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Notes about Developers Shame Day

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 5 November 2010.
Planet PHP
Note: this article was supposed to be released on November 3rd, but I was not able to finish and release it in time. So don't wonder if the tense in the article is not correct.

Some days ago Cem Derin proposed the idea of the Developers Shame Day. As his blog entry is German only here is a short summary of what this is about: basically, a developer should look into old source code of him/her and present a piece of code which is stupid in some kind, be it obvious errors, bad structure or security flaws - only guidelines are it most be his/her own source code and should not be changed. It must not necessarily be PHP, it could be in any language. It should be presented on November 3rd with a small description - and probably with an explanation why it is bad and makes you feel ashamed.

Initially I thought this is a great idea: showing other developers that even highly appreciated developers produce errors, sometimes even stupid ones; showing that we all started as beginners. Don't get me wrong, I still think it is a good idea. But it must be put into context. Producing bad code is nothing one should be ashamed of. Personally I believe that every developer always tries its best to produce the best code, the best solution to a problem. Bad code happens because of missing knowledge. Good thing is, you can learn how to make it better - and after applying a refactoring to the code it's not even there any more, just buried in the history of your source code control system.

However, it must be acknowledged that there is a lot of bad and even stupid code out there, even from developers who should know better. This is what developers should be ashamed of: being ignorant against what they learned from books, talks or other sources of information, not applying this knowledge to their code or to defy it because the first or even second try did not work out as expected.

So, the basic idea of the day is a very good one, showing beginners that all of us started on a low level. But I think it should not be called Shame Day - based on the context (knowledge and other constraints) in which the solution was created it probably was the best what you could do back then. And it's not about shame, because you learned and gained knowledge - which enables you to recognize something as an error or problem, and giving other developers the possibility to share your knowledge. If you take part in this day by providing a blog article about code mistakes from your past you should be proud instead: proud of having learned more, proud of sharing your knowledge with other developers and proud of defeating one of programmers worst enemy: ignorance.