[rspec-users] The problem with learning RSpec

oren orengolan at gmail.com
Sat Jun 27 18:05:45 EDT 2009


test

On Jun 12, 9:41 am, Stephen Eley <sfe... at gmail.com> wrote:
> Ben and Rick,
>
> Thanks very much to both of you for the encouraging responses.  Your
> reply, Ben, came just in time as I was starting to wonder if I had
> made a complete and irrevocable ass of myself.
>
> On Fri, Jun 12, 2009 at 10:36 AM, Ben Mabey<b... at benmabey.com> wrote:
> > In general though I don't know if I
> > really see all of this as a problem specific to RSpec.  The problem is that
> > many people coming to RSpec are not just RSpec novices but are in fact TDD
> > novices (and Rails, and Ruby novices too boot at times as well!).
>
> FWIW, I agree totally.  In fact I re-read my message last night, and I
> want to retract one of my statements for sure: the statement that
> RSpec makes "some easy things easy, but other easy things very
> complicated."
>
> On deeper thought, I don't believe this is true.  RSpec doesn't make
> anything harder than it already is.  There's nothing _wrong_ with
> RSpec in this sense.  I think a more incisive statement would be that
> with RSpec, some complicated things _feel like they should be easier._
>  If only because other things feel so easy.  And newbies tend to
> confront those problem areas at a point in the growth curve where the
> complexity can be misinterpreted as them Just Not Getting It.  Some
> are driven off as a result.
>
> You're right about practice.  You're right that bringing together too
> many learning curves at once creates interference patterns that
> shouldn't be blamed on RSpec.  And Rick's reference to Martin Fowler's
> spiked learning curve -- "this is scary, this is nifty, WHOOPS I
> overdid it, this is okay in its place" -- is an excellent point.
>
> But I don't think it's totally out-of-bounds to frame it as an "RSpec
> problem," even if it isn't RSpec's fault.  The thing is...  Well...
> There are *opportunities* here.  If RSpec -- along with its tools and
> resources and culture -- was a little better at some of this stuff,
> how much easier would it be to learn *everything else?*
>
> How many of us learned BDD at the same time we learned programming?
> ...Show of hands?  Anyone?  The only developers who could make that
> claim would have to be pretty fresh out of the pond.  If that does
> apply to anyone reading this, please speak up -- I'd like to hear your
> thoughts on how you're doing.
>
> How many of us used TDD or BDD out of the gate when we learned Rails
> or Ruby?  This is plausible, but I get the sense it's uncommon.  Most
> of us don't even think to work on good testing practices until we
> believe we're getting the rest of the stuff down.  I know I didn't.
>
> Formal education in programming doesn't help.  Not by any evidence to
> my eyes.  I've recently started seeing someone who's majoring in CS at
> a well-known university, and he said the first class he took on
> software design was in C.  Frickin' *C*.  _Then_ they did C++, and
> then Java, but there was nothing significant about testing.  I told
> him about Cucumber and it made his heart go pitter-patter.
>
> The teaching resources for Rails and Ruby don't help.  Just about
> every book makes a *nod* toward testing -- there's always a chapter,
> they always say "do this constantly" -- but the chapter's inevitably
> somewhere near the back, after everything else has been introduced.
> Rails culture is passionate about testing, but most of us don't start
> to tap into that culture until we're at 'Competent' or above.
>
> What if the world were different?  What if teaching were different?
> What if the predominant lessons people used to get started with Rails
> *did not* start with "Type 'rails', make a scaffold, watch it fly!"
> but instead started with, "What's the most important single piece of
> information in your app?  Okay, great.  Write a spec like this.  Now
> open up this file in /app/models..  [...]  Your spec passed, you're
> cooking!  Now let's spec a view so we can see that information...  Now
> let's spec a controller to bring them together..."
>
> (Even better would be to start with Cucumber, which would take up very
> little extra overhead in that type of tutorial.)
>
> You get the gist.  What if learning Rails was *all about* learning
> BDD?  Would it make the Rails stuff easier to understand and develop
> competence faster?  I hypothesize that it would.
>
> Some things need to be easier in BDD before we can get there.  To me
> that means things need to be easier in RSpec.  I believe my tutorial
> above would be easy enough to do today on the model side, but it's
> just too cumbersome to write a view or controller spec.  You lose that
> "holy crap look how *fast* this is coming!" vibe which is so
> invigorating when you're doing something new.  We could make that
> tutorial happen when writing a controller spec takes about as long as
> writing the controller *code.*  There are some mitigators for this --
> the Shoulda macros may be great for this now that they work with RSpec
> -- but even so I think it's probably a little bit of wading into the
> swamp.
>
> I would like to see that world.  I'd like to help *make* it.  That
> college guy I'm dating has asked me about learning Rails -- but I'm
> planning to talk his ass off about Cucumber and RSpec before I agree
> to help him with code.  I'm hoping he'll be my experiment to test my
> hypothesis, and I'll get a better sense of just how easy or hard it is
> to learn agile Web development if BDD happens at the ground floor.
>
> Given time, I think the patterns facilitated by RSpec could
> *completely* revolutionize the way software happens everywhere, *if*
> the next generation of developers come to learn it first and not as an
> "add-on."  And that's why I'm picking on RSpec.  I can't think of any
> other technology in a better position to make this happen, with only
> some moderate shifts of emphasis in both the tools and the culture.
>
> Does anyone else think that'd be pretty cool?
>
> --
> Have Fun,
>    Steve Eley (sfe... at gmail.com)
>    ESCAPE POD - The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine
>    http://www.escapepod.org
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