Monday, December 14, 2015

The Art in Pseudo

Most new development work starts with ideas or directives or change orders or functional specifications. From this comes diagrams and wireframes and state diagrams and use cases and UML. From all of this documentary scaffolding one would think a person could just sit down and start coding. But for design work that is more involved than just the standard form-based update to a database, one more step will be helpful: the pseudocode.

In carpentry there's an old maxim "measure twice, cut once." Pseudocode does this same pre-measurement for you when you are programming.

Consider for example this recent change order I received: "Send the file Monday through Friday night at the time specified in the parameter unless the Stop flag is set in the database. Allow an override flag in the database to send the file immediately without otherwise affecting the schedule."

It looks simple enough to describe, but once you start programming you will trip yourself up without some pseudocode that considers the last time the file was sent and the actual time of day. Don't be shy to create the pseudocode if you have any doubts about any boundary conditions. And review the pseudocode with the user to help prevent any unintended misunderstandings.