Home > Articles > Programming

Limits of Reusability

  • Print
  • + Share This
Software development has many opportunities for trade-offs. It is difficult to optimize for both speed and size, but that's not an argument to do neither. Reuse-in-the-large may be an intractable problem. However, reuse-in-the-domain is eminently doable.
This article appeared originally on Flashline.com.

Recently, I spent a bit of time with a client who was just beginning a reuse project. They were well aware of the potential gains to be garnered through reuse and asset-based development, and were looking forward to reaping them. Unfortunately, they had not positioned themselves correctly, and they were unable to take advantage of any of the potential gains. Somewhere along the line a belief had been formed that all you needed for reuse was a decent tool. Turn it on, and voila, instant reuse.

If it were only that easy. There is scale of reuse efforts, each level paying off in bigger ways as you progress up the ladder. For instance, every time a programmer brings an existing source file into her favorite IDE, hacks it a bit, and then does a file-save-as to create a new module from the old, she has engaged in the first level of reuse. However, ad hoc reuse such as this is at the bottom rung of the ladder. If you wish to gain more from your efforts, you need to go beyond the individual developer. Meaningful reuse only really begins with at least two people, and for the big pay-off, requires even more.

Much the same may be said for asset-based development. However, here, bigger payoffs require not only more people, but also a wider range of participants. Asset-based development breaks you out of the programming ghetto and involves a broader mix of people and roles than just a group of developers agreeing to share some code.

Because both reuse and asset-based development entail groups of individuals working on a common goal, you need organization, and with organization comes politics.

Now, politics is a funny sort of word. It has many connotations, most of which are highly charged and emotional. Just defining the word can be interpreted as a political act. However, my purpose isn't to try to convince you that politics is a negative influence, and that you need to eradicate it from your reuse or asset-based development efforts. As much as most of us in software development prefer rational argument, politics will never be eliminated. We all know it is simply a fact of life in any organization.

On the other hand, acknowledging the inevitability of politics doesn't mean you get to walk away in disgust, muttering to yourself that you'd prefer not to sully your hands, especially if you care about the success of your reuse project. There is a rather large, and growing body of work outlining the challenges of managing reuse or asset-based development projects. A quick survey of nearly a half-dozen, fairly recent articles yields a bumper crop of advice on where to expect various problems and pitfalls, and what you might do to avoid them. What's important to note is that much of the advice concerns non-technical issues.

For instance, Jeffrey Poulin's "Reuse Metrics Deserve a Warning Label" isn't about how reuse metrics work, but the fact that so many of them are open to interpretation. There are no standards regarding their usage. Do you count Lines of Code (LOC) for source produced by an interface code generator? Is it reuse or clever semantics when a programmer using an objected-oriented language claims reuse for any classes he uses more than once within the same application? Fundamentally, determining what metrics to use, and how to use them, is more a political than a technical issue.

Which brings us to the old saw regarding standards. Everyone loves a standard, and that's why everyone has one. A recurring theme among many of the articles I surveyed revolves around the notion of defining standards between groups, and then defending them against the many assaults they will face over time. Perhaps the most articulate example is David Kane and William Opdyke's "Managing Change in Reusable Software." They address the need to develop a shared platform, and then maintain it from the onslaught of the frequently conflicting goals of the groups sharing the platform.

Of course, who gets to decide what the standards are is political in and of itself. As Jack Harich points out in his article "Avoiding the Pitfalls of Components," there is roughly a 70/20 split between component developers and application assemblers. What happens as the process matures and finally reverses into the 20/70 split between developers and assemblers he predicts? Who has the better bargaining position? When? Why?

Then again, defining the standards is one thing, making them known is another. This is especially true for the informal, organic standards that spring up in any shop. Jim Highsmith discusses this tacit knowledge in "Reuse as a Knowledge Management Problem." Underlying his points regarding the difficulty of making tacit knowledge explicit is the assumption of the willingness to share this knowledge. The adage, knowledge is power, is particularly relevant here. Like the challenge of deciding upon who sets the standards, the how, when, and with whom knowledge is shared depends upon the shifting positions of the groups and individuals involved.

Having said all this, I don't expect the scales to magically fall from anyone's eyes. We all know politics exists in any organization regardless of size, or unity of purpose. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. At the risk of sounding too corny, rational discourse is the cornerstone of a strong democracy, or any organization for that matter. Competing needs and ideas are a fact of life. You don't have the option of running your reuse or asset-based development projects based solely on technical grounds. To succeed you're going to have to engage in some old fashioned politicking, like coalition building, whistle-stop tours, and pressing the flesh. But, please, leave the stilettos at home.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020