Code Readability is soo Important…

Always write your code in a way that the next developer maintaining your code could be an axe swinging madman who knows where you live.
An unknown programmer (hopefully still alive and well…)

Clean code is simple and direct. Clean code reads like well-written prose. Clean code never obscures the designer’s intent but rather is full of crisp abstractions and straightforward lines of control.
Grady Booch

For almost ten years now, I’m a freelancer in the field of software development. Effectively, I’m something like a well-paid stand-by man who almost always is supposed to work with an already existing codebase that needs to be extended or treated in some other way (e.g. refactored or covered with tests). An important part of the job is to quickly get familiar with this codebase – it’s the single key factor for my professional success. And to succeed, I’m reliant on the code being carefully crafted and not holding any surprises. That’s why I’ve come to value well-written code really high over the years.

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It’s the maintenance, stupid! (or: Something is rotten in developerland.)

I originally wrote this post back in January 2010 over at my old blog at Because it still receives some hits, I decided to take it with me and copied it to my new blog. With the exception of some necessary HTML polishing, this article is unchanged compared to its previous version. – And why would I change it, anyway? I still agree with every single sentence – except the last one, for obvious reasons :-)…

Most people – even the overwhelming majority of programmers – would say that the main activity of a software developer is “writing source code”. But this is a (though quite understandable) misconception – and if you take a look at the available figures on the issue or if you – as a software professional – are honest to yourself, the misconception immediately turns out to be an enormous one.

The world is full of software systems that are already in operation, and they have to be maintained – writing a new software system from scratch is a rare highlight for most software developers. On the other hand, the importance and especially the business value of maintenance is greatly underestimated,  as well as the amount of actual working time spent on it. I think the main reason for this misperception lies in the fact that maintenance activities are spread over a much longer time span compared to the far more intense development period. Also, maintenance costs per year are relatively lower than the initial development costs.

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