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When writing code, I always try to ask myself "will this code pay for itself?" (and idea borrowed from Josh Bloch I think). And it's easy to spot a piece of code has stopped paying for itself, but that's usually long after the fact. The 3 month experiment aside, how do you decide this? Is code like any other asset that depreciates by a fixed amount over time, until you eventually write it off? There are some artificial milestones: - when someone leaves/is leaving, someone on the team rewrites parts of the code the departing developer was responsible for. - an update to a new release of a core technology (e.g. the appserver, or the language or whatever) should trigger a cull to make optimal use of that release. Instead what happens is you end up with a mixture of code that uses the newer features, and code that does things the old way. - use source control to guide changes. e.g. the top 10 most modified classes in the last six months that are twelve months or more old need a rewrite Of course, the potential for abuse is enormous and convincing management types that putting effort into rewriting something that's already working will be a very hard sell. But a long lived code base that doesn't get refreshed regularly turns into every growing islands of "don't touch it, it just works". Which is fine, but eventually, you DO have to touch it.
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May 17, 2011