Clean firetrucks and clean code

Seth Godin wrote an article about clean firetrucks that got a few responses from fireys (I love you guys!) and general commenters.
The premise of the article was “why do they stand around and clean stuff when they should be out preventing fires”. Now, it was Seth’s goal to paint a vivid picture about why organisations should be pro-active in getting business, rather than just standing around.
However, interestingly enough, I had a different picture in my mind after I read the title, but before I read the blog entry.
Cleaning firetrucks is possibly the most important activity that can be performed in a firestation, for the same reason as cleaning your own car (shame on me) and keeping your code clean.
You are actively looking at the item in question, and it’s more than just “a bit of spit and polish”, you’re taking time to make sure the hose-reels are nicely wound, and that the tyres are pumped, and the spare tyre is ready to go, and that there is no clutter in the driving cabin.
Why is that ? Well, when the shit hits the fan, and the rubber has to hit the road, then the truck’s gotta be in tip-top shape and operating at peak effectiveness.
So, the perception that “washing the truck” is just “busy work” is so pervasive that even clever and articulate commentators would choose to reflect on these activites in this manner.
What chances do we have as software developers to get people to understand that refactoring code, and general code and build housekeeping provides those same values ?
When the bug comes in, or the change request comes in, I wanna be in a position to slide down the pole, put on my red shiny hat, big ass pants and wellies and write code to save the day. (How’s that for a visual ?)
I don’t want to have to find out that the hose has kinks in it, or the cabin is filled with Maccas rubbish at the worst possible time. The orphanage is on fire and nuns and children need to be recued now !
Cleanliness may not be next to godliness, but I’m sure there is a high correlation between cleanliness and the level of maintenance on the items in hand, whether that be a 10-tonne fire truck (or whatever they weigh) and the software that I write.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to hose down some code I wrote yesterday.

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2 thoughts on “Clean firetrucks and clean code

  1. You don’t happen to know where you buy those code hoses do you? Sometimes I think my code needs a high pressure variety.
    I mean we do have permanent water restrictions and all in Melbourne.

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