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Day 16--The Three Pieces of Software

D. Ben Knoble on 10 Jul 2018 in Blog

There’s probably more than that, but these are the bigguns.

Today I Learned

  1. Communication breaks down
  2. Design is more than half the battle (and fresh eyes never hurt)
  3. 1+1 ain’t always 2


How many times have you heard me say it? Communication is key. And sure, that makes a nice, easy sort of sense–too easy, I say. Too easy, because it’s apt to be forgot.

Today I was witness to the result of a communication breakdown. It wasn’t exactly pretty, but it got the point across: some things aren’t working, and we need to fix them. That’s all I’ll say about it.

Piece #1: Communication (horizontal, vertical, and circular–if you achieve extra-dimensional, please let me know).


Ever built a home? No? Ever thought about it? Well, I know this because my dad used to build ‘em, but homes actually have these things called plans. You know, these magical documents that lay out how, in a perfect world, this is exactly the end result.

Well, it turns out good plans have been designed. And, like good software, this step is important.

Much like you don’t want your toilet to be right smack next to your kitchen island, you want to think about how you’re going to code up a fancy new feature. And I mean really put some brainpower into it; this isn’t write it down once and then do it.

So, today, I spent a good couple hours working, on a team and alone, on the design for the new cache system. You’ll be happy to know it’s significantly more explicit, formal, and robust. And that is only possible because of (1) communication, and (2):

Piece #2: Good Design.

1+1 ≠ 2, or, Math is Broken, and I Need to Fix It

Ok, well, math isn’t broken, per se. But a build that runs fine sequentially is.

Think of it like this. There are two steps to the build. Step 1 gives us 1. And Step 2 gives us 1. But they don’t depend on each other–I can actually do them in any old order I want to (and I’ve checked that out pretty thoroughly).

So, the end result is clear 1+1=2 right?

Well, here’s the tricky part of the beast: when I run them at the exact same time, all hell breaks loose. Now I get things like NaN, , and all manner of other nonsense.

(Yes, this is directly related to the building and refactoring I’ve been writing about for a number of posts. I’m so close I can taste it. Parallel stuff is hard.)

So, Piece #3: Fixing stuff when it’s broke.


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