February 9, 2014, 5:53pm

Practice Makes Perfect

Professional baker/member of my band Jake at a band retreat recently, practicing.

Professional baker/member of my band Jake at a band retreat recently, practicing.

Editor’s note: I think this falls under the heading of ‘conventional wisdom.’ In addition, I’m walking a fine line between ‘self-help’ and ‘beating a dead horse.’ Perhaps poorly. Bear with me.

I do a lot of programming. Sometimes I do it for work, sometimes I do it for fun, but all in all I’m looking at code for about 75% of my waking hours. If there’s one thing that guides developers in their work, it’s this almighty principal:

Don’t repeat yourself.

DRY, as it’s often abbreviated, is something that transcends every coding language, every discipline, and every project. I’d wager it’s the best way to gauge a developer’s skill: how well does he/she handle repetitive tasks? I’d place my observations of really good programmers close to the realm of religious experience; the code they write is efficient, extensible, and most impressive of all, elegant.

I find myself doing a lot of repeating. I feel guilty every time I have to slog through a repetitive task because I lack the knowledge to attain the almighty DRY. But today, writing out a piece of code that I’ve probably written 100 times prior, I figured I’d take a time out to consider the pros and cons of repetition. And at the end of it, I really wanted to make a point. That point:

Don’t repeat yourself.

Because repeating yourself is the best way to learn how things work. I think the drive to avoid repetition minimizes the fact that repetition creates opportunities for improvement. Obviously, there are different types of repetition, and DRY still reigns almighty in the code I write, but the point stands: Repeat yourself often. Do things twice. Finish a task, then start from scratch. Practice.