My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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A phrase that Venkat likes to use sums up my view on software religions: "There are no best practices. Only better practices." That's a powerful thought on its own, but if you want to make it a little more clear, I might say "There are no best practices. Only better practices in particular contexts." This concept tinges my everyday thinking.

As I mentioned before, I'm blind to rules that "always apply" in software development. This post about fundamentalism in software methodology got me thinking about a post I had meant to write up a while ago, which basically turned into this one.

The quote that got me was right at the beginning: someone "suggested that he'd like to ban the use of the term, 'Best Practices,' given that it's become something of a convenient excuse that IT professionals use to excuse every insane practice under the sun, regardless of its logical suitability to the business or environment." I would have added, "or its illogical absurdity given the business or environment."

Certainly, it is nice to have shortcuts that allow you to easily make decisions without thinking too long about them. Likewise, it's good to know the different options available to you.

"Best practices" is too much of a shortcut. If something is a "best practice," it implies there is no better practice available. All investigation for better solutions and thought about room for improvement ceases to exist. If something is a "best practice" and it is getting in your way, you have to follow it. It is the best, after all, and you wouldn't want to implement a sub-par solution when a better one exists, would you?

On the other hand, "better practices in specific contexts" gives you shortcuts, but it still allows you to think about something better. If I'm having trouble implementing what I thought was the preferred solution, perhaps it is time to investigate another solution. Am I really in the same context as the "practice" was intended for? It keeps things in perspective, without giving you the opportunity to be lazy about your decision-making process.

So my best practice for making decisions is recognition that there is no best practice. That's sort of like how I know more than you because I recognize I know nothing. So try hard not to fall into the trap that is "best practice." Avoid idolatry and sacred cows in software development. Aside from programming an application for a religious domain, there's just not much use for worship in programming. There's certainly no room for worshiping particular ways of doing software.

What do you think?

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