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Best Practice vs Never Practice

February 6th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Today I read a commentary of latest MSDN magazine by David Platt who is famous for his book why software sucks. In his commentary titled Never, Never Land, he compared our software development to the medical industry on malpractices, and drew the following conclusion:

Certain occurrences are never, never, acceptable. We need to define these events, publicize them and educate developers about what they are and how to avoid them.

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In IT world, we’ve heard many best practices. I have personally contributed many of them in using VMware vSphere APIscloud application development, and writing sample code. For consistency with best practices, I call these never land “never practices.” If you search the Internet with “never practice” today, you won’t get any but this post at the top. But we do need more never practices. In the article, David offered one general never: never lose users’ data, and he asked readers to share more.

While defining new things like new concepts, we can take two different approaches: what they are; and what they are not. Both of them are important, and often used together in most cases. The same approaches should be leveraged in defining practices in IT and other industries.

One challenge in authoring never practices is the famous saying “never say never.” That is true that you can hardly find any guideline/rule holds universally. If you take a look at best practices, they are not always silver bullets. When I describe a best practice, I always, at least try to, put it in a context and specify the conditions. We can do the same for never practices – be specific and conditional. When boiling down to a specific domain or task, I believe you will find many never practices. I am not saying you should not have general never practices though. My feeling is that there aren’t many of them and hard to describe.

Another challenge is that never practices may not sound as positive as best practices. Our culture teaches us to use positive ways influencing people, not to tell them not to do certain things. That is probably we see so many best practices but not many never practices today. Keep in mind that never practices are not simple opposites of the best practices. In some cases, it could be the case but mostly not.

Neither best practices nor never practices are enough in helping IT professionals. Combined together they will be more powerful.

I will write some never practices in the future. I hope I will find your never practices on Google search as well. :-)

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