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The 'Oh' Moment

There’s a little thing in software development I like to call the ‘ Oh moment’.

I first noticed it when I was working on my bachelor’s thesis (and I was getting those all the time). Let me explain the situation a bit. You’re working on a project, not particularly easy one and finally after a couple of sleepless nights and rather unspecified amount of coffee, you come up with a solution. It seems just perfect. Clean, elegant, looks cool due to all the fancy inheritance, Mum will be proud.

Then first thing tomorrow morning, you start to eagerly write the code. It’s all good until it comes, ‘Oh, man’. One more thing (there always is) that you didn’t take into account and it just won’t work this way. It might work eventually, after some further modifications, but the result won’t be nearly as elegant nor clean. Not even mentioning the sweet inheritance tree. And there goes your excitement. After experiencing an oh-moment, your goal is no longer to create a good piece of software, but to get it done as fast as you can and then run away from it as far as possible.

The excitement from your ideas, good feeling about your work and satisfaction with the results is, in my opinion a key component in software development. Everybody likes doing a good job. And it’s really bad (for you and the project), if you don’t find the results good enough. But how to enjoy the job from the beginning to end?

You need to eliminate the Oh-moments. The more experience you get, the less Oh-moments you experience. But you cannot take them out of the equation entirely. Sh*t happens, and when it does, you need to be ready to minimize the consequences. However, there are couple of methods, that I personally find very helpful in this matter.

Wait

Never and I mean NEVER implement your design right away. It’s good to do something else for a while (my personal favorite is re-factoring and documenting the existing code) and then get back to it. If you still can’t see anything wrong with it, your chances of encountering an Oh-moment in the future are decreasing.

Show It to Others

A great way of avoiding oh moments is explaining your design to a team-mate or a friend. You will see it from whole another perspective and this will help you discover any unwanted surprises wrapped in the design.

Design in Iterations

Generally the later you get the flaw the bigger issue it is, so if you’ve stumbled upon an Oh-moment after a year of development, well, may the force be strong with you. But If you sit back once in a while and think a little further into the future of your application, you might find the dead end fast enough, before you get surrounded in it by a group of guys with knives and baseball bats interested in the contents of your wallet.