Test-Driven Learning

You may not have realized it, but learning Ruby is like being attacked by a bunchof ADD Buddhist Monks. They’ll jump into your living room, raving and excited, anddo back flips while telling you how Zen and relaxing development should be. It’s weird.

Once we’ve medicated the frenetic relaxation, though, it’s really evident that therea lot of good ideas to be found in this community. The latest that I’ve discoveredis Test-Driven Learning.

What this means to me is that I can FINALLY stop writing ‘Hello World’ programs. Languageshave print or printf or puts commands—we can stop being thrilled by that now. Ok?Let’s just write Tests! If we can make test Assertions, we can kick the tires of eachnew piece of language syntax we learn as we learn it without creating silly, baroqueprograms to host them.

Lets start out by discovering the shortest syntax to use the language’s testing framework.The one built into Ruby is Test::Unit. This is easy in Ruby. You need a ‘require’line and to subclass the test fixture class.

require "test/unit"
class TestTest< Test::Unit::TestCase
def test_tests
assert true

That’s easy. And now you can assert things. Like ‘true’. Save that in a file, like‘test.rb’ then execute it with the ruby command line.

C:UsersjoshDesktop> ruby test.rb
Loaded suite test_test
Finished in 0.001seconds.
1 tests, 1 assertions, 0 failures, 0 errors

From here on out, just start adding ‘assert’ lines as you discover things about Ruby.Since we started with ‘true’, maybe some asserts on Truth would be a good start. Iwonder which of these will pass and which will fail? If you know Perl, Javascript,or C# your preconceptions will be different.

assert true
assert false
assert 'True'
assert ""
assert 0
assert 1

So little code, and now you can curl up with your favorite Ruby howto book and spenda warm afternoon pondering the nature of Truth. Exciting eh? Well calm down! You don’tneed to be a crazy Zen guy. Just do some learning.


Learn a Language Each Year

There’s a piece of advice that floats around,apparently from the PragmaticProgrammer, which goes like this:

Learn One New Language Each Year

I made a good start at Ruby last year, but got derailed by new exciting things overin the .NET world. This year is definitely the one.

I’ve got two reasons:

First, I’m really excited about programming phone systems with Adhearsion.

Second, I’ve realized that all the cool kids over at Microsoft spent the last 3 yearsgetting excited about Ruby. Not only are they developing their own Ruby runtime, butthe dynamicfeatures of C# 4.0 coming in VS2010 are obviously being designed to keep developersfrom jumping ship. We need to learn to think like Ruby coders toadapt to the new problems coming down the line.

One more thing…

Ruby is becoming a first-class citizen for Macintosh GUI application development.If you can write cross-platform libraries that work on the first-class frameworkson Windows, Linux, and the Mac…soon life will be nothing but champagne and swimsuitmodels!