Software Development Anti-Patterns

There are a lot of ways to develop software, and there is no one best way. For this reason, there is much literature about how to develop software. But with so many subjectively good ways to develop software, it can be easier to just focus on how not to do it. I have identified a number of Software Engineering anti-patterns. Note that these are not code design anti-patterns, they are anti-patterns in how we develop software.

Refactoring as a Separate Ticket

Refactoring is an important part of software development. It is one of the primary ways to repay technical debt, and make sure your design evolves with the product. In fact, I have a motto: "Always Be Refactoring", and I define legacy code as code that you are scared to refactor. Despite this, many teams adopt the following practice (usually at the behest of management): When you are working on a ticket, and you see code which should be refactored, put a ticket for the refactor in the backlog, and finish your ticket without doing the refactor. There are a few reasons why this is a bad idea:"

  1. The best time to refactor code is when you are already working on it. You have already grokked this code, so you understand how to best refactor it. By the time you come back to the ticket, you will have lost this context.
  2. Oftentimes, a refactor makes sense because the functionality of the code has changed, and you want to change the design to match. If you do not change the design when the functionality changed, you have created technical debt, where previously there was none.
  3. Paying back technical debt is always cheaper to do sooner rather than later
  4. And the big one:

  5. You will never get to work that technical debt ticket. Once in the backlog, the ticket will be subject to the prioritization whims of the business, product owner, project manager, or even development manager. People in these roles will never value the work as high as it should be, and often will just deprioritize it indefinitely.

This whole practice is a grift to appease the developer by saying "Sure we will do it, but later" but without actually doing it.Be careful not to get overzealous with refactors. A good rule of thumb is to only refactor code you are interacting with already. But refactoring should be as much a part of your normal development workflow as writing tests.

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