Code Review #9 : The importance of doing the small things right

door-to-nowhere-winchesterDo the small things right. Make sure your craftmanship shows pride.

The code “working” is not enough. The craftmanship. The attention to detail is equally important.

Part of the way that Steve Jobs made Apple great is his insistance on craftmanship

Craft, Above All
Under Jobs, Apple became famous for a level of craft that seemed almost gratuitous: For example, on the “Sunflower” Macintosh of a few years ago, there was an exquisitely fine, laser-etched Apple logo. As an owner, you might see that logo only once a year, when moving the computer. But it mattered, because that single time made an impression. In the same way, Jobs spent a lot of time making the circuit boards of the first Macintosh beautiful — he wanted their architecture to be clean and orderly. Who cared about that? But again, that level of detail would have made a deep impression on the few people that would have seen the inner guts.

So in a way, it’s not a surprise that this level of craft was one of the first design lessons that Jobs ever got, and he learned at the hands of his father. Quoting Walter Isaacson, from his biography of Steve Jobs:

Fifty years later the fence still surrounds the back and side yards of the house in Mountain View. As Jobs showed it off to me, he caressed the stockade panels and recalled a lesson that his father implanted deeply in him. It was important, his father said, to craft the backs of cabinets and fences properly, even though they were hidden. … In an interview a few years later, after the Macintosh came out, Jobs again reiterated that lesson from his father: “When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood in the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

For that reason, I insist that developers spend the time to complete the craftmanship of their code. Their code must blend seamlessly with the rest of the code. There must be no oddity, no idiocracy.

Coding standards/styling is to be followed rigorously so that the true beauty of the code’s functionality can be appreciated. But like doors, the code must fit with the overall design of the project.

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