Go Read Some Code

Authors read a lot of books to get better at their art.


One thing you can do to become a better developer is to examine other people’s code deeply. Thankfully because of the large amount of great open source software available, this is easy to do. Like an author reading lots of books to master the art of storytelling, you can examine the source code of many great programs to improve your own techniques.

As you examine other people’s programs, ask yourself, is it easy to understand? Did the author write code in such a way as to make it easy for other people to expand and improve on it? If you find code that is not easy to understand, ask yourself why. Is it because they were intentionally trying to be cryptic, or is it because there are patter and techniques at play that you are not familiar with?

Read your own code from a year ago. Is it as easy to read now as it was then? The chances are good that you will be disappointed in how little the historical you thought of future you. This is an excellent exercise to help encourage you to write better code that future developers can use.

Look for good and bad patterns in other people’s code. Often, in packages that are not widely reviewed, you can see developers making mistakes, using antipatterns, and otherwise doing things that are regrettable. You can learn from bad code as well as good code.