Episode 148: Software Archaeology with Dave Thomas

Filed in Episodes by on November 2, 2009 15 Comments

Recording Venue: Skype
Guest(s): Dave Thomas

Host(s): Arno
Dave explains why reading source code is at least as important a skill as writing source code. He shares approaches for how to get to grips with unknown and undocumented source code even if it is non-trivial in size. He finishes with advice for how to get started reading code.


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Comments (15)

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  1. Rick Umali says:

    This was a very interesting episode. One of the insights from Dave Thomas is that “code rots”. Over time, assumptions and inputs can change, and the unit tests for code that is unmaintained can often begin to fail.

  2. Lisa says:

    I truly believe that reading the script is very important to write an effective code. Well, it is not that I am an expert in the field but I feel it is truly sensible. Anyway, after finishing my essay through the help of topessayservices.com, I plan to study html and website creation too.

  3. rfl4711 says:

    … since there’s links to the prags, I guess this is PragDave this time (as opposed to OTI Dave). Right?

  4. Volker says:

    Yes, this time it is PragDave.

  5. BramVanOosterhout says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this episode. Thought Dave was a bit hard on comments, but he fully redeemed himself with the statement: “Comments about ‘why’ are helpful” And so are “Comments that direct me to other relevant locations”

    Also liked the references from this podcast. Could do with more. The ;;;; collaps is a neat idea.

    Thanks again.

    PS. Your CAPTCHA may be very safe, but I had 5 gos to get it right. Case sensitive is not easy if you dont have a base because the letters dance. The difference between Y and y is where they are positioned on the line. the shape is almost identical.

    Bram van Oosterhout

  6. Jbc1 says:

    I was really disappointed with the sound quailty of this episode. There was a really annoying knocking noise in the background when Dave was talking. Shame really, as it’s very interesting otherwise.

  7. weberdc says:

    I agree there are a few annoying buzzes and clicks and a few echos (presumably from mixing input from two microphones) but it’s perfectly intelligible. I also listen to the BrainSciencePodcast (.com) and some of the early (and even mid) episodes of that have dreadful audio, so this episode really isn’t so bad.

    I found it really interesting and will be looking around for code to read. I’d really appreciate some links on repositories of good code, as was discussed in the episode. The book and article are interesting, but more recommendations of code to read would be great.

    Thanks and keep up the great work SE Radio.

  8. jtkim says:

    I very much like the recommendation of reading the source of that which you use (Ruby, Perl, Python etc.). I’d like to add one recommendation, though: Don’t use quirky ways of coding in an interpreted language just because you found out from the source that they work with the current implementation of the interpreter. I may be stating the obvious here as such exploitations of quirks may, in time, turn into some future software archaeologist’s nightmare.

    “Beware of evil wizards” — yes!! Personally, I find those who use generated code without understanding it are really the evil ones. In fact, writing a wizard that relieves coders of writing boilerplate code is perhaps misguided (as the root problem that ought to be fixed is the requirement of having all that boilerplate code), but using anything you don’t properly understand is always a step towards a dark age in which superstitions flourish.

  9. AlessandraFox says:

    the way PragDave carried himself. He was totally awesome and at boring at the same time but you’ll definitely say that he knows a lot of things. I was actually doing my paper writing when heard about PragDave.

  10. adamholmes says:

    So while software archeologists try to imagine how a system might work or have worked, we Smalltalk developers have the luxury of just starting the system up and live in there for a day or two. Since this episode was released, there have been a lots of reactions mentioned and
    sample essay
    came out all over the net. Interesting. Absorbing.

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