Sixth week of GSoC: On taking breaks and abstaining from rewriting old code

sappelhoff
Published: 07/07/2019

This past week I finally finished the big Pull Request on coordinate systems and writing T1 MRI data for BIDS. Right after the PR was done, I felt like taking a break and not immediately start coding again. Usually, that works quite well in my life as a PhD student: There is a large diversity of non-coding tasks going from reading, over writing, to simply recording data (very practical work). With currently being a student in the Google Summer of Code, I perceive much less diversity of tasks: There are lots of features to be implemented ... and as soon as one feature gets done, the next one should be tackled.

  • How do other software developers take breaks (or when)?
  • Do they even feel like taking a break after finishing a certain feature?
  • Or is this an issue too individual to be generally answered?
  • ... or could it be that my perception of the different coding tasks was a bit too coarse last week and that "implementing features" is more diverse than it sounds?

Anyhow, I overcame my short period of lower motivation and started to work again on the mne-study-template, just to face the next challenge: Rather than iteratively improve the codebase, I felt the urge to completely rewrite it from scratch.

Some background: I did not design or implement the codebase so far, so everything is rather new to me. I quickly realized that the study template is very biased towards specific types of data to be processed ... and also very biased towards a specific structure that the data should be set up in. With my job to make the mne-study-template more general and relying on a data standard rather than arbitrary data structures, a re-write seemed most efficient to me. Fortunately, I remembered this quote by Joel Spolsky from his blog entry Things you should never do, Part 1:

"Programmers are, in their hearts, architects, and the first thing they want to do when they get to a site is to bulldoze the place flat and build something grand."

The takeaway of the post is, that re-writing an existing codebase from scratch is rarely a good idea.

So next week, I'll further dig into the study template and start with iterative improvements..

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