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By Brian Biddle

The little foxes that spoil the vineyard

The Debt of Rogue Processes and Poor Documentation
February 28, 2020

Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. This ancient love poem from Song of Solomon wisely warns of the relational damage caused by ignoring the little problems. The same can be true in all aspects of life.

I’m a little OCD. When I get going, whether it’s cleaning a car, vacuuming all nooks and crannies, or taking an appliance apart, I can’t stop once I start.

This can be a super positive trait. However, it does have some drawbacks. Just ask my wife and kids how long I’ve let the vacuum run while cleaning out the family vehicles. The droning noise can drive you crazy.

I’ve noted similar traits while working. Good and Bad. A bad habit of mine is running into a bug or global setting on our platform that I want to adjust. In my impatience, I quickly open up an HTML widget and apply a line of CSS. While this is not a wrong approach, what I do next is what causes the problem. I move on and tell no one. Rather, I should do the following:

  1. Note: add a note to the CSS file as to what I’m adjusting
  2. Document: create a journal entry of sorts providing more detail
  3. Ticket: Weekly or (better yet) at the end of the day, create a ticket outlining if it’s a bug or feature that I’d like added to our platform.

These three steps bring the right people into the picture, provide proper accountability, and ensure continued product improvement and stability.

Recently I ran into a problem of my own doing. A new set of controls for featured headlines was not working correctly—time to complain to our developers, I thought. We have a broken widget. Scott, our lead developer, quickly noted that some CSS (that I had added) conflicted with the new default controls. Egg on my face. I slunk back into our customizer and removed the CSS I applied some time ago to adjust a headline size I did not like. Had I worked through 1-3 noted above, this conversation would not have happened. The real problem here was that my rogue CSS had been added to other layouts creating the same issue there as well. Problem multiplied.

This headline font issue was a vivid example of the debt (little fox ignored) that results from adding rogue CSS and not documenting correctly and then appropriately adjusting through an organized ticketing process.

Note. Document. Ticket. Lesson Learned.

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