Breaking Changes? Don't!

Sometimes other developers give me a funny look when I spend extra time decoupling code, or adding some extra configuration.  I explain to them that it allows for future changes to be easier, and they agree, but sometimes I get push-back and it just doesn't seem worth it to them.  So here's some perspective.

I have a confession to make: I hate python.  I can't stand it.  I haven't always been this way about it though, particularly, the things I hear about it on XKCD consistently make me take another look at it time and again.  The problem is, every time I go to look up some basic tutorials, I plug them into the interpreter and they break.  Even Hello World!

Why?  Because the makers of Python accepted a major breaking change into their code base after the language started to get popular.  In my personal opinion, if you make changes to your language that break a hello world tutorial, then your language can't be trusted long enough for me to spend time learning it.

That's not to say that all breaking changes are bad. Eric Lippert discussed a breaking change in C# 5 that's coming that is perfectly reasonable, and it will affect a large amount of code, as it involves the extremely useful foreach loop.  Yet the breaking change was behind the scenes, inside of a black box to most coders.  The only people that will notice it, are the ones who've been working with the language so long, and so deeply, that they're watching for these things anyway.

Python did it wrong.  The change they made is on the surface.  It's visible to every user every day.  It breaks almost every application written.  It's big, and ugly, and they either didn't consider the consequences, or they were too eager to get the language out there to prepare for this sort of thing ahead of time.

Look, I'm not perfect.  I don't write code that will never have to encounter a breaking change.  I try to keep from having to have breaking changes with good practices, but no one solution is perfect.  When we encounter a change, there's a reason we have change committees, and red tape and paperwork.  It's to ensure we keep things working as expected.  If the change is breaking, spend some extra time to do research.  How much of the code base does it affect?  How often is the broken code used?  How many old programs is it likely to affect?  If we don't consider these options, then who knows what you might run into, and that's why you plan ahead.


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