The Art and Science of RIA's
by Ben Stucki
As I've mentioned before (but it's worth mentioning again), this year's first annual Designer Developer Workflow conference was, in my opinion, a monumental success and an outstanding start to what I'm sure will become an annual tradition. The session topics hovered anywhere between developer-oriented and designer-oriented topics, yet NONE of the sessions ever left off addressing the needs of the other side of the equation; every designer-centric topic contained material relevant to and comprehendable by developers, and vica versa. It was almost like having achieved world peace. :)
So, one of the sessions I attended was presented by an individual I consider to be quite wise in the art of development. His name is Ben Stucki (pronounced "stew key"), and if the man ever runs for president, he's got my vote. Ben delivered a presentation entitled "The Art and Science of RIAs", though in this reviewer's opinion, a more appropriate title would have been "The Art and Science of Good Code", as this presentation delved deeply into Ben's personal philosophies and rules on "Good Code" and, though the plethora of information he shared is indeed relevant to RIAs, was definitely just as applicable across all application genres.
In this session, rather than simply focus on what "Good Code" means, Ben made it a point to do the one thing that is absolutely essential to a coder before he can ever correct the error of his ways: dig all the way down to the root causes of "bad code". Some of those causes arise from the developer's own lackings while others stem from areas outside the developer's control, such as a project manager. These negative outside influences can produce circumstances that affect how the developer chooses to code. For instance, setting arbitrary, unrealistic deadlines, allowing the project scope to change mid-stream, and not listening to developer feedback can all produce effects that cause the developer to produce what Ben referred to as "Technical Debt". Technical Debt is when the pressure of a looming unrealistic deadline basically forces the developer to choose between "pleasing the boss" and "doing it right". It's that manner of coding that gives one the advantage of meeting the deadline now, but will most certainly have to be paid back later. By continuing on in a way that produces Technical Debt, eventually the application gets to the point where it would be easier and more cost effective to scrap it and start from scratch rather than attempt to add any more features or modifications.
The 50 minute presentation was chocked FULL of wonderful tips, guidelines, philosophies, viewpoints, and rules that Ben personally has adopted. Ben's ability to articulate his ideas in both word and illustration are impeccable, and his passion for his art and craft are not only quite obvious, but are also sure to provoke the listener's own zeal and passion to improve in their art as well. If you ever have opportunity to hear Ben speak, be sure and not miss it!
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