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The Greatest Challenge in Software Development

Monday, December 10, 2007

... is choosing the right names.

Local variables need names. Instance variables need names. Methods need names, too, as do classes, columns, delegates, events, files, forms, parameters, projects, products, services, styles, tables, and of course – namespaces. Namespaces are nothing but a name! So many names, and so few words to use.

I was thinking about the amount of mental effort I expend in basic programming activities – like picking control structures (foreach versus do-while), or data structures (stacks versus lists), versus the amount of effort I expend to name all the abstractions in the simplest piece of software. Loops and structures are easy – naming requires a great deal of time and thought.

After all these years of thinking about names, I still struggle to pick the perfect name. Naming is a skill I need to improve - because names are important. I can use all the right patterns, have 100% test coverage, exceed every performance requirement, and still feel like I've failed if the names produce a piece of software that looks amorphous carbon:

Bad names kill good software by making the software un-maintainable.

Here are some interesting reads on naming:

I'd like to find more. Know of any others good ones?