Try to leave this world a little better than you found it

I came across a quote today that gave me pause. The quote is attributes to Baden Powell, the founder of The Scout Movement :

“Try to leave this world a little better than you found it”

I think this is a sentiment we can express in every aspect of our day-to-day lives, be it tidying up after ourselves, working for our community or just helping someone who needs it.

That said, this wouldn’t be a tech blog unless I managed to find a way to relate this back to development in some form so here we go..

Imagine if every single coder in the world, every single time they checked code in, made one improvement completely unrelated to the work they were doing. Maybe they refactored a particularly nasty bit of code. Maybe they removed a goto or wrote a few more comprehensive tests. Maybe they discovered something important and wrote it down clearly in the documentation.Would we have so many problems in our software?

Of course, this never happens. Deadlines, ‘hack and run’ coders, pushy managers and poor communication are all factors contributing to the certainty that we can never achieve this goal.

However,  suspend disbelief just for a second and imagine that everyone did this.  It may be too much to hope for, but perhaps the trend of older software becoming less and less maintainable as the years go by might slow, or even reverse.

Imagine that utopia where code actually became more maintainable as time went on, it became more stable and we ran out of things to improve.

So, to paraphrase Baden Powell, I encourage everyone to leave their code a little better than they found it!

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