honesty, but I don't trust your infallibility. I don't trust anyone's infallibility.' (QSM 4: page 220) In my experience this has always calmed the atmosphere and allowed us to examine the code rather than the developer."

While I have done code reviews, both informal and formal, I prefer pair programming. It combines reviews with collaborative design, testing, and coding. Rather than go into all the reasons why pair programming is good, I'll point you to www.pairprogramming.com and Pair Programming Illuminated.

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