Synthesis : Scott Becker

Starting Fresh, Without the Big Rewrite

If you’re working on a project with a couple years of code under it’s belt, you may have moments of desire to completely throw the whole thing out and start anew. But, if you’re working for someone else, you know that your boss or client probably won’t like that. After all, he’s paying you to finish feature A! But, you lament, feature A builds on top of feature B that already exists but is written in a terribly unidiomatic, pre-TDD, pre-REST way, way before you or someone else learned the dark arts of coding mastery. Legacy code, argh!

So what should you do? What are your options? A) Ignore the problem and build the new feature on top of the existing badly written code. Watch things get even worse. B) Try to quickly fix the badly written code in-place so you can get on with it. Trigger cascading test failures, and palm your face. C) Start over and rewrite the entire project, get fired for being 6 months late on your estimate. None of these sound any good!

I think I may have found a solution that works for me, especially with Rails.

Start a fresh Rails project. Boom! It’s fresh and clean. Now you have room to work. The beauty of Rails is how quick it is to get started. Choose the aspect of the project you want to work on. Got some legacy code thats bugging you? TDD/BDD it from scratch, the Right Way. The idiomatic, Rails Way. Once you get it to the point where it’s working correctly and passing all tests, you can merge the new code into the main project, replacing the older, ugly, what-were-they-thinking legacy code that was getting in the way.

Now you can work in a clean environment and just focus on the problem at hand. This allows you to make progress quickly, and get rid of the old crap without having to completely start from scratch.


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