Friday, Jun 14 2013

The Most Common Programming Mistakes

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Three Errors to Watch For

The saying “the devil is in the details” certainly didn’t originate with programming, but it’s an apt truism for the world of code. Three simple categories of mistakes and oversights can cause numerous headaches for developers, but it can be difficult to stay on top of all the minutiae. Are you prone to one or more of these missteps? They happen to everyone, but a little practice can give you a sharper eye and reduce your workday stress.

Inconsistency

It isn’t always easy to remember what you’ve named a past piece of data, but when you’re dealing with thousands of bits of information, consistency is your best friend. Call a spade a spade, every time you reference one—or as the case may be, refer to a “product number” as ProductID or ProdID, but not a conglomeration of the two. The same goes for dates and times: rely on the internal clock, or set a company-wide standard—otherwise, you might be faced with endless debates on whether 6/8 refers to June 8th or August 6th.

Overenthusiasm

Sometimes, excitement can impede logical thinking, and a fad is born. These fads can be genuinely good trends, but they’re easily overused or pushed on the wrong audience. Just because something is in style, doesn’t make it the right choice, and could actively harm your end goal. Another common error due to overenthusiasm comes from code completion tools. It’s great to have help with code, but you need to stay on top of even the best tools, even when it’s all too easy to click away and wait for the magic.

Forgetting the basics

After weeks, months, and years spent tackling complex programming, it’s easy to forget the initial lessons you learned. This most commonly shows up when checking the logs—or, rather, not checking them. You need to find an error message before resolving a problem, but programmers often seem to skip over that first step and then find themselves befuddled. If something isn’t making sense, step back and make sure you’ve checked all the avenues for gathering information before calling in reinforcements.

Don’t beat yourself up

If you catch yourself making some of the above mistakes, don’t stress. Even advanced programmers get caught up in little details and find themselves wading through inconsistent timestamps or gleefully showering clients with the latest UI fashion. Instead, take an error as a warning sign, and keep your eyes peeled. These common programming flubs are only true problems if they are consistent; one or two won’t hurt your reputation or work output. But for fewer headaches all around, beware the details that can try to trip you up.

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