RSS

DRY - Don't Repeat Yourself

As programmers, we collect, organize, maintain, and harness knowledge. We document knowledge in specifications, we make it come alive in running code, and we use it to provide the checks needed during testing.

Unfortunately, knowledge isn't stable. It changes—often rapidly. Your understanding of a requirement may change following a meeting with the client. The government changes a regulation and some business logic gets outdated. Tests may show that the chosen algorithm won't work. All this instability means that we spend a large part of our time in maintenance mode, reorganizing and reexpressing the knowledge in our systems.

Most people assume that maintenance begins when an application is released, that maintenance means fixing bugs and enhancing features. We think these people are wrong. Programmers are constantly in maintenance mode. Our understanding changes day by day. New requirements arrive as we're designing or coding. Perhaps the environment changes. Whatever the reason, maintenance is not a discrete activity, but a routine part of the entire development process.

When we perform maintenance, we have to find and change the representations of things—those capsules of knowledge embedded in the application. The problem is that it's easy to duplicate knowledge in the specifications, processes, and programs that we develop, and when we do so, we invite a maintenance nightmare—one that starts well before the application ships.

We feel that the only way to develop software reliably, and to make our developments easier to understand and maintain is to ensure that every piece of knowledge has a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system.

The alternative is to have the same thing expressed in two or more places. If you change one, you have to remember to change the others, or your program will be brought to its knees by a contradiction. It isn't a question of whether you'll remember: it's a question of when you'll forget.

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas