Skip to main content

The Best Code is Written Twice

Recently myself and two colleges completed a new feature in an afternoon's programming session. Despite this we ended up binning the feature after all agreeing it was horribly complicated and in turn would cause far more problems down the road than it would solve.

We decided to rewrite the feature again, but applying all the lessons we had learned from the first attempt. A recent blog post by royvanrijn on this very topic made me appreciate what we had done. He points out that the best code occurs from several attempts, and unlike what people may expect, the repeat attempts need not take the same amount of time to deliver as the initial attempt.

The second time you write the code, it'll only take a fraction of the time it took initially.

This principle of repeating a task made me think of when I was decorating my old bedroom. I helped partake in the difficult task of wallpapering the ceiling. Prior to this I had experience wallpapering before, and would have no trouble repeating this exercise again. However, wallpapering a ceiling was something completely new. Me and my dad were reluctant to start, until I had a rather devious plan. We would decorate my brothers room first, followed by mine. That way, if our first attempt was a disaster I would not be the one living with the dodgy ceiling.

It turned out that our first efforts were not too bad. Granted it took a while, there was the odd rough patch and several obscenities were used, but we got the job done. For the second room we completed the task much quicker and with practically no problems.

The process of wallpapering the second ceiling was the DIY equivalent of scrapping our feature and rewriting the code. We never stripped the first ceiling afterwards, we just took everything we learned from the first round and used it to make the process of papering the second ceiling much easier. The interesting point to bare in mind with scrapping code and rewriting is the rewrite will not take the same amount of time to get back up to speed. Just because it takes n to implement a feature, the second time around you can often complete the feature in less time, at much higher quality.

I'm not suggesting all code should be rewritten multiple times. Spike solutions are often a more suitable process to ease the development process, but in certain cases practice makes perfect, even if it means you wait that little bit longer for the perfect ceiling.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Three Steps to Code Quality via TDD

Common complaints and problems that I've both encountered and hear other developers raise when it comes to the practice of Test Driven Development are: Impossible to refactor without all the tests breakingMinor changes require hours of changes to test codeTest setup is huge, slow to write and difficult to understandThe use of test doubles (mocks, stubs and fakes is confusing)Over the next three posts I will demonstrate three easy steps that can resolve the problems above. In turn this will allow developers to gain one of the benefits that TDD promises - the ability to refactor your code mercifully in order to improve code quality.StepsStop Making Everything PublicLimit the Amount of Dependencies you Use A Unit is Not Always a Method or ClassCode quality is a tricky subject and highly subjective, however if you follow the three guidelines above you should have the ability to radically change implementation details and therefore improve code quality when needed.

DRY vs DAMP in Tests

In the previous post I mentioned that duplication in tests is not always bad. Sometimes duplication becomes a problem. Tests can become large or virtually identically excluding a few lines. Changes to these tests can take a while and increase the maintenance overhead. At this point, DRY violations need to be resolved.SolutionsTest HelpersA common solution is to extract common functionality into setup methods or other helper utilities. While this will remove and reduce duplication this can make tests a bit harder to read as the test is now split amongst unrelated components. There is a limit to how useful such extractions can help as each test may need to do something slightly differently.DAMP - Descriptive and Meaningful PhrasesDescriptive and Meaningful Phrases is the alter ego of DRY. DAMP tests often use the builder pattern to construct the System Under Test. This allows calls to be chained in a fluent API style, similar to the Page Object Pattern. Internally the implementation wil…

Coding In the Real World

As a student when confronted with a problem, I would end up coding it and thinking - how do the professionals do this?For some reason I had the impression that once I entered the industry I would find enlightenment. Discovering the one true way to write high quality, professional code.It turns out that code in industry is not too far removed from the code I was writing back when I knew very little.Code in the real world can be:messy or cleanhard or easy to understandsimple or complexeasy or hard to changeor any combination of the aboveVery rarely will you be confronted with a problem that is difficult. Most challenges typically are formed around individuals and processes, rather than day to day coding. Years later I finally have the answer. Code in the real world is not that much different to code we were all writing when we first started out.If I could offer myself some advice back in those early days it would be to follow KISS, YAGNI and DRY religiously. The rest will fall into plac…

Feature Toggles

I'm a fan of regular releasing. My background and experience leads me to release as regularly as possible. There are numerous benefits to regular releases; limited risk, slicker release processes and the ability to change as requirements evolve.The problem with this concept is how can you release when features are not functionally complete?SolutionIf there is still work in progress, one solution to allow frequent releases is to use feature toggles. Feature toggles are simple conditional statements that are either enabled or disabled based on some condition.This simple example shows a feature toggle for an "Edit User" feature. If the boolean condition is false, then we only show the "New User" feature and the "Admin" feature. This boolean value will be provided by various means, usually a configuration file. This means at certain points we can change this value in order to demonstrate the "Edit User" functionality. Our demo environment could …

Reused Abstraction Principle

This is the second part of my series on abstractions.Part 1 - AbstractionsPart 3 - Dependency Elimination PrincipleThe Reused Abstraction Principle is a simple in concept in practice, but oddly rarely followed in typical enterprise development. I myself have been incredibly guilty of this in the past.Most code bases have a 1:1 mapping of interfaces to implementations. Usually this is the sign of TDD or automated testing being applied badly. The majority of these interfaces are wrong. 1:1 mappings between interfaces and implementations is a code smell.Such situations are usually the result of extracting an interface from an implementation, rather than having the client drive behaviour.These interfaces are also often bad abstractions, known as "leaky abstractions". As I've discussed previously, these abstractions tend to offer nothing more than simple indirection.ExampleApply the "rule of three". If there is only ever one implementation, then you don't need …