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Weight Loss Gimmicks And TDD: Buyer Beware

There is no one product used alone that will enable you to lose weight. Just like there is no one development practice that will help you attain high quality software.

You might see on TV an add for some piece of equipment, say something called the Ab Master 3000 (completely just made that up, may or may not exist). The company selling said product might promote it by showing an extremely fit person, with a tag line "you can get these amazing results by using the Ab Master 3000 for 30 minutes a day".

They aren't lying to you, you could get the amazing results such as six pack abs. But unless you have a proper diet and exercise regiment, and the will power and persistence to keep at it long enough to get your percentage body fat low enough to be able to see these results. For those who buy this product and only use that product and nothing more, they won't see the results the are picturing.

The same thing applies to software development practices such as TDD. A TDD evangelist might tell you that you can write high quality software with less bugs at a steady pace if you use TDD. Or you can safely refactor your code base because the tests written give you the confidence to do so. TDD may work for you, and you may see some of the benefits claimed. But unless you have good software design skills, no one technical practice will help you write high quality code. You can't TDD your way to high quality, if you don't already know what high quality looks like.

The people who do well using weight loss products use them only a small fraction compared to everything else they did to lose the weight. They eat smaller meals more frequently. They drink lots of water. They take care to choose the right nutrients to consume. They treat food as fuel. They have the discipline to exercise even when they don't feel up to it. And they know why they do the things they do, and how they contribute to their weight loss.

Similarly, developers who do well with TDD probably already know how to write high quality code. They've been writing code for years, and most likely have worked with other really good developers. They spent thousands of hours honing their craft. They are voracious readers. They probably speak at conferences, and write blogs posts. They attend meetups. They debate with other developers. They've worked with legacy code and know the nightmares of not having sound technical practices. TDD works for them because they make it work for them, just like they could make any technical practice work for them.

Losing weight and writing great code both require knowledge, determination, persistence, and experience to accomplish. Those who have done either know that there is no one thing to get the results you want over the long haul.

Buyer beware.

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