As longtime readers may remember, I suggested a long time ago that if/when VB added refactoring we might not call it “refactoring.” This immediately raised a hue and cry about how I was saying that VB users were “dumb,” how I was turning my back on an industry term that “everybody knows,” how this was just another example of how out of touch we were. I tried to turn in a good defense, but in the end it didn’t really matter, since first refactoring was cut and then it was an add on, and the add on uses the term “refactoring.”
I was reminded of this when I read Chris Williams – someone who would not be described as a low-end VB programmer – talking about how he finally managed to connect the abstract term “refactoring” with the basic concept of “cleaning up your code.” This much more eloquently states what I was trying to get at way back when, which is that what I find annoying about monikers such as “refactoring” is that they often taken a simple, straightforward concept that most people are already familiar with (“cleaning up your code”) and dresses it up in a funny hat to make it look like something new and special. This works well for:
- …the originator of the moniker, because now he gets to be called “the father of refactoring”, which sounds very impressive.
- …the author of the book on refactoring, because “Refactoring” or “Refactoring Explained” sounds more impressive than “How to Clean Up Your Code.”
- …the lecturer on refactoring, because a talk called “Refactoring” or “Refactoring Explained” sounds more impressive than “How to Clean Up Your Code.”
- …the consultant, because saying “well, you really need to refactor this code” sounds more impressive than “well, you really need to clean up this code.”
- …the tools vendor, because saying “Now Supports Refactoring!” sounds more impressive than “Now Helps You Clean Up Your Code!”
Who it doesn’t always work well for is:
- …the guy who just wants to clean up his code but doesn’t really have the time or inclination to invest much time in learning the latest jargon for something that he’s probably already doing today.
All that being said, I freely admit that jargon is often a necessary evil. After all, if you want to talk about a particular concept, you still have to name it. What bugs me is the way that the jargon often starts to take on a life of its own, until the original useful idea that it refers to is almost buried under a pile of formalization and people start to lose sight of the simplicity of the original concept. Maybe there’s nothing to be done about it, but that doesn’t mean we still won’t look for a way out of the dilemma…