Want to know the single most powerful tool in software engineering?

Want to know the single most powerful tool in software engineering?

Want to know the single most powerful tool in software engineering?

Photo by Vance Osterhout on Unsplash


Introduction

If you’re reading this blog, I bet you work on software.

And if so, then you might be interested in this post because it will tell you how one of the most powerful tools at your disposal is right in front of your face.

While free, it’s also the most undervalued and underutilized power tool available to programmers today.

By definition, as a programmer, you need to handle complexity.

As a programmer, you need to handle complexity.

You must deal with the complexity of your codebase, team, and mind.

Tackling complexity is a necessary part of software engineering.

The only way we can do that is through conventions.

I’m not talking about how hard it is to figure out a complicated algorithm or picture a complicated data structure in your mind…

Instead, I’m referring to the complexity of software projects themselves.

Complexity is “the degree of difficulty involved in doing something.”

It’s one of those things we all experience daily—sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard, but most often it falls somewhere in between.

… I’m talking about the complexity of software projects themselves.

So, what’s the most powerful tool in software engineering?

It’s convention.

Conventions are a way of managing complexity and fostering adaptability by providing a set of rules that all members of your team follow.

This can be anything from writing code in a particular style to agreeing on how to name variables or classes to schedule regular standup meetings with everyone in your development teams.

How does this help with complexity?

Make sure everyone agrees about naming conventions and where important information should go on your hard drive.

How does it help with adaptability?

By establishing ways for teams to discuss changes—like whether they want their applications to be responsive on mobile devices—and then putting those conversations into practice when they’re ready (or when someone gets around to it).

Your software is a “complex adaptive system,” and managing this complexity is one of the biggest challenges for any software engineer.

You might think, “Hey, this sounds like a lot of work. And, I don’t even know where to start.”

And you’d be right!

Even software projects are complex systems that can become very difficult to manage without some structure in place.

Managing the complexity at hand is one of the biggest challenges for any software engineer working on a project.

The most powerful tool in software engineering is not a new language feature or some fancy computer science algorithm. It’s convention.

If you don’t believe me, consider how many books experts write on conventions!

Yup. That’s right: Many books are available that focus entirely on conventions. I’d go as far as saying, MOST software product development books are just about conventions.

There are so many books about conventions that it would be impossible for you to read them all—not even if you spent all day reading.

Here’s why.

Conventions help us organize bits into software…

All software production sits on a spectacular mountain of conventions.

  • We organize ones and zeroes into methods, classes, services, and systems.
  • We use conventions for storing, shipping, and changing data.
  • We use conventions for collaboration, organization, and management of software.

Conventions are the foundation of software development.

We use them to organize our thoughts, manage complex risks, and communicate with others.

They help us structure our code, write faster, improve maintainability, and reduce bugs.

… there are some pretty smart people out there who have spent many years thinking about the problems we all regularly face in our working lives.

The science of software engineering uses decades of conventions to form the bedrock of computer science.

They manage complexity and organize our thoughts.

They help you structure your code, write faster, improve maintainability, and reduce bugs—all with help from some pretty intelligent individuals.

There are decades of insights fueling today’s conventions to help you tackle numerous shared challenges we all face daily in our working lives.

Most experts have figured out that one of the most powerful ways to manage complexity is through the judicious use of conventions.

In software engineering, conventions are the cornerstone of computer science.

If you want to build large, complex pieces of software, then you will have to learn and use conventions. Conventions help you manage complexity by letting people know how you expect things to be done so that they don’t have to ask for instructions all the time.

While conventions aren’t sexy, they are a potent tool.

If you’ve worked in software for any time, you have seen problems with having too many people working on a single project.

The more developers on a project, the harder it is to keep track of what everyone else is doing, leading to bugs in the codebase and long-term support issues.

With these things in mind, conventions effectively help you manage large, complex software projects.

Conventions are the single most important tool available to you as a software engineer.

Conventions are the most powerful tool available to you as a software engineer.

  • Conventions save you time and effort by building on past lessons. They serve as a guide for future development, making it easier for new engineers to understand expectations.
  • Conventions allow you to focus on building features instead of worrying about how you’ll integrate those features into your code base.
  • In fact, I would say that conventions make your life much easier than it might otherwise be

While conventions are the bedrock of computer science, they also help you manage enormous, complex, and mission-critical software projects, making your life much easier than it might otherwise be.

Conventions will save you time and effort by ensuring that everyone on your team does things the same way. They reduce bugs and make it easier for new people to understand what’s happening in a project.

If you’ve ever had trouble getting started with a new software project because it was hard to figure out how everything works or where to find things, this is a big deal!

Although conventions aren’t as sexy as other tools such as databases or frameworks, they’re incredibly powerful!

Conclusion

What’s the best answer when struggling with software production?

Use conventions.

Conventions are a great way to make your software easier to understand, maintain, and extend. Consider setting up conventions when you start a new project or work on your existing codebase.

Best wishes and warm regards,

-Matt

By the way…

Want to leverage the power of battle-tested microservice conventions for your.NET system development?

Truth Shield is open-sourcing our favorite conventions, which we deliver for free to make your life easier. We’re adding a ton of open-source tools that help you build battle-ready microservices.

Do you want to learn more about using the best tools, methods, and conventions we’ve found in the last 25 years of producing production-ready software?

If so, click here now to get in touch, or check out Applinate today.


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