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The Technical Debt Trap
Michael J Norton
@DocOnDev
LeanDog LLC*

*The views expressed are not necessarily the views of LeanDog LLC
 (but they could be)
Rant.begin
What is Technical Debt?
What is Technical Debt?
Ward Cunningham




           oopsla’92
What is Technical Debt?
Ward Cunningham
Shipping first time code is
like going into debt.




                   oopsla’92
What is Technical Debt?
Ward Cunningham
Shipping first time code is
like going into debt.
 A little debt speeds
development so long
as it is paid back
promptly with a
rewrite.
                   oopsla’92
What is Technical Debt?
Ward Cunningham
The danger occurs
when the debt is not
repaid.

Every minute spent on not-
quite-right code counts as
interest on that debt.

                   oopsla’92
What is Technical Debt?
Ward Cunningham
The danger occurs
when the debt is not
repaid.

Every minute spent on not-
quite-right code counts as
interest on that debt.

                   oopsla’92
Technical Debt is a Good Idea
Technical Debt is a Good Idea



 WTF?
Technical Debt is a Good Idea
Strategic Design Decision
Technical Debt is a Good Idea
Strategic Design Decision
Allow for Rapid Delivery
To Ellicit Quick Feedback
And Correct Design
Technical Debt is a Metaphor
Here Be Danger
Metaphors Rock
 We reason by analogy

Can’t keep running
   at this pace

       Building on a weak foundation
                         Puts pressure on
 It’s raining men          our design
Metaphors Rock
 We reason by analogy

Can’t keep running
   at this pace

       Building on a weak foundation
                         Puts pressure on
 It’s raining men          our design
      (hallelujah)
Metaphorphosis
When Metaphors go wrong




    Prudent
Metaphorphosis
 When Metaphors go wrong

     Return on Investment
Short-Term Fraudulent       Credit Card
          Inadvertent RecklessScheme
                         Pyramid    Debt
   Auto Loan
High Interest in the Third Quadrant
                      Home Loan Voluntary
  Intentional Loan Shark Long-Term
        Prudent Student Loan
Pragmatic Leverage             Operational
Metaphorphosis
Metaphorphosis
 When Metaphors go wrong
“cut a lot of corners”
      James Shore
    http://jamesshore.com/Blog/CardMeeting/Voluntary-Technical-Debt.html




       “quick and dirty”
                                                                     Martin Fowler
      “sloppy”
                                                                      http://www.martinfowler.com/bliki/TechnicalDebt.html




      David Laribee                                                                                                           “just hack it in”
   http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/ee819135.aspx
                                                                                                                             Steve McConnell
                                                                                                                        http://blogs.construx.com/blogs/stevemcc/archive/2007/11/01/technical-debt-2.aspx
That’s not what I said
Ward Cunningham

[Many] have explained the debt metaphor
and confused it with the idea that
you could write code poorly with
the intention of doing a good job later.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqeJFYwnkjE&feature=player_embedded   youtube.com 2009
That’s not what I said
Ward Cunningham

[Many] have explained the debt metaphor
and confused it with the idea that
you could write code poorly with
the intention of doing a good job later.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqeJFYwnkjE&feature=player_embedded   youtube.com 2009
That’s not what I said
Ward Cunningham

... confused it with
the idea that you
could write code
poorly ...            youtube.com 2009
Clean Code is Required
Ward Cunningham

The ability to pay back debt [...]
depends upon you writing code that
is clean enough to be able to refactor
as you come to understand your
problem.                     youtube.com 2009
Clean Code is Required
Ward Cunningham

The ability to pay back debt [...]
depends upon you writing code that
is clean enough to be able to
refactor as you come to
understand your problem.  youtube.com 2009
Dirty Code is a Bad Idea
Ward Cunningham
Dirty code is to technical debt as the
pawn broker is to financial debt.

Don't think you are ever going to get
your code back.
http://twitter.com/WardCunningham/status/3742903303   twitter 2009
Is it Technical Debt?
Ask yourself...
Is the code clean?
Is the code tested?
Is there a learning objective?
Is there a plan for payback?
Is the business truly informed?
Is it Technical Debt?
If you said no to even one
Is the code clean?
Is the code tested?
Is there a learning objective?
Is there a plan for payback?
Is the business truly informed?
       Then you don’t have Technical Debt
You have cruft
Cruft (noun)
1. An unpleasant substance
2. The result of shoddy construction
3. Redundant, old or improperly written code
You have a mess
Mess (noun)
1. Disorderly accumulation, heap, or jumble
2. A state of embarrassing confusion
3. An unpleasant or difficult situation
Chill. It’s just semantics, man.
Chill. It’s just semantics, man.
JUST Semantics?

Technical Debt is Good
Chill. It’s just semantics, man.
JUST Semantics?

            Technical Debt is Good
Chill. It’s just semantics, man.
JUST Semantics?

Quick and Dirty is Technical Debt is Good
Chill. It’s just semantics, man.
JUST Semantics?

Quick and Dirty is Good
Chill. It’s just semantics, man.
JUST Semantics?

Quick and Dirty is Good
Messy Code is a Bad Decision
Every Time
Messy Code is a Bad Decision
Every Time
 You are a professional developer
             (Professionals behave ethically)
Messy Code is a Bad Decision
Every Time
 You are a professional developer
               (Professionals behave ethically)

 You are going to create unintentional cruft
             (You can’t help it. It’s unintentional.)
Messy Code is a Bad Decision
Every Time
 You are a professional developer
               (Professionals behave ethically)

 You are going to create unintentional cruft
             (You can’t help it. It’s unintentional.)

 You have to clean up the existing cruft
             (Intent doesn’t alter Responsibility)
Grammy Doesn’t Love Me!
Setting Expectations
The Trap
Mess begets mess
The Trap
Mess begets mess
 Precedent for Speed over Quality
 Expectation of increased velocity
 Mess slows you down
 Must generate more mess to keep up
The Trap
Mess begets mess
 Precedent for Speed over Quality
 Expectation of increased velocity
 Mess slows you down
 Must generate more mess to keep up
 Ask permission to do your job correctly
Avoid The Trap
Incremental Fixes Fail




      http://www.jacoozi.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/refactoring_coc_big.jpg
Avoid The Trap
Clean Constantly
Avoid The Trap
Clean Constantly
 Never make an intentional mess
 Follow the Boy Scout Rule
 Monitor your “Technical Debt”
 Quality is your responsibility
Avoid The Trap
Clean Constantly
 Never make an intentional mess
 Follow the Boy Scout Rule
 Monitor your “Technical Debt”
 Quality is your responsibility
 NEVER ask permission to do your job correctly
Lean Start-Ups
No exceptions
Lean Start-Ups
No exceptions
 Quick Does NOT Mean Crappy
 You must have a plan for payback
 Be careful of the precedent you set
 Quality is STILL your responsibility
Lean Start-Ups
No exceptions
 Quick Does NOT Mean Crappy
 You must have a plan for payback
 Be careful of the precedent you set
 Quality is STILL your responsibility
 NEVER ask permission to do your job correctly
Rant.end
Thank You!
The Technical Debt Trap
Michael J Norton
@DocOnDev
LeanDog LLC*
doc@leandog.com

*The views expressed are not necessarily the views of LeanDog LLC
 (but they could be)

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The Technical Debt Trap

  • 1. The Technical Debt Trap Michael J Norton @DocOnDev LeanDog LLC* *The views expressed are not necessarily the views of LeanDog LLC (but they could be)
  • 4. What is Technical Debt? Ward Cunningham oopsla’92
  • 5. What is Technical Debt? Ward Cunningham Shipping first time code is like going into debt. oopsla’92
  • 6. What is Technical Debt? Ward Cunningham Shipping first time code is like going into debt. A little debt speeds development so long as it is paid back promptly with a rewrite. oopsla’92
  • 7. What is Technical Debt? Ward Cunningham The danger occurs when the debt is not repaid. Every minute spent on not- quite-right code counts as interest on that debt. oopsla’92
  • 8. What is Technical Debt? Ward Cunningham The danger occurs when the debt is not repaid. Every minute spent on not- quite-right code counts as interest on that debt. oopsla’92
  • 9. Technical Debt is a Good Idea
  • 10. Technical Debt is a Good Idea WTF?
  • 11. Technical Debt is a Good Idea Strategic Design Decision
  • 12. Technical Debt is a Good Idea Strategic Design Decision Allow for Rapid Delivery To Ellicit Quick Feedback And Correct Design
  • 13. Technical Debt is a Metaphor Here Be Danger
  • 14. Metaphors Rock We reason by analogy Can’t keep running at this pace Building on a weak foundation Puts pressure on It’s raining men our design
  • 15. Metaphors Rock We reason by analogy Can’t keep running at this pace Building on a weak foundation Puts pressure on It’s raining men our design (hallelujah)
  • 17. Metaphorphosis When Metaphors go wrong Return on Investment Short-Term Fraudulent Credit Card Inadvertent RecklessScheme Pyramid Debt Auto Loan High Interest in the Third Quadrant Home Loan Voluntary Intentional Loan Shark Long-Term Prudent Student Loan Pragmatic Leverage Operational
  • 19. Metaphorphosis When Metaphors go wrong “cut a lot of corners” James Shore http://jamesshore.com/Blog/CardMeeting/Voluntary-Technical-Debt.html “quick and dirty” Martin Fowler “sloppy” http://www.martinfowler.com/bliki/TechnicalDebt.html David Laribee “just hack it in” http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/ee819135.aspx Steve McConnell http://blogs.construx.com/blogs/stevemcc/archive/2007/11/01/technical-debt-2.aspx
  • 20. That’s not what I said Ward Cunningham [Many] have explained the debt metaphor and confused it with the idea that you could write code poorly with the intention of doing a good job later. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqeJFYwnkjE&feature=player_embedded youtube.com 2009
  • 21. That’s not what I said Ward Cunningham [Many] have explained the debt metaphor and confused it with the idea that you could write code poorly with the intention of doing a good job later. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqeJFYwnkjE&feature=player_embedded youtube.com 2009
  • 22. That’s not what I said Ward Cunningham ... confused it with the idea that you could write code poorly ... youtube.com 2009
  • 23. Clean Code is Required Ward Cunningham The ability to pay back debt [...] depends upon you writing code that is clean enough to be able to refactor as you come to understand your problem. youtube.com 2009
  • 24. Clean Code is Required Ward Cunningham The ability to pay back debt [...] depends upon you writing code that is clean enough to be able to refactor as you come to understand your problem. youtube.com 2009
  • 25. Dirty Code is a Bad Idea Ward Cunningham Dirty code is to technical debt as the pawn broker is to financial debt. Don't think you are ever going to get your code back. http://twitter.com/WardCunningham/status/3742903303 twitter 2009
  • 26. Is it Technical Debt? Ask yourself... Is the code clean? Is the code tested? Is there a learning objective? Is there a plan for payback? Is the business truly informed?
  • 27. Is it Technical Debt? If you said no to even one Is the code clean? Is the code tested? Is there a learning objective? Is there a plan for payback? Is the business truly informed? Then you don’t have Technical Debt
  • 28. You have cruft Cruft (noun) 1. An unpleasant substance 2. The result of shoddy construction 3. Redundant, old or improperly written code
  • 29. You have a mess Mess (noun) 1. Disorderly accumulation, heap, or jumble 2. A state of embarrassing confusion 3. An unpleasant or difficult situation
  • 30. Chill. It’s just semantics, man.
  • 31. Chill. It’s just semantics, man. JUST Semantics? Technical Debt is Good
  • 32. Chill. It’s just semantics, man. JUST Semantics? Technical Debt is Good
  • 33. Chill. It’s just semantics, man. JUST Semantics? Quick and Dirty is Technical Debt is Good
  • 34. Chill. It’s just semantics, man. JUST Semantics? Quick and Dirty is Good
  • 35. Chill. It’s just semantics, man. JUST Semantics? Quick and Dirty is Good
  • 36. Messy Code is a Bad Decision Every Time
  • 37. Messy Code is a Bad Decision Every Time You are a professional developer (Professionals behave ethically)
  • 38. Messy Code is a Bad Decision Every Time You are a professional developer (Professionals behave ethically) You are going to create unintentional cruft (You can’t help it. It’s unintentional.)
  • 39. Messy Code is a Bad Decision Every Time You are a professional developer (Professionals behave ethically) You are going to create unintentional cruft (You can’t help it. It’s unintentional.) You have to clean up the existing cruft (Intent doesn’t alter Responsibility)
  • 40. Grammy Doesn’t Love Me! Setting Expectations
  • 42. The Trap Mess begets mess Precedent for Speed over Quality Expectation of increased velocity Mess slows you down Must generate more mess to keep up
  • 43. The Trap Mess begets mess Precedent for Speed over Quality Expectation of increased velocity Mess slows you down Must generate more mess to keep up Ask permission to do your job correctly
  • 44. Avoid The Trap Incremental Fixes Fail http://www.jacoozi.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/refactoring_coc_big.jpg
  • 45. Avoid The Trap Clean Constantly
  • 46. Avoid The Trap Clean Constantly Never make an intentional mess Follow the Boy Scout Rule Monitor your “Technical Debt” Quality is your responsibility
  • 47. Avoid The Trap Clean Constantly Never make an intentional mess Follow the Boy Scout Rule Monitor your “Technical Debt” Quality is your responsibility NEVER ask permission to do your job correctly
  • 49. Lean Start-Ups No exceptions Quick Does NOT Mean Crappy You must have a plan for payback Be careful of the precedent you set Quality is STILL your responsibility
  • 50. Lean Start-Ups No exceptions Quick Does NOT Mean Crappy You must have a plan for payback Be careful of the precedent you set Quality is STILL your responsibility NEVER ask permission to do your job correctly
  • 52. Thank You! The Technical Debt Trap Michael J Norton @DocOnDev LeanDog LLC* doc@leandog.com *The views expressed are not necessarily the views of LeanDog LLC (but they could be)

Editor's Notes

  1. Design decisions that allow for more rapid delivery / illicit quick feedback / gather data necessary to correct design
  2. - Sales site for complex product. Create product configuration views. - Plan to sell several different products. Starting with just one. Don’t extract interface yet.
  3. - Sales site for complex product. Create product configuration views. - Plan to sell several different products. Starting with just one. Don’t extract interface yet.
  4. - Sales site for complex product. Create product configuration views. - Plan to sell several different products. Starting with just one. Don’t extract interface yet.
  5. Not acceptable to violate accounting practices, violate safety laws, or risk patient’s health
  6. Not acceptable to violate accounting practices, violate safety laws, or risk patient’s health
  7. Not acceptable to violate accounting practices, violate safety laws, or risk patient’s health
  8. Not acceptable to violate accounting practices, violate safety laws, or risk patient’s health
  9. Not acceptable to violate accounting practices, violate safety laws, or risk patient’s health
  10. Not acceptable to violate accounting practices, violate safety laws, or risk patient’s health