Ubuntu Coding for Your Friends

So often we write code in isolation and the code reflects our personal interpretation of a problem, as well as a very personalized solution. We may be part of the team, yet we are isolated, as is the team. We forget all too easily that this code created in isolation will be executed, used, extended, and relied upon by others. It is easy to overlook the social side of software creation. Creating software is a technical exercise mixed into a social exercise. We just need to lift our heads more often to realize that we are not working in isolation, and we have shared responsibility towards increasing the probability of success for everyone, not just the development team.

You can write good quality code in isolation, all the while lost in self. From one perspective, that is an egocentric approach (not ego as in arrogant, but ego as in personal). It is also a Zen view and it is about you, in that moment of creating code. I always try to live in the moment because it helps me get closer to good quality, but then I live in my moment. What about the moment of my team? Is my moment the same as the team's moment?

In Zulu, the philosophy of Ubuntu is summed up as "Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" which roughly translates to "A person is a person through (other) persons." I get better because you make me better through your good actions. The flip side is that you get worse at what you do when I am bad at what I do. Among developers, we can narrow it down to "A developer is a developer through (other) developers." If we take it down to the metal, then "Code is code through (other) code."

The quality of the code I write affects the quality of the code you write. What if my code is of poor quality? Even if you write very clean code, it is the points where you use my code that your code quality will degrade to close to the quality of my code. You can apply many patterns and techniques to limit the damage, but the damage has already been done. I have caused you to do more than what you needed to do simply because I did not think about you when I was living in my moment.

I may consider my code to be clean, but I can still make it better just by Ubuntu coding. What does Ubuntu code look like? It looks just like good clean code. It is not about the code, the artifact. It is about the act of creating that artifact. Coding for your friends, with Ubuntu, will help your team live your values and reinforce your principles. The next person that touches your code, in whatever way, will be a better person and a better developer.

Zen is about the individual. Ubuntu is about Zen for a group of people. Very, very rarely do we create code for ourselves alone.

By Aslam Khan

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