September 07, 2006

Pre–factoring is when you see a piece of code which the story you are working on which has a re–factorings which would make your story easier. I have seen pre–factoring to be a dangerous process.

On one hand, you save time when you know that this re–factorings will need to be done. You are faced with the choice of writing temporary code (in the sense of duplicate then re–factor) or re–factoring, then writing quality code.

The software designer in me always wants to choose the pre–factoring solution, since it gets to make code cleaner, remove duplication, and be more efficient. Then I can stand on the mountain top waving my flag.

There are a few problems right off the bat. First, the uber-developer in all of us will re–factor as much as we can, therefore re–factor based scope creep is bound to show up. I don’t really know how to stay away from scope creep in this manner.

Pre–factoring can lead to a version of design up front which is detrimental if you don’t need it. However, sometimes you know up front this design simplification will cut the story time in half. Do you pre–factor? What kinds of smells make it ok or terrible to pre–factor?

I have tried backing my way in and using test(s) as a life jacket, so once the test passes, the re–factoring is done. However, the problem with this is it leaves me with half done re–factorings.

The code is constantly moving up in quality, however, it might not look it due to the inconsistencies produced by half done re–factorings. I generally think of a complete re–factorings as something that made my system better in some manner I would like developers who are extending the behavior of the system to use the re–factorings as a model.

Do my re–factorings make the system easier to extend? Half-factorings don’t, but they do provide a manageable slope moving positive. I don’t have the time to tackle big re–factorings, but don’t want to leave them unfinished.