Things I Learnt The Hard Way - Write Steps as Comments

1 minute read Published: 2019-06-18

Don't know how to solve your problem? Write the steps as comments in your code.

There you are, looking at the blank file wondering how you're going to solve that problem. Here is a tip:

Take the spec you (or someone else) wrote. Break each point into a series of steps to reach the expected behaviour. You can even write on your natural language, if you don't speak English.

Then fill the spaces between the comments with code.

For example, if you have a spec of "connect to server X and retrieve everything there. Save the content in the database. Remember that server X API allow you can pass an ID (the last ID seen) and you can use it to not retrieve the same content again." Pretty simple, right?

Writing this as comments, pointing the steps you need to make, you may end up with something like this:

// connect to server X
// retrieve posts
// send posts to the database

Ah, you forgot the part about the ID. No problem, you just have to add it in the proper places -- for example, it doesn't make sense to connect to the server before you have the last seen ID:

// open configuration file
// get value of the last seen ID; if it doesn't exist, it's empty.
// connect to server X
// retrieve posts starting at the last seen ID
// send posts to the database
// save the last seen ID in the configuration file

Now it is "easy"1: You just add the code after each comment.

A better option is to change the comments into functions and, instead of writing the code between the comments, you write the functionality in the function themselves and keep a clean view of what your application does in the main code.

1

Yes, that was sarcastic.

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