Spike Solutions



We perform small, isolated experiments when we need more information.

You’ve probably noticed by now that XP values concrete data over speculation. Whenever you’re faced with a question, don’t speculate about the answer—conduct an experiment! Figure out how you can use real data to make progress.

That’s what spike solutions are for, too.

About Spikes

A spike solution, or spike, is a technical investigation. It’s a small experiment to research the answer to a problem. For example, a programmer might not know whether Java throws an exception on arithmetic overflow. A quick 10-minute spike will answer the question:

  public class ArithmeticOverflowSpike {
      public static void main(String[] args) {
          try {
              int a = Integer.MAX_VALUE + 1;
              System.out.println("No exception: a = " + a);
          catch (Throwable e) {
              System.out.println("Exception: " + e);

  No exception: a = -2147483648


Although this example is written as a standalone program, small spikes such as this one can also be written inside your test framework. Although they don’t actually call your production code, the test framework provides a convenient way to quickly run the spike and report on the results.

Performing the Experiment

The best way to implement a spike is usually to create a small program or test that demonstrates the feature in question. You can read as many books and tutorials as you like, but it’s my experience that nothing helps me understand a problem more than writing working code. It’s ...

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