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Showing posts from October, 2018

Code Should be Readable

On the first day of my first job, at age 23, I learned the most important lesson of my life about programming: code should be readable. Four years of CS at university did not prepare me for this, but one day of work did (thanks Achiel!).

I had created something "clever" and was barked at by the Senior Engineer of the team that my solution was too complicated. For a second I thought he was suffering from low IQ, but he explained that:

He was not able to instantly understand my code. Lesson: It was apparently vital that other people in the team understood my code. In fact, it was not even mycode, the team owned it.The problem I was solving was simple and not worth spending much mental capacity on. Lesson: writing code is just a small part of what happens with it, code is much more frequently read, tested, debugged and refactored. All these activities take time and mental capacity.In 6 months, I would have forgotten the code and would look at it the same way he did now (that is:…

Necessary Evil

In one of the codebases I've worked with we had a module called "NecessaryEvil". All of the dirty hacks were put in there. This had three good outcomes:


We could track our technical debt by looking at the size of the module (and the references to it)Every time you saw a reference to a method in NecessaryEvil, your brain made a shortcut and instantly reminded you of how the thing you were looking at "worked" (that is: via a dirty hack, or in a non-intuitive way). This alone saved a lot of time in debugging.Over time the framework we used got more features. Every now and then we looked at stuff in "NecessaryEvil" and found things that could now be solved properly. This was highly motivational to the developers, because (a) it gave them a sense of ownership and (b) they saw the progress of the framework we used.

I highly recommend to make your "dirty hacks" explicit in your code base. Here is how you should do it:

Put all the dirty hacks in a dir…

Every Day Shampoo

Naming things is hard. Especially names for things that you want to market. From personal experience I can say that it's a lot easier to name a kid than to name a company or a product, but maybe that's just me.

The BEST product name I've ever come across is "Every Day Shampoo". I've seen it only in the Netherlands, where it's called "Iedere dag" but it probably exists in other countries too. Bottles of "Every Day Shampoo" are surrounded by exotic shampoos called "Ocean Breeze", "Rainforest Fresh" or ones with feature focused names such as "Anti-frizz" and "Colour Lock".

Instead, "Every Day Shampoo" simply tells you that you can use it every - single - day! Before this product came to market, people used to wonder if it's healthy to shampoo every day. Now they no longer need to think about that! Or at least they don't if only they buy this shampoo right now! Because maybe the oth…