I write the same way. It forces you to think of how intuitive and natural your code should be. I've run into so much code that makes me wonder, "did they even consider how someone will want to use this?" Software should resonate with how people expect to use it, coming in with little-to-no understanding of the actual implementation.
problem -> usability -> code
BTW: I just noticed you can resize the reply textarea by dragging the bottom right corner. There doesn't seem to be any JS or CSS in the HN source to do this, so I guess it must be in Firefox 9; google says chromium has it too. Seems about 1.5 years old :(
i.e. that the equivalent of a README would also help pure mathematicians? I guess that would be a statement of the problem: a formal definition of assumptions, and the outcome (if possible). Though I think getting to that point would be where most of the work is.
resize: none | both | horizontal | vertical
many browsers use both as default
I don't have a particularly favorite ideology or process myself but the important think is THINKING about the software you are going to write BEFORE you write it. To that end use whatever works.
If you need a formal process involving use cases with a specified and standard format great. If writing the README does it for you then more power to you. The important aspect is the thinking.
Writing good tests first also helps me constrain my implementations to be as simple as possible as well. Otherwise my tests get hard to write and that's a sign things are probably going in the wrong direction.
Often though you can't have your cake and eat it too. There are two schools of thought: worse is better and the right way. The former way eschews simple APIs for simple implementations. The latter is pretty much the opposite.
I'm currently working on a project where I'm trying to maintain a simple API across three different, related services. One of those services has such a simplistic interface that maintaining the simple API that the other two have has made the implementation comparatively complex.
Now I have to take extra care to make it as simple as I can... but it's still complicated. Which means my poor future developer who has to maintain this thing will need lots of documentation in order to understand it (fortunately I maintain TODO lists and notes as I go to accompany my stories... forming a sort of journal of my development process for each project; it makes it easy to pull out useable "how and why" documentation).
No it doesn't. You've got a pretty big job proving that ALL TDD does that.
Have you ever read python doctests? They are a perfect example of tests that describe both functionality and usage.
Unix was a "worse is better" MULTICS. DOS was a "worse is better" CP/M. Windows was a "worse is better" MacOS. The advantage of simple implementations is that you can get them in front of users right now, and then iterate your implementation until you have something that's cheap and adequate. Not perfect. Not even great. But adequate. However, as the essay points out, cheap and adequate today beats pricey and perfect tomorrow every time.
Bad example, MacOS was out years before windows. Microsoft just got a massive market hack. It had nothing to do with solving a problem directly and then iterating...
(I confess to still mild incredulity that MacOS beat AmigaOS so thoroughly in the market, being both more expensive and substantially less powerful in both hardware and software. If Commodore had done their jobs properly, we'd be saying Steve Who?)
My point is still valid.
Consider an imperative programming language where you can have null values. A null value most often means that some piece of data is optional or not required for operation. One example of this could be a form field for users to enter their real names. If you're making a social site ala reddit or something else you might want to make real names optional. Hence when someone fetches the real name field or passes it as an argument to another method it could be null.
Designing the use cases will help you because when it comes time to write the implementation and test cases you have a concrete understanding of why the value is null. If your program is sufficiently complex this real name field may end up being passed around to several seemingly unrelated modules. Having the use cases drawn up prior to implementation will help you quickly diagnose those crashes or null pointer exceptions and more generally answering the question "Why is this value null?"
Edit: Ineligibility ++
"user in mind" and "have a real problem" and "get things done" and "responsive design" and "designed for Humans" and "make it happen" and "never compromise the API" are vague platitudes which don't even provide interpretable advice, let alone specific usable information.
It can be slightly obnoxious when a battle-hardened grayhair begins to hold forth on vague general principles in this way - it can still be productive to listen insofar as knowledge is being shared. What information is being shared here, and what experience or reasoning is there to ground it as knowledge?
Are you certain? Unless you live at home 24/7, you're interacting with the world every day. If you're like me, you regularly run into situations that are "sub-optimal" in terms of how much hassle you have to deal with to get things done.
I think the key is to stop thinking that meaning problems only exist in the realm of computers. In fact, most of the meaningful problems in our world are outside of the realm of software precisely because no-one has looked at the problem and thought "hey, software could make this easier".
An example we're all painfully aware of: medical records. There's a TON of paper involved, little co-ordination between doctors, the list goes on. People are working on the problem, but the revolution hasn't arrived yet.
A different way of putting it comes from Paul Graham: "don't think that you're trying to start a startup, instead think that you're trying to solve a problem".