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Making it easy

16 Aug

There is an effort underway at GS to modify our framework to make writing code easier than ever before (for the second time). It’s a great idea in theory and the results of what I have seen so far certainly make doing certain things more convenient, which is great when you’re writing code.

But I can’t help but feel that we are perhaps barking up the wrong tree a bit.

Peter Hallam points out that programmers spend most of their time reading code, not writing it. So rather than focusing on making code easier to write, we should be sure that we are making it easy to read, understand and modify. Peter surmises that a 10% reduction in the time it takes to understand code is equivalent to a 100% reduction in the time that it takes to write code. That’s very significant.

One of the mantras I have heard a bit too much is “always favor composition over inheritance.” As Phil Haack points out, composition is great sometimes, but it’s not a perfect design either (because there isn’t one). Personally, I think it’s best to keep composition and inheritance in mind and always prefer whichever one going to lead to easy-to-understand code. Many times I find that to be inheritance. Sometimes the solution is even minor code duplication, such as having each page requiring authentication to do an explicit auth check rather than having the framework infer whether or not an auth check is required based on the name or, and I shudder at the thought, comments in the code.

 
 

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  1. Skyler

    August 17, 2008 at 3:38 am

    Jay,
    You’ll especially like what I’m doing right now: using docblock comments to dictate functionality. But it’s only for code-generation purposes!