every teardrop is a waterfall

I was listening to Coldplay the other day and got to thinking about waterfalls. The classic waterfall diagram is written something like this:

    leading down to...
    leading down to...
    leading down to...

The Testing phase at the end of the process is perhaps the biggest giveaway that something is very wrong. In waterfall, the testing phase at the end is what's known as a euphemism. Or, more technically, a lie. Testing at the end of waterfall is really Debugging. Debugging at the end of the process is one of the key dynamics that prevents waterfall from working. There are at least two reasons:

The first is that of all the activities performed in software development, debugging is the one that is the least estimable. And that's saying something! You don't know how long it's going to take to find the source of a bug let alone fix it. I recall listening to a speaker at a conference who polled the audience to see who'd spent the most time tracking down a bug (the word bug is another euphemism). It was just like an auction! Someone called out "3 days". Someone else shouted "2 weeks". Up and up it went. The poor "winner" had spent all day, every day, 9am-5pm for 3 months hunting one bug. And it wasn't even a very large audience. This 'debug it into existence' approach is one of the reasons waterfall projects take 90% of the time to get to 90% "done" (done is another euphemism) and then another 90% of the time to get to 100% done.

The second reason is Why do cars have brakes?. In waterfall, even if testing was testing rather than debugging, putting it at the end of the process means you'll have been driving around during analysis, design and implementation with no brakes! You won't be able to stop! And again, this tells you why waterfall projects take 90% of the time to get to 90% done and then another 90% of the time to get to 100% done. Assuming of course that they don't crash.

In Test First Development, the testing really is testing and it really is first. The tests become an executable specification. Specifying is the opposite of debugging. The first 8 letters of specification are S, P, E, C, I, F, I, C.
A test is specific in exactly the same way a debugging session is not.