Monday, April 24, 2006

Eating Sacred Hamburger

Software development cults tend to create sacred cows: habits and idioms that might have meant something at one time but only remain as baggage now. I tend to like to kill sacred cows and grill them up, with some nice lettuce, tomato, and a sesame seed bun. On my current project, we're actively killing some sacred cows.

Here are a couple of examples. Thankfully, Hungarian Notation has mostly been banished, except for one lingering, annoying location in the .NET world: the stupid "I" preface on interfaces. In fact, if you understand how interfaces should be used, this is exactly the opposite of what you want. In our application, every important semantic type is represented by an interface. Using interfaces like this makes it easier to do a whole host of things, including mocking out complex dependencies for testing. Why would you destroy the most important names in your application with Hungarian Notation telling you it's an interface? Ironically enough, that your semantic type is an interface is an implementation detail -- exactly the kind of detail you want to keep out of interfaces. I suspect this nasty habit developed in the .NET world because interfaces first came to the Microsoft world as COM (or, back when it started, OLE). It's a stupid cow now, and should be slaughtered.

Another sacred cow we're gleefully grilling up is the rule that all method names must use camel case. We're using this standard convention in our code, but have started using underscores for our test method names. Test methods tend to be long and descriptive, and it's hard to read long camel case names. Consider this test name:

public void VerifyEndToEndSecurityConnectivityToInfrastructure()
vs. this version:

public void Verify_end_to_end_security_connectivity_to_infrastructure()

Which of these is easier to read? The standard in .NET says that you use camel case, which we do...except in situations where it actually hampers productivity. If a cow gets in my way and slows me down, it's a goner.

In the book Pragmatic Programmer, Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt admonish developers to learn a new programing language every year. Seeing new ways of doing common tasks and learning new idioms is the best defense against sacred cows. Learning new languages helps you focus on how and why things work the way they do, divorced from syntax.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Coming Soon...The Ajax Experience

Jay, the creator of No Fluff, Just Stuff, has started conducting single-topic, destination conferences. The first was last year, The Spring Experience, where he brought together the entire Spring universe in Florida for 3 days.

This year, he's doing it again with The Ajax Experience. This amazing show takes place in San Franciso, May 10 - 12th (the week before JavaOne). It features the entire Who's Who of Ajax luminaries (and some dim lights, like me). I'm going to talk about testing Ajax applications using Selenium. And that's no coincidence. Jay has tried to get the creators of each of the parts of the Ajax world together, and I'm talking about Selenium because it was created by ThoughtWorks. Check out the web site and come to San Francisco. It should be an amazing 3 days.