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Case 44

The Backwards Monk

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A certain monk had an odd method of writing code. When presented with a problem, he would first write many automated tests to verify that the yet-unwritten code was correct. These would of course fail, as there was nothing yet to test. Only when the tests were done would the monk work on the desired code itself, proceeding diligently until all tests passed.

His brothers ridiculed this process, which caused the monk to produce only half as much application code as his peers—and even then only after a long delay. They called him Luohou, the Backwards Monk.

Java master Banzen heard of this. “I will investigate,” he declared.

Upon his return, the master decreed that all members of the clan who were done with the week’s assignments could accompany him to the swimming hole as reward for their efficiency. The Backwards Monk stayed behind, alone.

At the top of the diving cliff, the eldest of the monks peered over the edge and shrank back.

“Master!” he cried. “Someone has scattered the stones of the dam! The swimming hole is empty of water. Only weeds and sharp rocks await us below!”

With his staff Banzen prodded the youth forward towards the precipice.

“Surely,” said the master, “you can solve that problem when you reach the bottom.”