Sarah Mei. The Insufficiency of Good Design. Ruby Conf 2012.


Watch this at some point. If you work with people, even if you’re not in the software development industry, you’ll benefit from the ideas shared in this video.

I learned about this video today from a colleague. It turns out there’s a lot of wisdom in it. It actually surprised me quite a few times. According to the video, which in turn cites a Carnegie Mellon University study conducted in 2007, the best predictor of quality in code is…

Good Communication

This trumps technical qualifications and domain-specific knowledge. I tried hard to find the exact paper Sarah spoke of, but the closest I could come to that study was an article published in 1999. As a side note, many of the papers listed on the parent page are very interesting from an organizational point of view. bookmarked

Before I go further, allow me to quote Conway’s Law:

Any organization that designs a system will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure. Studies seem to indicate that this is real, real as in take a look at projects you’ve worked on and see for yourself real.

So given that Conway’s Law is something that is affecting you right now, it means that you can actually debug your communication patterns. This was one of the surprising points Sarah brought up. It turns out that by reflecting on code that’s been written, and “code smells” that keep coming up, you can determine missing links in communication. You could continue to solve those code smells. You could refactor them all away - once per sprint even! However, that’s only addressing the symptoms. The underlying problem is more likely to be one of communication, and if you address that, it should follow that the anti-pattern in the code should go away. A lot of conjecture here - take home experiments?

To sum it up: Every piece of bad code is trying to tell you something.

It’s up to you to listen.