Tag Archives: BadHabits

Programmer’s Bad Habits II

Continuing part I of this series, here are some more things to add to bad habits or common fallacies and traps of programmers that are holding them from performing well.

1. Carry over the dead code/experiments/comments with you.

Go to any system/project’s codebase that is more than a year old and you will get to know what this means. You see the comment that says “Sales Invoice in next five lines” and more than 20 lines of code that is commented out and another 10 lines code that are currently working as you debug…and nobody can explain what that old commented code does but they don’t dare to clean that up.

2. I can’t fix another programmer’s code, rather I will rewrite it.

Ah! This is a classic and I admit that I had been also got hold of it in my early carrier. One programmer never says good things about another programmer’s code. I think this is in our gene and sometimes even if I think of this ,I think programmers in somewhere deep down their minds wanted a perfect world and each one has their own version J of it. Anyway, what all I can suggest is they can read martin fowler’s classic ‘refactoring’ book and this notion will go away.

3. The world can be written only with “if-else” and “for” loops and method reuse.

Junior junkie who can code for days and night and fresh from colleges or worse spent one or two years in some company can write entire systems in if-else and for loops and some procedure reuse. I think some or the other way this has a root cause of “failing to unlearn what we had learned first”. Most of these guys had learned C language as their first programming language and may found they were good at it or they presume that they are good at it. Biggest mistake our schools and some local book authors has did is they are teaching procedural and object oriented programming language the same way.

These authors had not thought over the object oriented principles, rather their focus is teaching upon the tooling of object orientation like inheritance and polymorphism and unfortunately this is the case in India which has got some credibility in IT.

4. Testing is inferior to programming. It is not what true programmer’s do. Testing is THEIR (Test Engineer’s) JOB.

I spent my early years of career in small start-ups where we don’t have luxury of appointing a separate test engineer. Whatever we write, we have to make sure that we are doing it correctly and the result of it is though I have got respect for the test engineers since I realized that say after testing for basic flows and validation errors it is very difficult to think of something different that can break the system. In regard of this thought I had learned some testing basics from various websites and still those are very handy even as a programmer.

Nowadays, While working with midsized firm and continually reading about TDD all I am realizing is, programmers had a misconception that they can write a code that had errors and they can just give it to test engineer to clear even basic things like spelling mistakes.

It is shameful that people do not want to test their own code and worst of all rely on some other individual for correcting their own mistakes.

The notion of TDD is good but their also our cleaver programmer (as well as some lousy test engineers) friends tell us the list of excuses like schedule, how can I write the test when there is no development etc.

5. Code review means somebody should check their code line by line for all aspects and point out the mistakes that they had made.

Yes, it is insane but I had seen some managers and some programmers have such ridiculous expectations from code reviews. First thing is programmer should be responsible for the code he/she is writing and not the other fellow who is helping it out to make that code better.

Code reviews should be conducted on sample basis and with the help of some tools likes of static code analysis etc. Checking the mere code conventions should not be the only intent of review. It would be more beneficial that code reviewer should do some firsthand refactoring and in that process programmer would learn things and two about the code as well as this leads to better design.

6. Creating a build means compiling the code.

For the people who have not been in the agile/product development have this misconception that compiling the code is the thing that makes the build process.

These people are missing so many steps that makes build process. I even really doubt that these people consider build as a process.

Many times project requires code signing ,obfuscation of code, replacing connection strings from test environment to production environment ,building for various platforms likes of Windows,*nix or 32 bit,64 bit as well as routine tasks as zipping the release, pushing the release over ftp, emailing about the release to stakeholders etc.

The people ignorant about the build process should really search for the continuous integration and trivial toolset of it which includes brilliant TFS, cruise control, Hudson, rake, NAnt etc.

These fallacies and traps are costing our customers millions and we should recognize it. In my opinion the root cause of these is the way SME’s hiring the resources, further on lack of training and setting the culture to sub standards.

The more I go deeper, I think the waterfall thinking model is still lurking people to write bad code and managers had their fear to adopt the bottom up management approach and what we need is agile mindset and learning organization.

“Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.”
– Aristotle


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Programmer’s Bad Habits

“Good habits are formed; bad habits we fall into.”

There are much literature that has been written on habits or misconceptions that gets acquired by human beings and how it become hard to leave, especially if those habits or concepts are considered as bad. Bad habits as we all know, seems easy and “quick” solutions that are acquired, mostly unconsciously. But good habits are hard to acquire but gives long lasting benefits to us.

As a developers/programmers or architects, we also acquire habits/misconceptions in our work that consciously or unconsciously imposed seems “quick and easy” solutions to our programming problems. I wanted to throw some light on such bad habits of us-developers…I had also gone through some of these bad habits but thankfully dropped them in my journey to become good dev. Some people may also term them as “anti patterns”, but I am not very comfortable about the word ‘anti-pattern” ;maybe I explain my reasons of terminology in some other post, but now let’s focus on these bad habits or misconceptions.

1. Ignore the warnings, while compilation since they are not causing any problems.

I had seen this many times and I hate this. Some colleague of mine calls me up says that s/he couldn’t find the bug in their program and even after spending a couple of hours and tried all the things s/he can do…

First thing I would try is, I rebuild codebase and see if they had any compilation errors or warnings…and here we go..many warnings yelling for attention!! When questioned about the warnings, the usual answer I hear is “oh! They are not causing any problem so we just ignored them”…and when I see the warnings..Most of the unfound reasons of the bugs are lying in warnings that are in front of the programmers but they can’t see it.

I am not suggesting that you convert all those warning messages into error messages, but warnings are generally-the sign of future or runtime error places and signaling towards inefficiencies in code ;so treat them like errors and work on those.

2. If code is compiling, it is working code.

If you give some junior any requirement and say them that “ok, you need to code this feature/use case etc.” and just watch them. They just start writing the code at the blink of the eye and eager to show their worthiness. But the unfortunate part is next, and that is when they say I am done with the feature/s after their code is getting compiled. Hey Guys! Wake up… writing a compiling code is just a first step and hell…you are not done…Your code has not even passed those unit tests and how you dare to say that your are done.

3. Code once written and running should never be touched.

I generally deal with legacy not in C/C++ terms but have reengineered systems those are in VB 6, .NET 1.1, and likes.

In my opinion, legacy should be termed as “system with inefficiencies even it’s written with latest and greatest likes of .Net 3.5.” Unfortunately that is not the de-facto definition.

Most of the developers and even sometimes project managers have this nausea that if the code has written and that is running that should never be touched.

They say, hey! That is running and as per specifications, why you want to change it or make it better [they see as, this idiot is fooling us by wasting hours on thing that is already done!!] What they miss out is; it is like rusting of the iron. If the code can be improved even a bit by any means, it should be done. It is like you see a piece of rusting iron in your vehicle and still you do not do anything and run your vehicle until any accident occurs.

Damn, that kind of code can carry any characteristic like rigid to requirement changes , fragile like showing strange behavior like fixing bug in one part of code throws the strange error in some other part of the code which is not even related with first. So, the point here is ,we need to remove the inefficiencies.

4. New features can only be floated out by writing tons of new code.

This is really hard to realize that we had picked up such misconception and even harder to come out of this!!

For example, during one re-engineering project, I realized that our architecture is giving ability to product that the client can sell different modules/subsystems to the end users as on need basis and we communicated this to product owner and he liked that idea and which in turn given the product the new revenue stream.We have delivered a feature that is making a strong business sense for product owner without adding extra code!!

All this becomes possible not because we have added some more code for such business feature but cleverly re-architecting the system.

Oh! This post is somewhat getting bigger,I am sorry to break the continuum but just like ‘short methods’ is a good idiom to follow in code, I am keeping this post small and write it in chunks as a true agile developer 🙂

Till then Happy Thinking!

Hope to see you next time…

 


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