Peter Seibel wrote that to maximize engineering effectiveness, “Let a thousand flowers bloom. Then rip 999 of them out by the roots.” Flowers, in how the metaphor applies to us, are code patterns — the myriad different functions, classes, styles, and idioms that developers use when writing code. At first, new flowers are welcome — maybe the new pattern seems easier to use, more scalable, more efficient, or more suited to some particular task than the old.

As a code base grows, and the flowers proliferate, however, it becomes clear which patterns work and which don’t. Suddenly, code patterns that were once beautiful new flowers become technical debt in need of removal. When that happens, it’s time to start ripping. Otherwise, since developers learn by reading (and occasionally copy-and-pasting) from existing code, the bad flowers and the technical debt that comes with them will continue to grow unchecked.

» Evan H. |