What is Technical Debt?

A few days ago our office bathroom locks were changed (the bathrooms have doors to the outside which are locked), so we were issued a new key by property management. One key. We are an office of 6+ people.

This is where I introduce what “technical debt” is.

Each day, to get into the bathroom, because we’re guys and we don’t put things where we’re supposed to (near the door), there’s a search for who went to the bathroom last, and supposedly who has the key. Naturally, this could have dire consequences.

Let’s “hypothetically” say that it’s somewhere around Christmas time. You know how it is when you try to get around town during Christmas time.

So, the first day, they go out to make copies of the keys, the traffic is bad and the lines are long.

The next day, it gets worse. So, we ignore the potential consequences of not having a key for each person thinking our work-around (“who went to the bathroom last? Do you have the key?”) works just fine.

What if our team doubled? Of course we’d have to get more keys, but if we already had 6 or 7, we could share one key to two people. That’s not so bad. But one key for 12 people. That’s asking for trouble. Stinky, bring-an-extra-pair-of-pants, trouble.

And every day closer to Christmas, the lines get longer and the traffic worse.

“Technical debt” has something to do with procrastination. More, it has to do with compounding interest, as in the financial term.

The more hacks you put into your code, the more you have to hack to keep it working, and that means you’re spending your time looking for the bathroom key, when it all could have been solved earlier by (a) getting a key when the lines weren’t so long or (b) not having a bathroom that requires a key in the first place.

Solve your problem in the best possible way the first time. Don’t let you crap spread around the office and infect other people’s daily lives. Someone is eventually going to have to clean the crap which hit the floor after it hit the fan.

Not to mention, if you’re the one who incurred the debt, you’ll be the one with the embarrassing skid marks which will remain indelibly on your underwear because you didn’t solve the problem properly the first time. Git-blame, like Shakira’s hips, don’t lie.

The Technical Debt is Too Damn High

The Technical Debt is Too Damn High

Nate Ritter lives in Austin, Texas (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

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