Quick Code Improvements

Here are 21 small improvements you can make to your code or the tooling around it, taken from the Code Quality Challenge in February 2021. If you find yourself with 20 minutes spare, pick one and see how far you can get.

  1. Improve your README

    For example, document the philosophy behind your project and how it fits into the larger ecosystem; give a comparison to similar projects; give usage examples; explain how it’s developed and tested; how it’s deployed (if it’s a program); and your approach to outside contributions.

  2. Nuke TODO comments

    Grep for TODO and: if out of date, delete; if still relevant, fix or turn into an issue; and if you’re unsure, find someone who is sure.

  3. Get rid of a warning

    Whether it’s in the code proper or just in the tests, fix at least one.

  4. Delete some unused code

    Tools like unused or test coverage metrics can help you track down dead code.

  5. Trim your (git) branches

    Run git remote prune origin to delete any tracking branches which have since been merged or deleted. If you have any old branches of your own, get rid of them with git push origin --delete <branch>.

  6. Extract a compound conditional

    Look for complex conditionals of multiple terms and see if they can be extracted into a function or a variable whose name clearly expresses what is being checked.

  7. Slim down an overgrown class

    Look at your largest classes (or modules if you’re using a class-less language) and see if there are any bits of code which can be refactored. Extract a new class (or module), delete a stray comment, improve a name, tighten the visibility of a method (or function, type, etc), split apart a long method, and so on.

  8. Help new starters get up to speed

    The actual challenge was to create a setup script, but you might have a different approach to solving this problem. So create a setup script, or a Dockerfile, add instructions to your README, or however you do it.

  9. Run your tests with no network connection

    Tests which rely on an external service are slow and brittle, so try to get your tests passing without any such dependencies.

  10. Investigate your slowest tests

    Find your 10 slowest tests or so and have a look through them. Are any duplicates? Can any be replaced by a faster variant? Are they actually useful?

  11. Improve one name

    Find one poorly-named thing and make it better. Any thing.

  12. Audit your dependencies

    Are they still needed? Is everything up to date? Can a runtime dependency be turned into a build or test dependency?

  13. Audit your PRs and issues

    Have any been hanging around for a while? If so, are they still relevant? If you’re not sure, ask the reporter if they can confirm, and close the issue if they don’t get back to you in a week or so.

  14. Investigate long parameter lists

    Long parameter lists, particularly if they occur in multiple methods (or functions), might indicate that there’s a useful type you’re missing, or that some of the parameters should be instance data. Some parameters, like booleans, may indicate that you’ve got one method doing the work of several, and it should be split up.

  15. Automate something repetitive

    Find something you do repeatedly and automate it. For example, write shell aliases for some commands you run a lot.

  16. Audit your database schema

    You might look for inconsistent column names, missing indices, or missing null or foreign key constraints.

  17. RTFM

    Look at the docs for something you use a lot—whether that’s a development tool (like your text editor), or a backing service (like a database), or a framework, or something else—and see if there’s anything which you can apply.

  18. Investigate high-churn files

    Files which change a lot can point to a good refactoring opportunity. With git you can see the number of commits each file has with:

    git log --all -M -C --name-only --format='format:'  \
        | sort \
        | grep -v '^$' \
        | uniq -c \
        | sort -n \
        | awk 'BEGIN {print "count\tfile"} {print $1 "\t" $2}'
  19. Create or update your snippets

    If your text editor has support for snippets, make sure you have some for any code patterns you type a lot.

  20. Begin plugging a knowledge gap

    There’s probably something you know you don’t know. Start doing something about it: spend 20 minutes researching it and start to chip away at your lack of knowledge.

  21. Extract a method

    Look at your larger methods (or functions), are there any groups of functionality which could be pulled out into smaller units of code with their own clear names?