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Coding Standards Writ Large

Kenneth Fisher points out the downside of coding standards:

I’m betting you can start to see the problem right? Joe is supporting application A. His team wrote it, and they wrote it using a strict set of coding standards. Jane supports application C. Her team didn’t write it, it was transferred over during the reorg last March. Her team has a set of coding standards they enforce, unfortunately, application C wasn’t written with them. All of their new code is however because their manager wants strict enforcement of their coding standards. Oh, and Joe and Jane are both being moved to be part of a new team next week. They’ll be supporting some older code, that, you guessed it, is using a whole different set of coding standards, if any.

Starting from the Coasean notion of the firm as a means of internalizing externalities and achieving economies of scale + scope, this is just about where you hit the margin for added productivity… Rephrasing this not to be in economist jibber-jabber, this kind of thing is a big part of why really large companies essentially spin off mini-companies and act nearly-independently under the parent company’s umbrella. It’s essentially impossible to create and enforce a meaningful set of standards once you hit a certain threshold of developers, especially when it comes to the more opinion-heavy standards.