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AI-aided test-first development

Published : Apr 26, 2023
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Apr 2023
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Like many in the software industry, we've been exploring the rapidly evolving AI tools that can support us in writing code. We see many people feed ChatGPT with an implementation, and then ask it to generate tests for that implementation. However, because we're big believers in TDD, and we don't always want to feed an external model with our potentially sensitive implementation code, one of our experiments in this space is a technique we call AI-aided test-first development. In this approach, we get ChatGPT to generate tests for us, and then a developer implements the functionality. Specifically, we first describe the tech stack and the design patterns we're using in a prompt "fragment" that is reusable across multiple use cases. Then we describe the specific feature we want to implement, including the acceptance criteria. Based on all that, we ask ChatGPT to generate an implementation plan for that feature in our architectural style and tech stack. Once we sanity check that implementation plan, we ask it to generate tests for our acceptance criteria.

This approach has worked surprisingly well for us: It required the team to come up with a concise description of their architectural style and helped junior developers and new team members code features aligned with the team’s existing style. The main drawback of this approach is that even though we don't give the model our source code, we still feed it potentially sensitive information such as our tech stack and feature descriptions. Teams should ensure they're working with their legal advisors to avoid any intellectual property issues, at least until a "for business" version of these AI tools becomes available.

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