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Code as a Decision Log

In re-reading The Wrong Abstraction recently, I’ve realized that while we often talk about code being an artifact of production, it often functions more as a decision log.

In her post Sandi writes about how the Sunk Cost Fallacy plays into the hesitation we as developers feel when encountering perplexing abstractions. Part of the recommendation is to consider that

“It may have been right to begin with, but that day has passed.”

I think this is often how we think about organizational decisions. We make new ones all the time, and often they alter or completely reverse those that came before, even if people who made the initial choices aren’t available for consultation anymore.

I suspect it’s easier for us to undo organizational decisions than code decisions because the former are made in a more visible and social environment. It’s easy to skip fixing the wrong abstraction when that choice may only be seen by one reviewer as part of an unrelated change. Perhaps this is where pair or mob programming can help. More eyes on the wrong abstraction at the right time could be all that’s needed to address it.

Thinking about code as a decision log could also help. Removing the abstraction is just another event. Events are bound to a specific moment in time, and maybe today is the right moment for an event that reverses some of those previous decisions.