· coding

Technical Debt around release time

One of the requirements that the ThoughtWorks University grads have been given on the internal project they’re working on is to ensure that they leave the code base in a good state so that the next batch can potentially continue from where they left off.

The application will be deployed on Thursday and this means that a lot of the time this week will be spent refactoring certain areas of the code base rather than only adding new functionality.

When this was suggested Duda pointed out that it’s often the case that we might accept a certain amount of technical debt in order to get the application out there.

While he is right and this is quite an unusual situation, we did see a similar situation on the last project I worked on.

On that project there was quite a tight delivery deadline for the first release so we knowingly incurred some technical debt in order to make sure that we met that date.

I’ve written previously about some of the technical debt that we incurred in that first release and while I think most of the time we made the right call I think there were still some occasions when we thought we were taking on deliberate prudent debt but were actually taking on deliberate imprudent debt.

Luckily it didn’t really come back to bite us and in the second release we had a much more relaxed pace and were therefore able to go through the code base and refactor certain parts of it to make it more maintainable.


J.B. Rainsberger has a really cool analogy about refactoring where he talks about cleaning the kitchen and cleaning the garage.

Cleaning the kitchen is what we endeavour to do all the time such that we’ll write a bit of code and then clean up after ourselves. Sometimes we don’t clean up enough and we end up with a bit of a mess which takes much longer to clean up - i.e. we need to clean the garage.

<img src="{{}}/uploads/2010/07/garage.jpg" alt="garage.jpg" border="0" width="430" height="198"style="float: left;" />

I think we sometimes drift towards thinking that we don’t need to clean the kitchen so often and end up cleaning the garage too often as a result.

This is something that Uncle Bob covered in a post he wrote around a year ago where where he points out that we’re more likely to take on technical debt when we didn’t need to rather than the other way around.

Finding the right balance between cleaning the kitchen and cleaning the garage seems to be something that comes from the experience of taking either approach too far.

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