Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is rewritting really bad?

Paul Chiusano tell us his Scala success story, and while I find it interesting, there's something that attracts my attention in it. He says:
Finally, I'd like to scrutinize the folk wisdom that rewrites are generally a bad idea.
That got me thinking a bit. That wisdom predates some developments which only became widespread practices recently. In particular, BDD and Continuous Integration.

It occurs to me that if I decide to rewrite something from scratch, I'll have a large set of tests in the form of BDD (which tests for Behavior, so a lot of it should still apply), plus the tests for all bugs that were caught and fixed, for which you them add tests to help with CI.

Furthermore, because you are doing BDD and CI, and possibly TDD for low level stuff, you won't get far with the same errors in case you re-introduce them.

That's something to think about... maybe the old wisdom requires some revisiting.

At any rate, I'd like to point out that this particular piece of wisdom might have become widespread because of this article by Joel Spolsky. I'll quote one part of it, though:
These problems can be solved, one at a time, by carefully moving code, refactoring, changing interfaces. They can be done by one programmer working carefully and checking in his changes all at once, so that nobody else is disrupted. Even fairly major architectural changes can be done without throwing away the code.
Well, that's precisely what Paul Chiusano did! So, on the other hand, perhaps is too soon to dispose of that wisdom...

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