HomeThoughts and MusingsThomas M. Tuerke on Design • Bugs: Attitude or Bad Attitude

Bugs: Attitude or Bad Attitude

design: /di·'zin/

   n a deliberate plan for the creation or development of an object. vt: to create something according to plan.
   good design: /'gud —/ the product of deliberate forethought and careful understanding of the purpose of a subject, resulting in a subject which significantly improves its utility, allowing it to integrate seamlessly and naturally into the role for which it is intended.
false synonyms: fashion, decor.

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Bugs: Attitude or Bad Attitude

I saw an old review of Steve Maguire's Writing Solid Code, in which he gets lambasted (with considerable ad homiems, I notice) by a reviewer that I think missed the point.

While quibbling about minutia regarding C developing, the reviewer misses the biggest take-away from the book: developer attitude.

  • Developers let bugs happen. (Many developers are judicious, but most bugs are usually caused by cavalier attitude or ignorance.)
  • Therefore, they're in the best position to prevent them from happening.
  • The best bug is the one that never makes it into the stream.
  • If you have a tool that can catch a bug (lint, compiler warnings, etc.) at compile/build time, that's the best. If you have a tool (say, a parallel debug-only algorithm) that catches a bug during execution (say, of a test suite) that's good, too.
  • Test Engineers help, but they're really just keeping SWD honest.

I don't buy into all of Steve Maguire's suggestions. Some grate, some I just don't agree with, and some have lost their currency in these days where C has given way to C++, C#, Java, and numerous other production languages. But those differences shouldn't undermine the one key point that is illustrated by the examples: developer attitude. Don't let bugs happen, by identifying practices that catch bugs before they get into the stream. That advice remains timeless, regardless of the specifics of language and environment.