Web Development for the Pathologically Lazy

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There are few professions where laziness is as much of a virtue as it is in software development. Your average run of the mill – do the bare minimum so I can get back to watching TV – immediate gratification laziness won’t do. Software demands hardcore, strategic laziness.

In software every new line of code you write, or worse, every old line you modify, risks introducing bugs. For many of the people in your ecological food chain, it is best if you do nothing at all. While the only known way to never produce bugs, doing nothing comes with various inherent drawbacks of its own; being fired, playing farmville, and signing internet petitions are all known side effects of not having enough to do.

The goal then is to get as much achieved with as little new work as possible. There are a few keys to this.

  • Focus the work by spending time designing then cut out a significant fraction of the design. Build each part as simply as you can get away with.
  • Use common toolchains that you know well. If you use bleeding edge tools, unusual combinations, or tools that are not popular in your domain you’ll waste time finding unofficial (i.e. honest) documentation, run into bugs and not be able to hire people.
  • Reuse code ruthlessly. Whether it is your own code, or a third party framework or library code that does some approximation of what you want and has already been tested with real world use will save you significant time in writing, testing, and fixing the things that real users inevitably find.
  • Do things properly the first time. If you don’t have time to do it properly put it off till later. Revisiting old hacks saps time and morale.

You should be working feverishly at doing as little as possible, not just reducing the code you produce today, but reducing the time you spend revisiting it later.

Photo of Luke Welling

Luke Welling

Tidal Labs

Luke Welling is from Melbourne, Australia, but lives in rural Maryland.

He’s seen lots of good code and bad code, and tries to write more good than bad. Over the last decade, he has applied PHP in many places where it was intended, and in many places where it was never meant to go.

With his wife Laura, he wrote the bestselling book PHP and MySQL Web Development and often speaks about PHP at conferences and user groups.

His hobbies include riding his horses and sticking Splayds in toasters, although he has not yet attempted to do both at once.