Consistency Is the Key
When working in a larger development team, it’s important to have clear conventions for various aspects of the project. Some of the conventions could be about the team’s ways of working, such as code review processes, git practices and other topics. Most time consuming debates usually are about code style and coding conventions. I personally think that the conventions really don’t matter. What matters is that everyone follows the agreed conventions consistently.
Why Conventions Are Needed
Don’t Blindly Copy Best Practices
There are a lot of examples of long form best practices and conventions written up, which you can check out and adopt in your team as it suits your team. Something that works for others, may not work in your cause though. It is always best to discuss together and agree on the conventions that work for your team and project. However, I would argue that the conventions themselves are unimportant. The only thing that matters is that everyone is following the same conventions and doing so consistently. Over time, the code base should remain somewhat uniform to the extent it is possible.
You may think that is a bad idea, and stops innovation and adopting new trends and technologies. I dare to disagree. New conventions can be agreed on, and when a new convention is agreed on, it should be used in the codebase from that day on. Either by refactoring the whole code base to follow the new convention, which should be doable if the previous convention was followed carefully, or by using tools such as phenomnomnominal/betterer to incrementally adopt a new convention, and stop anyone from adding new code that does not follow the newly agreed convention. It is equally important to document the agreed conventions and keep the documentation up-to-date over time in addition to making sure everyone on the team hears about and understands the agreed conventions.
Conventions Should Not Be Carved in Stone
A team’s conventions should be evolving as the team evolves, learns something new, and new members join the team. It is impossible to agree on perfect conventions that would cover all the future aspects taking into account all the things that are going to happen in the project, in the tech field and in the world. A good example of this is how many teams used to work mostly co-located at offices, but suddenly, due to COVID-19, had to switch to working fully remotely. This has forced teams to evolve their ways of working and conventions in order to adapt to the new situation and continue collaborating in an effective manner.
What Works for Your Team
How are the conventions agreed on in your team? How do you document your conventions? What has been the most challenging topic to agree on? I would be interested to know that. You can reach out to me on Twitter: @0lpeh via DM or by commenting on this Twitter thread or in any other way that suits you best.