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The Art of Agile Development

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Coding Standards

Note

Programmers

We embrace a joint aesthetic.

Back in the days of the telegraph, as the story goes, telegraph operators could recognize each other on the basis of how they keyed their dots and dashes. Each operator had a unique style, or fist, that experts could recognize easily. Programmers have style, too. We each have our own way of producing code. We refine our style over years until we think it’s the most readable, the most compact, or the most informative it can be.

Individual style is great when you’re working alone. In team software development, however, the goal is to create a collective work that is greater than any individual could create on his own. Arguing about whose style is best gets in the way; it’s easier to work together in a single style.

XP suggests creating a coding standard: guidelines to which all developers agree to adhere when programming.

Beyond Formatting

I once led a team of four programmers who had widely differing approaches to formatting. When we discussed coding standards, I catalogued three different approaches to braces and tabs. Each approach had its own vigorous defender. I didn’t want us to get bogged down in arguments, so I said that people could use whatever brace style they wanted.

The result was predictable: we had three different approaches to formatting in our code. I even saw two different ways of indenting within a single, short method.

You know what surprised me? It wasn’t that bad. Sure, the layout was ugly, and I would have ...

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