Skip to main content

Production Code is Dirty

Production code is dirty. Dirty may be the wrong word however. Complex could be more suitable. Unlike code that is not yet in production, it is weathered, proven, and full of edge cases including numerous bug fixes. After some time this build up of additions can cause the code to be considered dirty or legacy.

Greenfield development used to appeal so much more. Small classes. Small methods. Few dependencies. Just simple, clean code. Except this is not the case. Get into production and that clean code starts to weather. You'll handle edge cases, fix bugs and stabilize the functionality. That lovely, small, well factored application starts to accumulate dirt. The new code smell wears off and you're back waiting for the next new project so you can do it properly a second time around.

This does not have to be the case however. Long living software such as operating systems, browsers and embedded systems are maintained and extended well after they were created. Production code can be complicated but still clean with redeemable qualities. In order to do this you should write tests, control dependencies and get into production or the hands of the user as soon as possible. This may seem an obvious solution but sadly many software projects fall into this trap of dirty code after a handful of iterations.


  1. Bug fixes are a sign of inadequate precision of the requirements and design. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases maintenance is relegated to the less experienced staff, who struggle to understand the original design and the decisions made. And of course, they are generally under pressure to get lots of bugs fixed and quickly.

    Long living and robust software tends to have at least some of the original designs and developers actively involved in the maintenance phase.

    In my experience with business software, many edge cases are arise from business rules being bent to accommodate various entities. These edge cases are often not disclosed during analysis phase because they should not have been permitted in the first place.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      Your point about maintenance being performed by other developers is a big factor.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Constant Object Anti Pattern

Most constants are used to remove magic numbers or variables that lack context. A classic example would be code littered with the number 7. What does this refer to exactly? If this was replaced with DaysInWeek or similar, much clarity is provided. You can determine that code performing offsets would be adding days, rather than a mysterious number seven.Sadly a common pattern which uses constants is the use of a single constant file or object. The beauty of constants is clarity, and the obvious fact such variables are fixed. When a constant container is used, constants are simply lumped together. These can grow in size and often become a dumping ground for all values within the application.A disadvantage of this pattern is the actual value is hidden. While a friendly variable name is great, there will come a time where you will want to know the actual value. This forces you to navigate, if only to peek at the value within the constant object. A solution is to simple perform a refactor …

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…