Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Always And Never Usually Aren't Either

One of the quirks of coming to software development through test and through business is the healthy fear it provides of absolutes. Things that should "never" be true or are "always" bad turn out to be true on rare occasions or sometimes beneficial. This holds in the software we write. For example, you should never  use the singleton pattern because it adds a hidden global dependency.... But a logger should can be a singleton because you really want to unify logging into one place that's configured by multiple things. This also holds for practices and procedures. For example, we should never use a test script.... But perhaps there is a situation where that would be useful, like in an automated smoke test where the script is in the form of code. There are no best practices at all ever... But I have yet to find anyone who thinks that keeping code in source control is a bad idea (maybe its a best practice!). Regardless of the topic within software, any time you hear an absolute - always or never - be suspicious. When someone talks in absolutes, there's usually a reason they're speaking with such exaggeration. Sometimes they're simply naive. Sometimes they're insecure and trying to hide it. Sometimes they're just seeking attention through dogmatic pronouncements. No matter the cause, be smarter than that. Notice the absolute statements, recognize that they say more about the speaker than about the statement, and move on. Things that seem absolute probably aren't.

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