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Chesterton’s Fence and Maintaining a Codebase

One of my colleagues casually referenced Chesterton’s Fence when discussing a potential change, or asking “Why is this here?” — this is an essay on Wikipedia that’s used to suggest folks research history before nominating something for deletion or to change a policy. To ask “perhaps I might want to understand why this is here, before I propose destroying it,” with the example of seeing a random fence that looks useless — perhaps ask “why was this put here in the first place?” as a valuable exercise.

I think this goes well with a couple things I’ve kept in mind over the years, one of which was on a friend (and mentor)’s computer written in sharpie on a stickie note that said:

Don’t say mean things about people or the projects that they work on.

Which, in a corporate environment (as that was) references on how it can be easy to hate on things, after all, don’t people find commonality when kvetching about something? But it can be very toxic, and unkind. Which goes to one of my favored life mottos:

We make the best decisions we can at the time, with the information that we have.

Which is to also say, “maybe don’t call something dumb before you’ve dug into it”?

When something seems totally wild (“how did someone think it was a good idea??”) trust that at one point, someone did given the information they had at the time (presuming all the best of intentions).

Practically in my day-to-day, adding GitLens (seen while pairing with another coworker!) to my VSCode set-up has been really truly fantastic, as I can see at a glance when a line of code was added, and go read the commit where it was last changed. Highly highly recommend.

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