25 Things I’ve learned in Software Development

21 07 2014
  1. Developers don’t think they need marketing people. Until they try to market their own products.
  2. Developers don’t think they need business people. Until they spend a years writing software no one wants and is eventually abandoned.
  3. Developers tend to make user interfaces a reflection of the underlying data structures. The more intuitive user interfaces often involve duplicate sections, intertwined complexity, and the base assumption that the user has no idea what they’re doing (eg, the anti-developer).
  4. The more users you have, the more risk you have when deploying new code.
  5. The more risk you have, the higher quality you tend to make code.
  6. High quality code (design documents, unit tests, integration tests, code reviews…) isn’t usually as fun as high speed hacked together prototypes.
  7. At software companies, you’ll be treated like rockstars. At other engineering companies, you may be stuffed in a dark corner with the IT people, second class citizens to the electrical engineers, finance people, or whoever else is a part of the main company’s mission.
  8. The popular misquote of Linus’s law, “with many eyeballs, all bugs are shallow,” is bullshit. Reading other people’s code is hard. Understanding other people’s code is even harder. Don’t expect code reviews to catch all the bugs.
  9. With many users, all bugs are shallow. If you own enterprise software with 5 clients, it’s probably going to be full of bugs. If you own software with public facing APIs and 2 million people calling them, you’ll find bugs rather quickly when you push to production.
  10. Aggressive, disagree and commit style arguments, are stressful. Passive aggressive, disagree and give the silent treatment arguments, are time wasting.
  11. Become a master of your chosen source control tools. Your everyday coding work will be easier and your coworkers will thank you when you can rattle off in 4 commands how to move their commits from one branch to another or fix their broken merges.
  12. Writing tests is the one time in your life when you’ll be happy you find a bug. Nothing’s worse than spending an hour writing tests only to find your code works just like you expected it to.
  13. Keep notes a text file, wiki, zim, etc. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but 3 months after you run an obscure SQL query you’d only need to do once, it’s really useful to be able to search through you notes file and find it again. Organization isn’t important, Ctrl + F will get you where you need to go.
  14. You will forget the details of basically everything you work on within a few months. I saw a code review where someone was having trouble getting Joda DateTimes to work with the Jackson JSON serializer. I immediately knew that I had encountered the exact same problem about a month ago, but had absolutely no idea where that code was. Luckily our code review system is easily searchable so I could find my old commit.
  15. You will realize that forgetting is irrelevant as long as you can quickly navigate your way back back to what you once knew. Knowing what’s at the end of the road and how to get there is more important than being everywhere at once.
  16. Bugs really do become features. Telling people years later, “that’s a bug, not a feature,” doesn’t go over well when you tell them how you “fixed” it.
  17. Deprecating internally used software interfaces is hard.
  18. Deprecating publicly used  software interfaces is next to impossible.
  19. Algorithms are important for the majority job interviews.
  20. Algorithms aren’t very important for the majority of programming jobs.
  21. Time goes by faster when you have no idea what time it is. Disable your system clocks.
  22. Meetings are easily missed when you have no idea what time it is. Use calendar notifications.
  23. It’s too easy to get tunnel vision. Walk away from your computer with a sheet of paper and brainstorm every now and then.
  24. You can identify who wrote code from the constants they used in their unit tests. I’m personally a fan of 108. Coworkers favor 1984, 42, 69, and 8675309.
  25. Beware the 2 minutes of time it takes to build your project. It can easily turn into 20 minutes reading blogs.
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