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It is OK to Require Your Team to Have Particular Technical Knowledge

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It is OK to Require Your Team to Have Particular Technical Knowledge

Jakub Holy asserts an alternative to over-simplifying code, requiring instead to hire individuals which a certain level of domain/technical knowledge.

· Agile Zone ·
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Should we write stupid code that is easy to understand for newcomers? It seems like a good thing to do. But, it is the wrong thing to optimize for because it is a rare case. Most of the time you will be working with people experienced in the code base. And, if there is a new member, you should not just throw her into the water and expect her to learn and understand everything on her own.

It is better to optimize for the common case, i.e. people that are up to speed. It is thus OK to expect and require that the developers have certain domain and technical knowledge. And, spend resources to ensure that is the case with new members. Simply put, you should not dumb down your code to match the common knowledge but elevate new teammates to the baseline that you defined for your product (based on your domain, the expected level of experience and dedication etc.).

For example in my team, we use extensively lo-dash, a library for data transformation (map, filter, etc.). We expect all new members to become comfortable with it before being productive. That means learning not just filter(cars, c => c.color === "yellow") but also the short-hand forms such as filter(cars, {color: "yellow"}),filter(cars, "family") (having a truthy property family), and even filter(cars, color? {color} : null) (you need to know that null == (()=>true)).

Of course, I don’t want to suggest that you should bring in all possible libraries and concepts and require all to know everything. I speak about a few but crucial, carefully selected libraries (and concepts). You also don’t need to use everything a library (or a language) has to offer–especially if it offers too much. Talk with your team-mates and select what is suitable for you–the less the better.

The same thing applies to domain concepts–it is OK to expect and rely upon certain level of domain expertise, knowledge of business rules etc. (But, you must make sure that all will have an opportunity to learn them.)

To help with onboarding, you should write down what this expected domain and technical knowledge is.

PS: This idea was originally put forward in a much better way by Rich Hickey in his famous talk Simple Made Easy. (And, I have certainly modified the message in quite a few ways.)

Download the free agile tools checklist from 321 Gang. This guide will help you choose the right agile tools to position your team for success. 

Topics:
java ,web design and web development ,domain objects

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