Stig Brautaset: Understanding Alien Artifacts in Legacy Code

EP-171 | June 4, 2024 | 46:04

In this episode of Maintainable, Robby chats with Stig Brautaset, Staff Software Engineer at CircleCI. Stig shares his insights on maintaining well-documented but complex legacy code, the impact of team dynamics on software maintenance, and his experiences with the SBJSON library.

Stig discusses the characteristics of well-maintained software, emphasizing the importance of team experience, domain knowledge, and risk appetite. He reflects on his own career journey, highlighting the transition from overconfidence to a balanced approach to risk-taking.

A significant portion of the conversation delves into Stig's concept of "Alien Artifacts," which describes highly resistant legacy code written by highly skilled engineers. He explains the challenges of modifying such code and shares examples from his own experiences.

Stig also talks about his work on the SBJSON library, addressing the complexities of handling multiple versions and dependency conflicts. He advocates for developers maintaining the software they ship and discusses the balance between shipping features quickly and maintaining long-term code quality.

Key Takeaways

  • The influence of team dynamics on software maintenance
  • Understanding the concept of "Alien Artifacts" in legacy code
  • Strategies for handling multiple versions of a software library
  • The importance of developers being on call for the software they ship
  • Managing different types of technical debt

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