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<Why documentation matters - intent and abstraction ⁄ >




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OK so I know I'm swimming against the tide on this one - so let's just say it "I'm in favor of documentation for software". Eek! Yowza!
Now I don't mean docs for users (although that's important) I mean MS Word documents with nice box and UML diagrams for developers - not just javadoc.

I'd say of all the developers I've worked with, probably 80% dislike (if not disdain) documentation and probably 70% don't even see a need for it. Maybe a little javadoc but hey the signature
"public void doStuff(Object o) throws Exception"
is 100% clear right? WRONG!

For managers the percentages are a little better (60%/50% like documentation) but it is not by much and mostly its because they want to know exactly what's going on and *NEED* documentation.

I see several aspects of documentation as very important and useful to developers primarily and to the enterprise at large secondarily:

1) New Developers / Testers on your team
So you show some 250 kLOC to a new senior engineer, give them a sparse functional spec and ask them to go coding some new feature!?!?! -Personally, I think the learning curve will be huge. Which components do they need to change?
Which components do they need to ignore?
Which interfaces do they need to extend?
How do they test it?
What standards need to be followed - syntax, threading, resources etc.?

Now I'm not talking about creating a 500 page CMM tome - just, say, a 20-40 page document describing layers, the high level architecture and what components do what.

I mean it's easier to read a 20 page architecture / design doc than it is 250 kLoC!

2) Intent
OK so the code is self-documenting and debugged right? So I don't need documentation? Well no! If you've read Knuth you know that very few programs are provably correct (well not any one beyond a few hundred lines in the real world). So your code does what you want it to do? That's great, but does it do what it is *SUPPOSED* to do?
Well maybe you know (or will after more testing) but will anyone else?
More importantly what *YOU* think you need to implement and what your tech lead / architect need to implement can be very different.
Documentation can help elucidate the intent of your program.

3) Clarification
This is similar to #2 but the audience is different - it's YOU - the developer! That's why writing is useful - putting stuff down on paper removes some of the "abstract-ness" and "fuzziness" and makes things more concrete - that is it makes things seem more clearly right (or clearly wrong) or clearly incomplete. OK writing can also make clear things fuzzy too but it helps, excuse the pun, keep folks on the same page.



este é só um excerto do artigo, para aceder ao artigo completo, clique no link em baixo:
this is just a small excerpt from the article, to access the full article please click in the link below:

http://softarc.blogspot.com/2006/06/why-documentation-matters-intent-a...




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