When reading blogs you get the impression, that everybody works in high end environments, using the latest greatest distributed version control system. Writing tons of tests, before they even dream about writing actual code and of course the tests a executed by the continuous integration system after every commit, which happens about 30 times per day and developer. But when I look around in the real world, this is not what I see. Instead the way people work on their code like ancient 'doctors'. Drilling holes in heads in the hope it will reduce the headache of the patient. It probably did. In many cases in a very final way. I urge you: Don't let that happen to your code (or your career). Practice solid software development. And in order to help you with that I compiled a simple list of things you really really should do. Those are basic practices. If you don't even adhere to those then I have only two possible explanations: You are not involved in software development at all. Go away, this blog isn't for you. Or ... you are a dabbler.
- Use a Version Control System (VCS). I am not even going to comment on this one.
- Commit your changes at least once a day. This does not mean you should commit what ever is on your filesystem at 5pm, but you should break your tasks in so small pieces, that you finish one or two of them on a normal day.
- Tag or label everything in the VCS you hand out to somebody outside your team (testers, salespersons and of course customers)
- Have a complete and working build script. This means you can build everything you hand of to the customer by getting the source code out of the VCS and start the script. Necessary adjustments are made in a tiny file which contains settings for the local machine. A well commented template for such a file is in the VCS. And NO, hitting the compile button in your IDE is not the same as a build script.
- You must have the complete environment necessary to run your application under your control. That means if your application needs a database, you have a database available. One per developer that is, or at least one schema per developer. If you need a queue or ten queues, you have those, again once for every developer. If you have systems that you interface to, that can't be installed once per developer, you have mocks, stubs or similar available. In the year 2009 a single developer database for 5 developers is no longer acceptable.
- You have an extensive set of automatic Unit tests. These test should cover at the minimum the main execution paths.
- Let a Continuous Integration system execute your build script, i.e it compiles your code, executes the automatic tests and builds a setup or jar, or what ever you are deploying.
- Have a specification of what a piece of software is supposed to do, before you try to write the software. You don't need a full specification of the complete application upfront. Maybe you have just the first user story for the first feature, or only a test. But you must have something that tells you where to go. And where not to go. Flying blindfolded is not the same as being agile.
- Adhere to a style guide that describes your naming conventions, indenting and so on. Ideally this gets enforced by the IDE and automatic tests. Fighting about the content of such code conventions is useless. Not having one is dumb. Remember that your tests are code too, so the conventions apply to tests as well.
- Document how your code is structured. It should at least describe the different layers, and the way two layers may depend on each other, and it should not allow for circular dependencies. These rules as well should be enforced by automatic tests. Even if the language you use doesn't support packages you should use a similar concept, possibly through naming conventions.
These are my points. What did I miss?