I really enjoyed the entry that Rachel wrote giving “Refactoring” a normal name that ordinary people could understand. I like her synonymous term, “Tidying Up”, because it’s a great metaphor for understanding how important it is to any project in the long term.
There are obvious immediate side effects to tidying anything up. Things are easier to find, easier to move about and much easier to change. People who inherit or work in this “tidied up space” can do everything at amazing speeds. It also means that things can get messy quick. Fast forward three weeks and with all the changes, suddenly the “tided up space” no longer looks very tidy. Clutter begins to build up in piles, you see people duplicating effort, and then you need to start moving things around to even begin finding anything important. The clutter is slowing you down.
It’s important to keep on top of “tidying up” because it maintains your ability to stay fast. It also means that people coming along after you can work almost as fast as you (it still takes them time to adjust to finding where things are and where they should go). More importantly, those people following you need to understand how important it is to keep “tidying up”.
Thanks to lildude for the ‘Messy Desk’ picture and chaosbit for the ‘Tidy Desk’ one (both from flickr).