Alex Chiri's Blog

Software engineering à la Pettson & Findus

My daughter is a big fan of Pettson & Findus. I have been reading to her some of their unusual adventures before sleep many times and some of them I have read them more than 10 times! They have a specific charm and it's almost impossible to not burst into laughter when reading them, so much fun. Not the best thing to read to a child before sleep, but it does its job!

One of these stories is about Findus' birthday and Pettson making him a pancake cake. After going through it for the umpteenth time, it struck me that it resembles a pattern I've seen in engineering teams with a lot of technical debt. I will explain, take a look at the the diagram below which represents the path Pettson and Findus need to take in order to make the cake:

Ideally, the dotted path would have been taken by Pettson & Findus, but they actually had to take the long route.

This resembles a lot the path teams need to take when trying to make changes in systems with a lot of accumulated technical debt. Once a lot of technical debt has been accumulated, it becomes very hard to make changes without having to fix other things first. This makes any change very expensive and unmaintained systems or code bases will become more and more expensive to maintain the longer they are neglected.