Skip to main content

Your Job Isn't to Write Code

Solving problems is the role of software developers first and foremost. The most interesting aspect is that in many cases it is possible to perform this role without writing a single line of code.

Low Tech

I once worked with a digital dashboard which monitored applications. One of the yet to be implemented features was a key to highlight which each chart related to. During this period many employees would ask which graph related to which feature. The solution was a few weeks a way so as a temporary fix I stuck a post it note to the screen. This was by no means the solution, but it was good enough for the time being. The questions went away and eventually the dash was updated to include a digital version. Total lines of code? Zero.

Problem Solving without a Computer

A common experience that many developers encounter is solving a problem while not actually at the computer, programming. In fact this technique of simply taking a break such as going for a walk can yield some impressive results. One of my fondest memories of this trick was using shampoo in the shower to walk through a buggy A* implementation using the bathroom tiles. After returning to the task sometime after, the stupid mistake stood out. Lines of code to figure out the fix? Zero.


Just the other week I began furiously updating an existing application to change how a core feature worked. The solution was not going to be quick, but it seemed like a good idea. About halfway in I reverted the changes. After further thought it turns out there was a much better solution. One that would not introduce risk to the current project's goals. Total lines of code? Minus one hundred, give or take.

Goals over Code

This lack of code is not a bad thing. In all three examples the goal was complete. You can solve problems with a single line, or thousands, it actually does not matter. If you switch your thinking to focus on completing goals or hitting targets, you are still rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment. The slack time you gain can simply be redirected to other areas or personal improvement.


Many wise developers have said this before. The role of a software developer is to solve problems, not write code. This is not new, unfortunately a younger, naive version of myself ignored this advice.

  • Focus on solving business/customer problems, not writing code.
  • Sometimes you'll write one line of code, others thousands.
  • Not all solutions require code to complete.
  • Focus on hitting goals, not the feeling of productivity writing code can give.


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…