August 28, 2008
There was a technical debt workshop recently, and Michael Feathers and Brian Marick were encouraging switching the thought process from debt to assets, from a negative to a positive.

Off the cuff, I don't like this shift. I like the negativity of debt because I presume customers already see code written as an asset, and the struggle is in getting them to understand how code written that makes their UI work can still have maintainability problems. “You have debt, because this code is coupled and has no test coverage” to me is a more direct way of indicating problems, even though the app does its job on the surface. This resonates with me about how debt works in my life: sure, I've got a new shiny computer that's doing its job, but what's not reflected in the shine of my gadget is the negative balance on my credit card.

“You're assets have some deficiencies” (or whatever) I think leaves too much additional mental wiggle room: “well, that's fine - we just need it to work, we don't need it to be in tip-top shape.”

I suppose Feathers and Marick have had different experiences with customers who shrug off debt and would be more impacted by discussions of assets with problems.

tags: ComputersAndTechnology