Feeds

Code scavenging goes formal

Careful what you consume

Business security measures using SSL

Scott Hackett at SlickEdit has blogged its time to update the time-honored practice of code scavenging. According to Hackett, taking a more formal approach could help to improve developer productivity.

He argues that, while software re-use has historically concentrated on higher level frameworks and larger objects, there are also potential benefits in using code scavenging to fulfill the smaller (and less glamorous) "bite-size tasks" that developers face every day.

Hackett makes some good points, but can scavenging for scraps really turn you into a master programmer, and is it possible - or even desirable - to institutionalize this "make-do" approach?

Code scavenging is seen as the most frequent and least complex way of re-using code and has been common practice at an informal level since programming first began. Programming is difficult to teach and most programmers learn their chops by looking at working code and using it as the basis for building their own programs. In other words, they "scavenge" the good bits and tweak them to a new purpose.

The term scavenging appears to have first surfaced as a formal concept in a 1992 paper by Charles Krueger of Carnegie Mellon University. It was tested by academics in the 1990s but rejected because it yielded few gains for a lot of effort.

According to Hackett, code scavenging is worth re-visiting because the Web makes it easier to find code and re-use it. He points to sites where massive amounts of existing code are available for potential scavenging such as Google code search, Sourceforge, Code Project, Microsoft's Codeplex, and O'Reilly's Code Search. Others include the Free Software Foundation (FSF), FreeVBcode.com, Freecountry and Freshmeat.

He accepts that there are a few problems with scavenging for "bite-size tasks" however. The tools to find code at this level do not yet exist and it is difficult to define and package small-scale code components so they are identifiable. You are unlikely to find what you want with a simple Web search

Techniques such as literate programming could possibly be used to create an appropriate syntax that makes small code components easier to define. But as programming guru Edsger Dijkstra pointed out many years ago, although mastery of language is just as important in good programming practice as mastery of logic and numeracy, it is not as common as it should be.

The biggest barrier to formal code scavenging, however, is the problem of trust. Programmers are, quite rightly, suspicious of code they did not create themselves and any scavenged artifacts will need thorough testing to ensure they do what they are supposed to do - and nothing else. This could be so time consuming as to negate any potential productivity gains.®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.