Sustainable software development II : rewrite and star performer
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Developers usually like new project, sometimes called green field project, in the sense developers have more freedom to create (think of a white paper). In the same token, from time to time people will start a “full rewrite” project as the old project (code base) is “so messed up” and beyond repair. Is that real? A very high profile “rewrite” failure is the Netscape rewrite (see Joel Spolsky’s post here). And recently yours truly was involved in such “rewrite effort” as well. The result is also similar. I think not just developers, some managers also like the “rewrite” as well, due to various reasons. Some are valid, and some are not. Software (if it’s true software) usually lasts longer than people thought. In 2002, I visited my former workplace, a manufacturing place in Shanghai, and surprised to found they are still running my Foxbase/Foxpro based report generator, the the OS is Windows 3.1. At the time I worked on this (1994/1995), it saved 2 accounts, a few days of work (type calculators), each month. I bet they still used it for sometime after 2002, but I really doubt that will last till today, and the printer (Epison pin based) may not find punched hole printing papers 🙂
I thought this problem for a while. I happened to listen to one podcast from “this agile life“, and read this article The surprising danger of being good at your job from yahoo/business insider, both helped me think more about this problem.
I think in software development world, it’s a very common phenomena, like @codinghorror said in this post “two types of progammers“, basically he is saying there 20% of developers are passionate about software development, 80% of them are there to get a pay check. But the star’s power and magic needs to be balanced or controlled, so that the teammates can also thrive and together the team can deliver something truly good.
Another related phenomena, is Lebron James in NBA. A few months ago we witnessed his heroics again. But Cavs did not win eventually. One reason I think is they are one man team. While their opponent Warriors are a real team.
Last week I received an email from my former boss asking me about a “magic number” I put in the code. I had to admit I messed up 🙂