Sunday, December 25, 2011

Good code and good wine

I've discussed the "What is good code?" question before. This is such a broad topic that people come up with all kinds of interesting analogies to describe beneficial traits of good code. For instance, Uncle Bob often compares good code to a good book: it's important to have a good story (design/architecture), introduce key characters (concepts) at appropriate times and so on. Another interesting analogy that I've heard is that good code is like a leather glove: over time it becomes more flexible in areas where it needs to be flexible and more rigid in places that need more rigidity, exactly the way good code should behave and evolve (I'm not sure where I first heard this analogy and who I should credit for it).

Another analogy I (? -- I've never heard it before so I'll be so bold as to take credit myself) came up with recently is comparing good code with good wine. An important characteristic of good wine, maybe even the most important one, is that it tastes good. Likewise, good code needs to function properly and deliver the required functionality. However, as wine aficionados will tell you, tasting good is not the only important trait of a good wine: great wine also has things like an interesting texture, a complex taste palette and so on (not being a wine connaisseur myself, I won't dwell on it). Similarly, having a functional program doesn't imply good source code. Good code needs to exhibit extra characteristics such as flexibility, testability, adhering to the principle of least astonishment and so on.

I'd love to hear about more analogies used to describe good code!

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