Fear and Loathing in Software Engineering.

16 Apr 2011

I’ve been writing software professionally for a couple of years now, it’s a good gig, and something I love doing. I have always had a very strong sense of obligation to do my best. Although I have made mistakes throughout my career, there is no doubt that I will make more in the future.

What I’ve noticed is that beyond deadlines, ever-evolving requirements, perplexingly bad code, and vexing platform behavior, there is one thing above all else that stresses me out: Being blocked from fixing broken code.

I’m not talking about code that is ugly. I mean code that I had a hand in that is just plain wrong. I like to think that others would describe me as a person of the utmost integrity, that will own up to my mistakes, and work to correct them. I tend to first look at issues and search for a solution, then see how to make sure that particular issue (or class of issues) doesn’t happen again. Every minute that there’s code in production that is broken because of me weighs on my mind. I really feel like the worst thing you can do to a competent developer is to show them something that they could have prevented, or that they could fix, and then tell them that they can’t touch it.

Make the leap of faith that mistakes will happen, and that the best developers will be responsible for some of them. Do your best to streamline your development process so that correcting mistakes is cheap. Remember that relaxed (and happy) developers are productive developers.