A lot of times I'm asked about software best practices, but sometimes it's easier to show a best practice by showing its opposite -- a "worst practice". With that, today I introduce you to a worst practice I call "The Pigpen Developer".Back to top
Keep all your old code
The Pigpen Developer doesn't delete any old code, he just comments it out. CVS and SVN aren't reliable for him -- he needs to keep his old code close at hand. He doesn't believe in YAGNI (you aren't going to need it), and in fact, believes the exact opposite -- you are going to need it, you just never know when, so you better keep it nearby.
While commenting-out old code is one approach, a Good Pigpen Developer also keeps dead code lying around without commenting it out. I understand the first part of how it happens. You change your code a little bit, and then a method you were using before isn't needed any more. A normal developer would realize this and just delete it, right? Nope. A Good Pigpen Developer says "Hmm, I can't delete it, and I'd normally comment it out ... but what the heck, it isn't being called any more, so why do I just leave it there? If it's not going to be called there's no harm in letting it age."Back to top
Copy and paste like a madman
Another characteristic of the Pigpen Developer is that he copies and pastes code as though he gets paid every time he presses the Paste keystroke on his keyboard.
A good Pigpen Developer does this within one project, but the Expert Pigpen Developer copies and pastes entire projects. For instance, this last week, when I was working with one of these experts, I found a collection of projects in CVS that looked like this:
Customer1Foo Customer2Foo Customer3Foo Customer4Foo Customer5Foo . . .
It turns out that not only are these projects named similarly, they're actually near-identical copies of each other. That's right -- the entire project has been copied over and over, with minor changes to a few of the methods here and there. The Expert Pigpen Developer doesn't create libraries (jar files in the Java world), he just copies the entire code base whenever a new customer comes along.
Oh, and by the way, instead of using something like, oh, I don't know, a database, the projects get their runtime information from properties files that -- you guessed it -- have been copied and pasted. But not just copied and pasted, this expert also added a few parameters here, and deleted a few there, so some of the properties files have different properties than other projects, even though 98% of the code is identical.
(Note: A real software best practice here is to refactor your code so you don't repeat yourself. Don't be a Pigpen.)Back to top
Give your variables meaningless names
Here's another one of my favorites: give your variables meaningless names. A lot of Pigpen Developers define variables like
Properties p, or
Iterator i, but I'm talking about really meaningless names, things like this:
That's right, create a variable named
directoryName that implies that you're working with one directory, but define it as a list. So then, later, when another developer comes in to work with your code and sees something like this:
directoryName = getDirectory();
he'll think that you're really just returning one directory, but you (the Pigpen Developer) will know better. You've magically hidden a
List in your code and it will take the new guy quite some time to figure out what you've done.
Personally, I'm a believer in documenting my classes. Before each class I like to write the intent of the class, i.e., why I created it.
A Pigpen developer also believes in documenting his classes. At the top of every class you'll find his documentation, and it looks almost exactly like this:
/** * Created by IntelliJ IDEA. * User: pigpen * Date: Jan 18, 2006 * Time: 5:57:21 PM * To change this template use Options | File Templates. */Back to top
Unfortunately, based on a recent experience, I could go on for quite a while, but I'm going to stop myself here. I'm sure that other people have written about this syndrome before, but hopefully one day it can be cured.Back to top
Sorry, I thought I was done here, but I have to add a little more. It turns out that an Expert Pigpen Developer also does these things:
- Catches exceptions and then does nothing with them in the
- Leaves stuff like this in his code:
- Has database table fields not being used.
- Has database tables not being used.
- Has databases not being used.
- Answers "no" when he's asked if you can delete code and databases that have been dead for over a year.
Okay, I'll stop, I promise. Heck, I can't even take it any more.
Pigpen was a very cute character in the Peanuts cartoon series, but please, whatever you do, don't be a Pigpen Developer.Back to top