When good enough is (or isn’t) good enough

I came across this post the other day that went on and on railing on things that the author found unacceptable in today’s web frameworks, specifically Rails and ASP.NET MVC. It covered the whole gamut of issues, from abstract base classes in ASP.NET MVC to mega-controllers in MVC frameworks.

I’ve thought a lot of the same things too, to various extents. For example, I’ve never understood why controllers existed. Why can’t we just define routes that are handled by route handler classes that use conventions and REST and things like that? Yet I continue to use controllers in web apps. It made me think, at what point is something bad enough to do something about it and when do I just live with it?

This is the kind of question that makes software development so difficult, but at the same time a lot of fun. Today we were looking at a piece of code that needed to be refactored. We couldn’t figure out what the right way was to implement it, nor could we decide if it was worth the time to even do anything about it.

How do you decide what to do in this situation? The way I see it, you have to look at the return on investment on everything you do. In my controller example, I could invest the time to implement some non-controller solution. On a large enough project, I would probably get a good return on investment compared to using controllers.

But then again, you could argue that since controllers are towards the outer layers of the stack, maybe you can live with it. I care much more about the sanctity of the domain model because that’s the heart of my application. So is it really worth the time or not?

But it gets more complicated than that. Let’s say it takes me a week to implement the non-controller solution. During that time I’m not delivering any client facing features, and that might not sit too well with the people paying for your project. I was in this situation once, and the project almost got cancelled. Thankfully I pulled it out and was on the project for a year and a half and my framework investments more than paid off. But those first few weeks were nerve racking.

So what’s the answer to my original question? I guess it depends. As does pretty much everything else in software development. Which means that you don’t get an easy way out and you are going to have to use your head.

I still think I’m right about the return on investment thing. But at the same time you need to be shrewd about it.