Why Refactor?

Why does software development require refactoring?

“What does this ‘refactor’ word you keep using really mean . . .?”

I could almost hear the client’s eyes and nose scrunching up in scrutiny. We were talking about realistic budgets and schedules for a potentially large, multi-developer feature addition to his existing application.

I switched gears, put on my imaginary professor glasses and set my imaginary apple on the corner of my desk.

“Well, you are right. It’s part of the software development and developers’ lexicon. It’s a word that means – sort of – ‘optimize’ or ‘clean up’ or ‘tighten’ and, really, all three of these things at once.”

“So, the code is dirty?” he intoned. I could hear the silent thought bubble form above his head — “but-I’m-paying-you-NOT-to-write-bad-code!” (more…)

Always Forward, Never Straight

Hiking as a metaphor for lean startup software development.

“Over.”

“Over.”

“Around.”

“Over.”

I’d come upon a couple of older men hiking up Katahdin’s Chimney Pond Trail and it took me a few seconds to figure out just what was going on. The lead hiker methodically but expertly picked his way up the path, stepping over rocks or walking around them. He narrated as he did so and his partner followed his lead — stepping where he was shown, in the way he was shown. (more…)

Maps and Territories: Exploring “The Lean Startup’ through Nature, Part III

Using a map on a smartphone. Photo by Sebastian Hietsch on Unsplash

You are climbing up the steady incline of The Signal Ridge Trail when you are met by a hiker doubling back to a fork in the route which has been ambiguously signed. The trail notes you pull from your pocket indicate that you are to bear left at a trail split .8 miles from the trailhead.

“I think it’s this way,” he says, his voice pressured and his pace the pace of someone who has made a mistake and is trying to undo it as quickly as possible. He’s got worn-in boots and a decent pack. His legs look like hiker’s legs. The calf muscles are knotty.

He rounds the fork, bearing left rather than right and, indeed, this direction appears to take you up towards the ridge and then the summit. You can see the shoulders of the mountain through the canopy. (more…)

Four Pounds of Nuts: Exploring “The Lean Startup” through Nature, Part II

Image of Rucksack_courtesy of Christer_via_flickr

My father lifted my pack into the back of his car in the EMS parking lot in North Conway, where we’d agreed to meet to carpool the rest of the way into The Whites.

He whistled low and under his breath. “Geez, Kendall.”

“What?” I was grabbing poles and double checking to ensure I had ACTUALLY put my boots in his car.

“Your pack is light…you sure you’ve got enough here? I mean, there’s running lean and then there’s running lean . . .”

I looked at him quizzically and mentally inventoried what I’d packed the night before. Nope, all present and accounted for.

“Yeah, Dad, I’ve got what I need . . . I mean, the water isn’t in there yet but . . . yeah. Why? How heavy is YOUR pack?”

“Heavier.” (more…)

Kill Your Darlings: Exploring “The Lean Startup” through Nature, Part I

A quote about pivoting from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

After a steep ascent, the trail flattened slightly and I was able to finally raise my eyes up and sight up the path, stretching my neck against my pack. The trail was suddenly striped with sunlight after a morning of near persistent drear and drizzle. The birch sat there, glinting in the brightness, persistent, insistent and verdantly green.

“Kill your darlings,” I thought.

The tree had been the victim of a blow-down. It’s not unusual to find these curiosities in the woods – the tree ripped from the soil, taking a good chunk of topsoil along with it. Sometimes without clear cause, as though it had just grown tired and decided to give up the life vertical, a tree falls over, frequently topping its upper third and most of its larger branches. The fine fingers and filaments of its dirty roots dangle in the air and soon die. The tree then dies, too, and it becomes the purview of the slugs and mushrooms. The root canopy dries and ages into a very cool little place for small people to enact feral child fantasies.  (more…)