Code Like Clarkson

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Like anyone else with a brain and a heart, I love Top Gear.  In fact, I love it so much that I find myself borrowing wisdom from the show and applying it other domains entirely.

As you may know, there's a portion of show where they put a celebrity in a reasonably priced car, which the celebrity then races around the Top Gear track.  We then watch the celebrity watch their lap.  Often, the celebrity will say something how it looks as if they're going really slow.  Jeremy Clarkson always has the same retort: if you look like you're going slow, you're probably going quite fast.

This idea maps nicely to software.  To the uninformed, it looks like we're going slow when we write tests.  It looks like we're going slow when we learn and utilize new tools like Hadoop or Cassandra.  It looks like we're going slow when we perform A/B tests.  It looks like we're going slow when we pair program.  And yet, all of these "slow" activities are tremendously helpful to going fast in the long run.

Conversely, if it looks like you're writing software quickly, you're probably not.  Yes, you can get all cranked up on caffeine, code for 20 hours, and write a thousand lines of code.  You can do that day after day, just coding, releasing gigantic features constantly.  I think you'd quickly encounter a day of reckoning.  Things would burst into flames, and you'd realize it's more trouble than it's worth to fix this mountain of code.  You'd realize that it looked as you were going fast, but you were really going slow.

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About the Author

The Art of Delightful Software is written by Cody Powell. I'm currently Director of Engineering at TUNE here in Seattle. Before that, I worked on Amazon Video. Before that, I was CTO at Famigo, a venture-funded startup that helped families find and manage mobile content.

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