In Code: Fashion vs. Style

While talking about technologies and trends, I heard an interesting analogy - the difference between fashion & style as it relates to code.

Posted in Main Thread on September 4, 2012

In a recent interview I hung out with the team after hours. An interesting conversation started with one of their engineers (not developer). We were talking about current technologies. He related this to fashion and style. I thought this was an insightful analogy and wanted to share.

Fashion is the latest trend — in vogue. Technologies such as Ruby on Rails might have been high-fashion a few years ago or NoSQL now. These technologies advocated by diehard evangelists. After all fashion is not without passion. It’s hip and cool and you should do it.

An interesting quality of fashion is that it moves in cycles. Upon closer inspection these technologies are not new. Merely new faces of old technology. MVC from the 1970s. NoSQL from the 1990s.

Style is more lasting. More personal. This is the way we write our code — format, naming conventions, procedural vs. object-oriented. All become our coding style.

We may identify with new fashion and choose to incorporated pieces into our style. Say the descriptive (arguably long) method names common in Objective-C. Although we may not write Objective-C, we can adopt similar method naming when writing PHP code.

In the end, one must balance both fashion and style. Not enough fashion and you risk stagnation. Your style becoming behind the times. Too much fashion and you may be too cutting edge. A victim of the hype curve.

This post resulted from a conversation with Jeremy McEntire. He presented the Fashion vs. Style analogy.

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