The Bugsworth Letters: 6

The Bugsworth Letters: 6


My Dear Mugwort,

Oh my! The patient has discovered the works of Fowler and Feathers!? This is terrible indeed, but I do believe I still have one trick up my sleeve. Fowler and Feathers are both experts in the art of “refactoring”, and you may have heard the patient utter this word. The only hope you have is that the patient is still new to these ideas, and therefore you have the chance to corrupt their knowledge before it is cemented into their underdeveloped brain.

Once they have started devouring Fowler and Feathers’ works they will start to talk about code smells and be so overwhelmed by the myriad of refactorings that you must encourage their profligate use!

Tell them that they need to abstract everything! Duplication must be avoided at all costs! Use all of the refactorings! Buy them a copy of the Gang of Four book, and encourage them to design with patterns, not refactor into them.

You must bury their efforts in a mountain of good intentions! If one refactoring or pattern is good, then a thousand must be better! Go ahead and add that configuration option; you never know when you’ll need it.

Pushing them to refactor more and more for flexibility will lead to work that is so abstract as to deter even the most devoted of teammates from deciphering and debugging. You may think these teammates will be appalled and push back, but fear not! They will keep their lips sealed for fear of being seen as a fool, for it is common knowledge that all software developers have unrelenting cases of imposter syndrome.

I’m nervous at how insistent the patient has become in thwarting your efforts! But you must stay the course, otherwise the patient will undoubtedly succeed.

Your Affectionate Uncle,


This letter is part of a series. Check out the previous letter, here.

What if there were a nefarious figure at work behind the scenes, trying to ruin our efforts to write software—an antagonist to our efforts of quelling complexity?

Well, through undisclosed means and methods, we’ve uncovered a series of correspondences, and they seem to unveil just such a figure—Uncle Bugsworth. He wants software to fail. He wants complexity and entropy to win out over simplicity and functioning software. And he’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.

At least, that’s what we’ve gathered from the letters that we’ve read thus far. See for yourself and make your own judgments.

These are the cordial letters between Bugsworth and his nephew, Mugwort.

(Heavily inspired by CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters)

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