Monday, May 13, 2013

Warm and Fuzzies

Be honest, how many times have you looked at someone else's code and said something like, "Who wrote this? They msut be an idiot!" or something to that effect?  I do it all the time, and if my ears aren't deceiving me I hear others doing it all the time as well. Sometimes this kind of response is justified, like the time when I came across a piece of code that queried a table and used a for loop to filter the rows instead of using a WHERE clause. However, sometimes it's our own insecurities and shortsightedness that triggers this reaction and stops us from looking at things more objectively.

Today I found a piece of code that at first appeared to be completely backwards and I started going to the familiar place of negativity. I was ready to rip it out and reactor it till it was perfect, my perfect. Then I'd scour commit logs to find out who wrote such bad code. I'm not sure what happened but something inside me decided to take a step back and look at the code and do a little research first.  After a few minutes I actually learned that the was actually written quite cleverly. I still scoured the commit logs to find out who wrote it but then I took a different approach. I chose to open up my e-mail client and wrote the developer a short e-mail telling them that I really liked the way they wrote that piece of code and that I learned something from it, and you know what, it felt pretty darn good.

It's so easy in the software development industry to focus on the negative, we are surrounded by it most of the time. The users of the software we write rarely communicate with us unless it's to tell us that something went wrong or doesn't work the way they expect. Even our friends and family encourage this sort of reaction by coming to us with their virus-laden computers and never asking to see what cool stuff we've been working on. We also love to look at other people's code and find the slightest problems. Raise your hand if you've scoured someones blog post looking for poorly written code?  I have. It makes me feel like a smarter person when I can find flaws in other people's code, however it still doesn't make me feel any better about the code I've written. My point is, that it's super easy to focus on the negative to make us briefly feel better about ourselves. However, my experience today has taught me that it feels FAR better to focus on the positive aspects of others code and to take a few minutes to tell the other developer that you like what they've written as well. 
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