Would you want to live in your code?

I’ve had many discussions with developers on if their code is considered to be “good”, “maintainable” or “effective”. Starting today I’ll ask them if their code is habitable.

Any (building) architect would likely want to live in a house that they found had good architecture. It should be solid, functional and effective. The last thing you want is to live in a maze of abstract rooms or to open five doors to get into the kitchen.

To me great code has the following qualities:

  1. It solves the business problem, and only that.
  2. It maximizes communication. This is really key. Your code should be easy to parse and understand for humans. People are not telepathic so please write code that people can read without having to solve a puzzle or slide into a hell of recursive roller coasters. Is writing documentation often boring? Yes. Does great code need much documentation? No.
  3. It minimizes “accidental” complexity introduced by crappy frameworks (remember EJB 2.1?) or old code patterns. Keep it simple. Focus on the business problem.
  4. Great code does not take into consideration what might happen at a future date. No one can see into the future, so please just don’t try to as you are adding complexity and impacting time to market and project budget.

A great developer understands that business value provided per dollar spent is what counts.