Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sometimes you need to take a step back from a problem, to see the forest for the trees.

GeekWeaver was being held up by something that seemed a rather complicated knot; one that I've wrestled with a number of times but never really untangled to my satisfaction.

So last night I decided to restart with a clean slate. I didn't look at the existing code or existing unit-tests. Didn't even open my IDE or project file.

I just started up IDLE and in a single file, redid the whole thing from scratch, in a fast test-driven stylee.

Amazingly I think I've come out with a cleaner solution, messing around with fewer classes and no attempt to over-re-use with inheritance. The whole thing took about two hours total. Of course, it's not quite finished, and still needs to be integrated back into the main codebase. But I like it a lot more. It's shorter and easier to understand.

Sometimes (at a certain granularity) old code *is* more of a burden than an asset. Understanding what it does and what you can do it is a cognitive cost that outweighs its value. Don't be afraid to throw code away when you need to.

Caveat for small granularities. Obviously rewriting an entire application from scratch is a different matter.
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