20 Software Engineering Guidelines I Learned in 2020

20 Software Engineering Guidelines I Learned in 2020

#13: Don’t treat test code as a second-class citizen

2020 was my first full year working as a software engineer and my full first year living in San Francisco. Thanks to a pandemic, I did a lot less exploring of an exciting new city than I’d intended and a lot more baking and Tiger King-watching. The one silver lining was that I got to spend some of my stuck-at-home time reading and working on personal projects, so I learned more about software engineering best practices than I would’ve had it been a normal year. Here are my 20 most valuable learnings.

Top 20 Guidelines

1. Optimize code for readability

Developers spend most of their productive time reading code, not writing it: debugging, checking commits done by others, learning new libraries, etc. This means your code should be easy to understand, even if it means longer names, more lines of code, and less “cleverness.”

For example, naming a variable timeInMillis rather than time requires a bit of extra typing, but saves developers from needing to look around the code base to figure out which time unit the variable is using.

Another example is all the one-liner solutions posted in LeetCode discussions. This palindrome number solution is clever:

def isPalindrome(self, x: int) -> bool:
        a=list(str(x))
        return a==a[::-1]

But it’s much harder to understand than a more verbose solution would be. Coming up with one-liners can be a fun challenge — just make sure you’re not adding it to a code base with multiple contributors.

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