Steve Ngai (危 志 荣) KuaLa Lumpur, Malaysia

The BIG Dilemma – Should I re-build the good old house?

One of the biggest consideration and dilemma as a software engineer is, should I re-design the system design and clean up the source code or not?

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Here is a classic scenario as illustration purpose.

If Mutu’s source code is well designed and clean, Sally is considered lucky to pick up his role to continue and maintain his source code. Otherwise, it will be a nightmare for Sally to try to figure out his design and the dilemma on whether to clean up his source code. Why dilemma to re-design/revamp the system? Cleaning up code is good provided you are well-verse with the entire system design. The main benefit of a clean, organized and well-design system is maintainability. Although I don’t consider myself a talented software engineer, developing a well-maintained source code is one of my principles. I would rather spend a little more time to make the source code more maintainable, so that I don’t have to have sleepless night and headache troubleshooting bugs and for future enhancement.

But, for a large and critical system whereby there were many software engineers have ‘touch’ on the source code, usually new software engineer will opt to take the safer path by not making any unnecessarily big changes, be it to clean the source code or to re-design the system. Re-design the system can cause big impact to the entire system and highly susceptible to bugs too. Much effort is needed also to re-test the new re-vamped version.