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Stop paying tech debts, start maintaining code  ↦

Jesse O’Brien from Test Double wants us to stop using the term “Tech Debt”

There’s loads of reasons why unmaintainable code ends up running in the systems our products are built on, but none of these fit the definition of debt.

Instead, I propose we drop the term Tech Debt and start talking about maintenance tasks. Maintenance is what we’re really talking about. When parts on our car or bicycle suffers wear from driving them around, we don’t talk to our mechanic about “mechanical debt”. (Go back and re-read that sentence, but replace things with “software” and “programmers”). We talk about maintenance.

This post starts as mostly a semantic debate, and I’m not convinced by his arguments there. I think the debt metaphor is useful when you’re talking about trading quality for speed. That’s what you do when you take on debt: you trade higher cost at a future date (principle + interest) to gain access to the money today (speed).

That being said, I really like where Jesse ends this piece talking about software maintenance and methods of going about it. Lots of actionable advice there and I’m 100% onboard with talking about software maintenance early and often. One of the first things I consider when somebody approaches me with a feature idea is ask myself: what will this cost to maintain?


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