Worst Practices

I know several people (not just context-driven folks) who cringe a bit at the concept of "Best Practices". The point of controversy is that practices depend on context. What's "best" for one context may not be a good idea at all in another context. I suppose it's a bit of a word game, but a team can be led astray if they follow a "best practice" blindly (of course, any time you follow something blindly, you will probably walk off of a cliff). The point is that "best practices" - while they may be "best" in most situations, may not always be "best".

Got it?

But that's not the point of this post.

Unfortunately,I see the inverse of this concept way too much (and I hate to say it, sometimes among the same people who get that best practices aren't always best).

The inverse is, of course, "Worst Practices". Nobody ever calls them this directly, but they are implied. They stem from quotes like these: "That approach didn't work on my team, so it will never work"; or "I have seen that practice fail, therefore it always fails". To me, the concept of "worst practices" has far more negative impact on software engineering than misconstrued "best practices". It frightens me at best, and on some days, almost sickens me.

So here's what I'd like you to do. No matter how idiotic or stupid you think something sounds, the next time you are about to completely dismiss some idea, approach, technique, or anything else, stop and ask yourself "In what context would this idea, approach, concept, etc. be applicable or successful". You may actually learn something.

Comments (4)

  1. Zach Fisher says:

    I’m glad you posted this. I’ve sensed something akin to this for awhile, but have been unable to put my finger on it. I think this is as close to defining that "feeling" as anything I’ve read. Thank you.

    Now…I’m off to contemplate how undocumented record-and-playback tests could succeed as a sole testing strategy in a distributed waterfall project built with RPG II.

  2. Adam White says:

    I like the Weinberg Systems thinking way – Think of 3 reasons for and three reasons against the idea you have.

    You will definitely learns something from that mental exercise.

  3. Buried in the middle of a paper I wrote for the upcoming STAR East conference is this (forgive lack of

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