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Code Smells and Feels

Talk initially prepared for useR!2018 Brisbane. Also delivered elsewhere, such as the First Mexican Statistical Association School in Data Science
by Jenny Bryan
Twitter: @jennyBryan
GitHub: @jennybc

"Code smell" is an evocative term for that vague feeling of unease we get when reading certain bits of code. It's not necessarily wrong, but neither is it obviously correct. We may be reluctant to work on such code, because past experience suggests it's going to be fiddly and bug-prone. In contrast, there's another type of code that just feels good to read and work on. What's the difference? If we can be more precise about code smells and feels, we can be intentional about writing code that is easier and more pleasant to work on. I've been fortunate to spend the last couple years embedded in a group of developers working on the tidyverse and r-lib packages. Based on this experience, I'll talk about specific code smells and deodorizing strategies for R.

Link to this repo is a shortlink to HERE


Slides on SpeakerDeck

Slides as PDF file here in this repo


Video is available on YouTube:

Credits and resources

Annotated and hyperlink-y list of resources mentioned in the slides, in roughly the same order.

Do useRs have less formal training in CS/programming than others writing code?

2018 Stack Overflow Annual Developer Survey:

Adapted from original code by Julia Silge, data scientist at Stack Overflow.

Code here in this repo: stackoverflow-survey

Talks about programming style, workflow, and policies

Some that inspired me:

Good Programming Practice, UseR! 2004 Keynote, Martin Mächler

What I find important when R Programming and Recent Cool Features in R
2018 eRum Keynote by Martin Mächler and R Core Team

My own efforts in this genre:

Zen And The aRt Of Workflow Maintenance, IASC/NZSA 2017, Jenny Bryan

Workflow: You should have one, EARL London 2017, Jenny Bryan

Cakes that look like hedgehogs ... sort of?

What Every Successful Person Knows, But Never Says
James Clear blog post that discusses an Ira Glass interview. Indicative quote:

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it's like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you're making is kind of a disappointment to you.

The teams that bring you

Improving the Design of Existing Code
by Martin Fowler
(with Kent Beck, John Brant, William Opdyke, and Don Roberts)

Dumpster photo by NeONBRAND

Code Smells – a Short List
blog post by Arne Mertz

bizarro: all code snippets are given here in R/

Beach + glass orb photo by Perchek Industrie

Good enough practices in scientific computing
Wilson G, Bryan J, Cranston K, Kitzes J, Nederbragt L, et al. (2017) Good enough practices in scientific computing. PLOS Computational Biology 13(6): e1005510.

Do not comment and uncomment sections of code to control a program's behavior.

if() else() described in breathless AI style:
you mean a one layer neural network with identity activation and no hidden layers

Tweet by Federico Vaggi

Return early and clearly
Blog post by Arne Mertz
"Handling preconditions" section is the basis of my early return before/after example get_some_data().

More posts and conversations about early returns and avoiding if entirely:

Yoda photo by Kory Westerhold on flickr

Baby with diaper photo by rawpixel

In addition to the Refactoring book referenced above, these are other good reads for improving your code:

The Art of Readable Code
Simple and Practical Techniques for Writing Better Code
Dustin Boswell, Trevor Foucher

The Pragmatic Programmer
From Journeyman to Master
by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

Upgrade your cargo cult for the win

Toddler on run bike photo by Jordan Sanchez


Talk on code smells and feels and how to change that via refactoring







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