Joel on Software - “Five Worlds” - Fortune

Joel on Software - “Five Worlds”

Last week Kent Beck made a claim that you don’t really need bug tracking databases when you’re doing Extreme Programming, because the combination of pair programming (with persistent code review) and test driven development (guaranteeing 100% code coverage of the automated tests) means you hardly ever have bugs.

Lo and behold, I discovered that very few of the bugs in there would have been discovered with pair programming or test driven development. Many of our “bugs” are really what XP calls stories -- basically, just feature requests.

A lot of the other bugs were only discovered after much use in the field. The Polish keyboard thing. There’s no way pair programming was going to find that. And logical mistakes that never occurred to us in the way that different features work together. The larger and more complex a program, the more interactions between the features that you don’t think about. A particular unlikely sequence of characters ({${?, if you must know) that confuses the lexer. Some ftp servers produce an error when you delete a file that doesn’t exist (our ftp server does not complain so this never occurred to us.)

I carefully studied every bug. Out of 106 bugs we fixed for the service pack release of CityDesk, exactly 5 of them could have been prevented through pair programming or test driven design. We actually had more bugs that we knew about and thought weren’t important (only to be corrected by our customers!) than bugs that could have been caught by XP methods.

But Kent is right, for other types of development. For most corporate development applications, none of these things would be considered a bug. Program crashes on invalid input? Run it again, and this time watch your {${?’s! And we only have One Kind of FTP server and nobody in the whole company uses Polish Windows.

Author Joel Spolsky
Work Five Worlds