Duct-tape programmers ship… once

I read an interesting article today full of praise for duct-tape programmers, a breed of developers who are smart enough to get away without unit tests, and ship code early by using duct-tape style programming techniques.

Duct-tape programmers are considered great because they help companies take first-mover advantage, while others waste time developing abstract frameworks and trying to over-engineer everything. Customers and project managers love duct-tape programmers because they get the job done fast.

I see duct-tape programmers in a different way:

Maintainability vs Quality

Of course you need to ship products fast to beat your competition. But duct-tape isn’t a sustainable way to build software, unless you have the luxury of never having to touch the code again (one-off console games come to mind here). Otherwise, maintenance costs from brittle code will soon come back to bite and affect your ability to ship version 2.0 in time.

Our challenge is to find a balance in the middle where we aim high, but have an architecture flexible enough to allow duct-tape-style compromises in a clean and isolated fashion when required.

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