Is consistency of method within a solution essential?

As a developer I find that I am constantly finding out about new development methods, constructs and techniques. I don’t know if this is because I am relatively ‘fresh out of uni’ or that I am working in a ‘new’ technology area (e.g. .net3.0) << how many dots?!>> Or whether this is just how development is.

When I find a new method I tend to implement my current task using the new method leaving existing parts of a solution using the ‘old’ method. This can result in a somewhat inconsistent solution, with different areas of the solution using different methods.

Is this a ‘bad’ thing? probably, ideally you would have implemented the whole system using the ‘better’ method from day 1. But is it better to re-do areas of a solution that are working fine as they are? this will take extra effort, and could introduce bugs unneccessarily. So if you don’t re-work all areas of the solution should you resist using new methods within a solution thereby keeping consistency, but not taking advantage of better techniques. Also introducing new methods can be irritating for other members of a development team as they also must understand the new method to be able to work effectively with the solution.

Is it ok for a single solution to use many different building blocks? lots of different methods all working together? It is probably not ideal and I guess this is the purpose of having lead developers and architects who are aware of the general development community and make educated decisions as to which methods will be used and which will be vetoed. But does this mean that non-lead developers should just be code-monkeys? should they not be interested in promoting techniques and methods that aren’t in the existing architecture?

So what do I think? Hmm well I’m not sure, to be honest I liberally go through existing solutions and use new techniques freely with little consideration for the rest of the solution (of course I check everything still works and I haven’t broken existing tests/functionality). However I think that developers should be encouraged to investigate new techniques, but they should not be introduced to production code without discussing the technique with the lead developer or the rest of the team. I do not think that mixing and matching within a solution is definately bad, and in some ways it is a demonstration of decoupling in a solution. The total number of methods in a solution should be managed so as to maintain the maintainability of the solution, so each new method should be judged and a decision made to do one of the following options:

  • Not use the method at all
  • Not use the method in existing solutions but use in new solutions
  • Use the method in all solutions, without reworking existing areas
  • Use the method in all solutions reworking solutions completely to the new method

Whatever choice is made effective communication to the whole development team is essential.

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About Alex McMahon

I am a software developer, interested in .net, agile, alt.net. I've previously specialised with .net 3.0 technologies like WCF, whereas now I am trying to specialise in agile development and best practice and patterns. I am obsessed with looking at the latest technologies, tools, and methods, and trying them out. I am currently employed by Rockwell Collins in the UK.
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