Happy Are The Software Engineers.. (article)

My first ever published article is called "Happy Are The Software Engineers.." and it appeared in Better Software magazine in December 2006. The article describes briefly how complete concentration can create the feeling of happiness especially if the task at hand is meaningful. I wanted to highlight that working for software quality is meaningful and with Tick-the-Code you can achieve complete concentration.

Simply put, happiness is Tick-the-Code.

Tick-the-Code Inspection: Theory and Practice (paper)

My first ever scientific paper is called "Tick-the-Code Inspection: Theory and Practice" and it appeared in the peer-reviewed publication of ASQ (American Society for Quality) called Software Quality Professional.

As the name says, the paper reveals all details of Tick-the-Code up to the 24 coding rules. At the moment this paper is the most comprehensive written source for information about Tick-the-Code.

Tick-the-Code Inspection: Empirical Evidence (on Effectiveness) (paper)

My second paper is called Tick-the-Code Inspection: Empirical Evidence (on Effectiveness). It was prepared for, and first presented at, Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference 2007. The paper presents measurements taken in Tick-the-Code training courses so far (about 50 sessions with over 300 software professionals). The results are revealing. The main point of the paper is that software engineers could keep their software much simpler and avoid making many of the errors software projects are so notorious for.

In the Appendix of the paper, you'll find all the active rules of Tick-the-Code at the time of writing (summer 2007).

Tick-the-Code - traditionally novel technique in the fight against bugs (article)

Pirkanmaan Tietojenkäsittely-yhdistys (Pitky ry) published my article in their member magazine Pitkyn Piiri 1/2008. It is called "Tick-the-Code - uusvanha tekniikka taistelussa bugeja vastaan" and it is only available in Finnish.

An Example Rule Introduced

There are 24 active rules in Tick-the-Code. Each one of them helps to locate either omissions, redundancies, ambiguities, inconsistencies or assumptions in the source code. Individual rule violations might seem minor, but when you let them accumulate long enough, you'll be in trouble.

Marked rule violations are called ticks. Try the following rule on your production-level code and see how many ticks you can find. Then analyze each tick and see if you can't improve the maintainability of your code.

The rule sample changes weekly, so in a mere 24 weeks of diligent visits, you can have yourself the complete set of Tick-the-Code rules. However, there is an easier way and you'll be rewarded with laminated rule cards to top it all up. Get trained! Contact Qualiteers if you want to know more.

SIMPLE

"Code must be simple."

Simple code is easier to maintain than complex code is. Fight complexity with this rule. Code that could be written more simply violates this rule. Use with care.

If you think there is a simpler, more readable way to express a piece of code, mark the code with this rule. Be prepared to defend your "hunch" should the author not be able to find a simpler solution on his own. Never push your own "better" solution before being asked to.

Future Work

Tick-the-Code Inspection: The Book (book, working title)

Since 2006, there's a book on Tick-the-Code on the works. Currently the book project is on ice, as I study and gather more material and field experiences to include in the book. The book will be the most comprehensive written source on Tick-the-Code.

Excerpt from the book

The excerpt changes weekly. Each excerpt is still a draft version and might change before ending in the book.

Common sense

We've already seen that having only common sense guide the code inspection leads to problems in the checking phase. Because the differing ideas of what makes sense, what is important and what can cause real problems meet in the feedback phase, it is in this phase that the real friction occurs. The people don’t even have to meet, it is enough that they have to transfer conflicting information. In this kind of informational clash, the checkers might feel strongly about certain findings, which the author doesn't consider important enough to note.

In the feedback phase, the differences between people either amplify or are ironed out. Neither action is necessarily feasible to the inspection. A code inspection looking for consensus isn't an optimal one as discussions are often a waste of time. On the other hand, letting people fight for their findings or defending their product isn't good for the team spirit. Implicit guidelines are not optimal, no matter how common sense it all is. You cannot direct cooperation with private, implicit guidelines. They provide no guidance, the whole process is based on the assumption that people share enough of their common sense to have common ground.

Fighting for findings or touchy-feely general opinion seeking isn't practical. Common sense guidelines make code inspections sensitive, not sensible!

Chapter 2. "Symptoms" describes the psychological setup of inspection. Common sense - as will be clear in other parts of the book, too - makes no sense in a collaborative undertaking aimed at finding the most defects possible. In other words, if you can define clear rules for steering some behaviour, why rely on word-of-mouth?

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