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3 points by akkartik 1876 days ago | link | parent

Yeah. Technical debt[1] is a real phenomenon, and it's easy to under-estimate if you just look at nascent projects. After looking at a few short-term successes you may be tempted to assume you can just do what you think they did to get their results. But that approach is susceptible to survivor bias[2]. In reality doing anything on your own is a risky endeavor, and one way to inarguably reduce risk is to get time on your side[3]. If you take on too much technical debt time starts working against you.

The real problem is that we still have only a hazy understanding of what technical debt entails. I suspect many of the things we worry about aren't the biggest sources of technical debt or incidental complexity[4]. So yes, sometimes doing a lot of conventional 'engineering' turns out to be unnecessary. But that is a case for being more thoughtful, not less.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_debt

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

[3] http://paulgraham.com/die.html

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Silver_Bullet; http://www.codequarterly.com/2011/rich-hickey



2 points by malisper 1876 days ago | link

Thanks for catching the survivorship bias.

I definitely have to agree with you that being thoughtful is important. If anything that's what programming is about. Knowing which tools of those available to you are the best for each situation.

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3 points by akkartik 1876 days ago | link

On the other hand, he does have a point in the bit you quoted: there's a lot of different considerations one has to deal with, and you're often doing something wrong if your focus is on architecture.

My incomplete answer at this point is to try to always record the scenarios I considered when building, in hopes that it'll keep the code easy to rewrite later on without causing regressions. By taking on that burden I hope to drop the larger burden of worrying about architecture too prematurely.

This is why almost all my thinking lately has been around how to increase the surface area that can be covered by tests: http://akkartik.name/prose (especially http://akkartik.name/post/tracing-tests). Eventually I want us to be able to easily write tests for performance, concurrency, fault tolerance, UI layout, etc., etc.

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