Learn To Craft at Microsoft

ApprenticeshipA few weeks ago I was able to attend an event hosted by Microsoft France about the software craftsmanship movement named “Learn to craft“. This presentation was made by Jean-Laurent Morlhon, Bruno Boucard and Thomas Pierrain.

Even if I already read a lot about the topic (I went to some meetups about software craftsmanship and I went to a conference), I was glad to have the opportunity to go to this event, you never know what you might learn.


At the beginning there was a presentation of the software craftsmanship movement, its origin, its values, its goals. I will not go into the details, you can learn more here. I was just surprised that there was no mention of the manifesto, not that I believe that it should be signed, I let you decide whether you want to sign it or not.

What I like about the manifesto however is the fact that it shows a close relationship with the manifesto for agile software development, which in my opinion is an important aspect: Software Craftsmanship is part of the agility movement, with a big focus on technical aspects.


TDD & Pair Programming

After this presentation Bruno and Thomas put their hands on the keyboard in order to show us a pair programming session while doing Test Driven Development (TDD). This exercise aimed to show us how to go through each step of the Red-Green-Refactor loop of TDD but also how to collaborate as a pair.

In a pair communication is key, both developers have to think about the problem they are trying to solve and they exchange a lot. Now the question you might have is how to equally share the keyboard in a pair programming session, well the TDD approach is helpful to solve this case.

What you can do is: one of the two developer starts by writing a failing test (red), make it pass (green), refactor the code if necessary (refactor), write a new failing test (red) and give the keyboard to his partner. This developer now has to make the test pass (green), do the refactoring and write a new failing test (red), at the point the first developer take the keyboard back to continue the implementation. And repeat this pattern every iteration (or two) to share the keyboard as much as possible.

By doing pair programming you will be able to share your technic, tips and tricks with the members of your team. It is a great way to learn new shortcuts as well, I personally learn a lot of them this way.


Refactoring legacy code

The next session was presented by Thomas and was about refactoring, in the example Thomas used the Gilded Rose refactoring kata. The goal of this kata is to simulate the need to add a new feature in an existing code base, a not so great code base with a lot of duplication.

If you are lucky there is already some tests covering the code, if not you will have to make sure that you won’t break anything while adding new code. In the session Thomas used an interesting method to make sure he won’t break the existing features: he duplicated the code to be able to refactor it without losing it. Then he gave the same inputs to the two parts and checked that the outputs were the same.

For the refactoring itself he used a “counter-intuitive” strategy: copy-pasting! The Gilde Rose code is full of if-else statement and a lot of them are redundant but it is not obvious at the first glance. Therefore the technic is to make them even more redundant to detect the parts in the code that can be refactored into methods to clean the whole code base. You make the code even worse that it already is to ease the refactoring. The concept is difficult to explain with a few sentences, seeing it in practice however is definitely counter-intuitive yet the result was very efficient, I was impressed by this strategy.


Testing untestable code

In the previous session the code was not under test but it was testable, but we know that it is not always the case. Some code bases are tightly coupled with a database or a web service for instance, if you want to test the code you need a working database and/or a working web service.

Bruno also used a kata (from Sandro Mancuso) to demonstrate a way to get rid of these “hard” dependencies in order to test the rest of the code. The kata simulates a system using classes that cannot be used in a test context.

In this exercise the goal is to detect these dependencies and extract them so you can inject them using dependency injection and therefore you can mock them in your tests. This strategy can be frightening because in order to write tests, you first need to refactor the code and in the previous session we saw that tests give you a safety net when refactoring some code. But it this case, there is no choice, you have to do the refactoring without them so you need to be very careful and if something goes wrong you can always rollback the changes even if nobody like this “final” solution.


Some personal thoughts

This event was definitely made as an introduction to software craftsmanship for people who have (almost) not experienced it, with a big focus on practices and not just theory. There is a lot of content I already knew, which is a good news for me I guess. But I also learned new tricks and technic allowing me to remind me that I still have a lot to learn, and that’s great!

I was also very surprised to see that about half of the attendees were not .NET developers, there was a lot of Java people (at Microsoft’s!). And this show us that the software craftsmanship movement is not technology based, it addresses everyone no matter where you come from, it is an ideal with values, a community!

I want to thank Microsoft for hosting the event, and of course I am grateful toward Jean-Laurent, Bruno and Thomas for taking the time to animate this event and spreading the values of the software craftsmanship. If you want to learn more you can visit their site learn.tocraft.fr (in french).

See you next time!



Extreme Programming: Test Driven Development

Red Green RefactorAs professional developers our role is to produce high quality software for our clients. To achieve this goal we must make sure that our application meets the requirements defined by the business analysts and works as expected, without side effects.

To achieve this, you should rely on a full automated tests suite. And to make sure that this tests collection is complete and cover all your code base you can practice Test Driven Development (TDD).

TDD relies on repeating a short development cycle where tests are writing before production code. This process can be defined by the 3 following rules.

  1. Don’t write any production code until you have written a failing unit test.
  2. Don’t write more of a unit test than is sufficient to fail or fail to compile.
  3. Don’t write any more production code than is sufficient to pass the failing test.

Thinking ahead

By following these rules you can implement the required needs step by step. And by writing the tests first you also have to think from a caller perspective, you are a client of your own code.

With this paradigm shift, you have to think of what is actually needed in order to complete the case you are working on and nothing more. It is helpful to avoid any unnecessary over-engineering phase that might happen in the early development phase. This way you can follow the YAGNI (You Aren’t Gonna Need It) and the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principles, you only code what you need, nothing more.

Immediate feedback

TDD makes you write your tests suite at the same time as your production code. This allows you to be able to refactor the code easily, and you will do refactoring all along the way.

Refactoring is even one of the 3 phases of TDD: Red, Green, Refactor. You start by writing a failing test (Red), you write code to make it pass (Green) and you refactor the code to make it cleaner (Refactor). And of course you make sure that the tests still passed after the refactoring before writing a new failing test.

By practicing TDD, you consistently work with a safety net, if something is broken you know it right away!

Leading to better design

The TDD approach forces you to write testable software, therefore it is likely that the code will be less coupled than if it was written straight away without tests first.

A less coupled application is easier to maintain and easier to extend with new behaviors. This way you can improve your code base by adding advanced programming patterns during refactoring phases when you actually need them.

Due to this fact, TDD is sometimes decomposed as Test Driven Design instead of Test Driven Development. Yet to achieve better design when using TDD it is important to know programming patterns and programming principles (e.g. SOLID in oriented object programming).

Living documentation

One of the benefit of having a full tests suite for your production code is that it can work as documentation for it. By browsing the tests of your APIs the caller knows how to use it, how to instantiate the classes and what the expected outputs are for the available methods.

And this kind of documentation is always up to date since it is bound to the associated code it tests, if the code is updated so are the tests otherwise it fails.

More about TDD to come

When writing these lines I am still new to TDD and to be honest I don’t practice it every time, especially when working on legacy project (which would not have become legacy if developed with TDD or proper code coverage at least…). But I strive to follow the TDD rules when adding new behaviors to an existing project covered with tests.

I really want to learn more about this practice and this is why I work on increasing my TDD skills with some side projects. I will share the experience gained from these projects in a near future on this blog.

At the moment I am convinced that using TDD is very helpful to produce high quality software in a concise way. It helps me thinking of the exact behavior I want/need for my program. I like the fact it gives instant feedback and allow constant refactoring without having the fear of breaking anything.

See you next time!

Write clean tests with NFluent

NFluent logo

I believe in automated testing. Not only to check that my program works but although as specifications and documentation for my application. When an acceptance test passed you know that the feature is working as it should. Automated tests are also a very good way to document your code and your application, because if the test passed it means that the functionnality is working. And if this functionnality is updated so is the test otherwise it will fail : it is up to date !

At a code level a test let you know how to use the functions/classes you can access and what the return value will be. It is useful when using an external library in your own application. Well, this is a lot of responsibility for a test, so it has to be clear, concise and most of all understandable when read. This is not an easy task but there are some tools that can help you, one of them is NFluent.

Smooth your .NET TDD experience with NFluent! NFluent is an ergonomic assertion library which aims to fluent your .NET TDD experience (based on simple Check.That() assertion statements). NFluent aims your tests to be fluent to write (with a super-duper-happy ‘dot’ auto-completion experience), fluent to read (i.e. as close as possible to plain English. – NFluent team on GitHub.

I used this .NET library for a few months now and I must admit that I just love it ! I just can’t see myself writing unit tests without it, they are easier to write and easier to read. There are a lot of built-in functions based on the type of the value that is checked :

public class NFluentExamples
    public void NFluent_Integer_Examples()
        var sum = Calculator.Add(5, 9);
    public void NFluent_String_Examples()
        const string name = "John Doe";
        Check.That(name).IsNotEqualTo("Jane Doe");
        Check.That(name).Contains("John", "Doe");

It is also possible to chain the checks the following way  :

int? one = 1;

In my last blog post I wrote about exception testing, this is how it is done with NFluent :

public void NFluentTest()
    Check.ThatCode(() => ClassToTest.IsAQuestion(null)).Throws<NullReferenceException>();

You can find a lot more relevant examples on the project website.

Beside making you write cleaner and more readable tests, @NFluent is free, easy to install, open-source and comptatible with your favorite testing frameworks. It is hard to find an excuse for not using it !

NFluent can help you having meaningful tests that become documentation for your application and your public APIs.

See you next time !

The Clean Coder : Test Driven Development

Red Green RefactorI’m sure you have already heard of Test Driven Development or TDD since it has been introduced in the Extreme Programming (XP) methodology in the late 90’s by Kent Beck. This development process relies on a 3 parts cycle : Red – Green – Refactor. You start by writing a unit test that fails (red) because the tested code does not yet exist. After you write the code for your application that makes the test pass (green) and then you can refactor your code to remove code duplication and others code smells.

In “The Clean Coder” Robert Martin defines 3 laws of TDD :

  1. “You are not allowed to write any production code until you have first written a failing unit test.”
  2. “You are not allowed to write more of a unit test than is sufficient to fail – and not compiling is failing.”
  3. “You are not allowed to write more production code that is sufficient to pass the currently failing unit test.”

By following these 3 laws you are locked into a cycle that force you to test every aspect of your code and to fully follow the TDD principles.

Having a full test suite allows you to have the control over the behavior of your application and to avoid any regression after a bug fix or a refactor. The other benefit of having tests is that it provides a detailed documentation for every piece of your program. Each test gives information about the behavior and the expected result of the feature it tests in a given context.

I have to admit that, when writing these lines, I don’t use TDD. Why ? I don’t really have any excuse for not doing it. But I believe in the fact that TDD is a helpful process. I have to practice it in order to absorb it into my everyday development process.

See you next time for Practicing !