Writing Code

  • The moment you write code, its already technical debt.
  • Every new code is an investment.
  • How do you manage your investment?

#Table Of Contents

#Aims for writing code

Balance writing for longevity.

  • How long will your code last?

Write for clarity.

Write for simplicity.

  • For the long term: simplicity out lives complexity.

Write knowing that it will be read later.

More time will be spent reading and understanding code, than writing it. Reading to writing ratio is really high.

Write so that it is easy to understand.

Write to reduce "WTFs/minute". WTFs/minute is the only valid measurement of code quality.

Write with the aim to reduce surprises.

Write code that is easy to test and reproduce.

Write code that is meant to be read, and not meant to solve a problem.

Don't write complex code. Write simple code.

Becareful of death by a thousand cuts/commits/diffs. It is very easy to lose track of the architecture.

Reduce create technical debt.

See Reviewing Code.

#What is clarity?

  • Easy to read
  • Consistency
  • Naming
  • Conventions
  • Trust


  • Increase signal. Reduce noise.
  • Reduce petty philsophical disagreements. Avoid bike shed problems.
  • Save time, energy and resources for the larger technical problems.


  • You should not be wasting time, energy, and resource discussing style. Quickly come to an agreement and stick with it. Use a linter. Don't increase noise.

#Writing for a code base of 1,000,000+ Lines

Writing code for a 1,000 line application is very different from writing for 1,000,000 line application.

When the codebase becomes so large, you simply cannot remember everything.

You rely on naming, conventions, and trust.


Understand the conventions already used, and stick to them. It makes it easier to read the code, and get it reviewed.

In a large code base, coding conventions may be different from team to team.


Use linters.

#Don't waste time discussing style

Use linters.

If a discussion about style comes up, quickly agree on something, and implement it in your linter.

#Trust in the code base

You will always be using a library written by someone else. You have to trust that it says it does what it does. If it doesn't, then you have to dive deeper down the rabbit hole.

#2 biggest problems in programming

  • Naming
  • Caching
  • Off By One Errors

#Naming Good Names (files, directories, classes, methods)

#Avoid Single Letter Variable Names

#Write Code Knowing It Will Be Refactored

Code will always be refactored. Accept this.

#Leave It Better Than You Left It

#Make It Easy To Reproduce

Write code that is easy to test and reproduce.

The easier it is to reproduce. The easier it is to test. The easier it is to test. The more you will test it.

#Small Functions

#Input > Process > Output

#Output can be an Input for another step

#Measure Input > Process > Output

What to Measure:


  • Number of Units
  • Before/After state of the process


  • How long did it take
  • How mucch processing time is used
  • How much memory did it use
  • How much bandwidth was used


  • How many were successful
  • How many failed
  • Why did they fail
  • Which failed


When there are many Input > Process > Output, then you have a funnel.

#Break down a Proces

#Handling Errors

#Silent Errors vs Fataling

#Always print IDs

if ($ent === null) {
  printf("Unable to load ent %d", $ent_id);

#Write code knowing you will be blamed

Otherwise known as "maintain line history as much as possible".

This is bad because if you wanted to change an argument you would have to change the line history.

printf("Uknown Cop %s %s %s %s", $a, $b, $c, $d);

This is better

  "Unkown Cop %s %s %s %s",

#80 character limit


  • Forces you to focus on legibility.

    • Emphasis on short.
  • Encourages preserving source control blame


  • Some languages may not be suitable for 80 characters.
  • Can make some functions or conditions longer

    • When writing conditions, consider breaking them into multiple conditions. See below for easoning.
  • The focus on short may may become bad.

    • Example: Bad variable names.
    • Example: Too many small functions. Makes it difficult to understand flow.
    • Aim for balance.


  • URLs. Always try to use full URLs as much as possible as it helps the reader to intuit the purpose of the URL.

#Be careful about chaining conditions.

This may dangerous, because it's hard to debug.

For example:

  expected.key === actual.key &&
  expected.value === actual.value &&
  expected.concern === actual.concern;

If we broke it down to multiple if conditions it makes it easier to debug.

if (expected.key === actual.key) {
  return false;

if (expected.value === actual.value) {
  return false;

if (expected.concern === actual.concer;) {
  return false;

return true;

Pros for using multiple conditions:

  • If you use Exceptions instead of return statements, you can easily get a stack trace which is extremly useful.
  • Easier usage of print style debugging.

Cons for using multiple if conditions:

  • Longer function statements.

#Becareful of chains of ternary operators

A chain of ternary operators make it hard to judge what is happening.

Do not do this:

$size = $button === 'submit' ? 'big : 'small';
$text = $button === 'submit'
  ? $l10n->getBigText()
  : $l10n->getSmallText();
$action = $button === 'submit'
  ? '/submit'
  : '/reset'

Do this:

if ($button === 'submit') {
  $size = 'big';
  $text = $l10n->getBigText();
  $action = '/submit';
} else {
  $size = 'small';
  $text = $l10n->getSmallText();
  $action = '/reset';


Sometimes we need to pair two variables together to represent a single datatype. For example tuple(MetricID, Partner) which tells us that this represents the MetricID for a given Partner.

You may want to consider 2 data structures for this:

  • Metric(MetricID)
  • MetricPartner(Metric/MetricID, Partner)

It is easier moving from a data structure that manages one data type, to a data structure that manages 2.

Consider having a function in Metric which takes in a Partner and returns a MetricPartner. For example:

  $metric = new Metric($metric_id);
  $metric_partner = $metric->withPartner($partner);

#Becareful of enum in Switch statements

If an enum is in more than one switch statement. Consider making a factory class which returns singleton class for the enum value.

For example, if you only have one instance of this, its ok:

function getName(Color $color) {
  switch($color) {
    case Color::RED:
      return 'Red';

    case Color::BLUE:
      return 'Blue';

But if you add another function, then make a factory class which returns an instance.

function getRGB(Color $color) {
  switch($color) {
    case Color::RED:
      return '#FF0000';

    case Color::BLUE:
      return '#0000FF';

Do this instead:

class ColorFactory {
  public static function get(ColorEnum $color) {
    switch ($color) {
      case ColorEnum::RED:
        return ColorRed::get();

      case ColorEnum::Blue:
        return ColorBlue::get();

class Color extends Color {
  public function get(ColorEnum $color) {
    switch ($color) {
      case ColorEnum::RED:
        return ColorRed::get();

      case ColorEnum::Blue:
        return ColorBlue::get();

abstract class ColorBase extends Color {
  public function getName(): string;
  public function getRGB(): string;

final class ColorRed extends Color {
  public function getID(): Color {
    return Color::RED;

  public function getName(): string {
    return 'Red';

  public function getRGB(): string {
    return '#FF0000';

final class ColorBlue extends Color {
  public function getID(): Color {
    return Color::Blue;

  public function getName(): string {
    return 'Blue';

  public function getRGB(): string {
    return '#0000FF';

function main() {
  $color = ColorFactory::get($color)
  return $color->getName();

Yes there is more code, but its easier to manage the code. When adding a new Enum you are not required to remember which files to update, the compiler will catch any undefined functions.

#Deep inheritance trees are bad

#Be careful of parameter bags

#Single Responsibility Principle (SRP)

#Use intention revealing names

#2 hardest parts of programming

#Write code that is meant to be read, and not meant to solve a problem

#Duplicating calls is ok.


  • How many lines of code are being added?
  • Are there alerts on highly sensitive parts of the codebase?

#Consider using Regexes instead of String comparisons


  • More flexibility in matching strings


  • Regexes are slightly more time consuming


When writing scripts, always leave a file header about what the script does, or link to a proper resource.

For example:

# Reencrypts the keys in our database.
# This is necessary because ....
# http://www.example.com/wiki/details