Okay, so many of the points below aren’t purely my philosophy, but ideas and principles I have picked up along the way throughout my [development] career. Some relate to the UNIX philosophy, or even the Zen of Python, but wherever they’re from, they can be applied to many other domains.
- Things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler (Einstein). This idea is really born out of and emphasised by 37Signals’ Getting Real book. Commonly, 90% of people using an application only use 10% of it’s functionality. The key therefore is to find what people use most often and only build that functionality. If there is a requirement to add more, then sobeit. This can also apply to the code-level, the essence here being a balance between over- and under-engineering something.
- Do one thing well (The UNIX philosophy). It is better to do one thing well, than several second-rate. This could be at the code level — think encapsulation, coupling and cohesion — or indeed at the application level — you’re never going to beat Microsoft Word, but Google and Zoho have developed compelling alternatives, but with far less features.
- Don’t fret too much about performance — understand how to write efficient code and plan to optimise later if or when needed.
- Don’t try for perfection because good enough is often just that. This of course is a matter for conjecture. If I were working on a personal project, I may be more stringent on perfection than say, for a client’s application. This doesn’t mean to say the client’s application would be any worse, but rather it is a question of dotting-the-is and crossing-the-ts. It also depends on your perspective and what gains can be made by aiming for perfection.
- (Hence) it’s okay to cut corners sometimes, only if you can do it right later. I rarely adhere to this! It makes sense to do it right the first time, since bodge-jobs often come back to haunt you and result in double the effort!
- Don’t fight it; go with the flow. This is somewhat clichéd, but the essence behind this is try to avoid getting stressed out. This isn’t always easy to achieve, but taking a step back from a situation and avoiding politics is important.
I often strive for perfection, which isn’t an entirely clever pursuit since it is almost impossible to achieve. However, in a realm of imperfection, the principles above have helped me to achieve a modicum of decent code throughout the years. They may also resonate and provide inspiration for you.
Updated on: 22 March 2021