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1.3. Rehabiting

People cling to their current coding habits even when those habits are manifestly making their code buggy, slow, and incomprehensible to others. They cling to those habits because it's easier to live with their deficiencies than it is to fix them. Not thinking about how you code requires no effort. That's the whole point of a habit. It's a skill that has been compiled down from a cerebral process and then burnt into muscle memory; a microcoded reflex that your fingers can perform without your conscious control.

For example, if you're an aficionado of the BSD style of bracketing (see Chapter 2), then it's likely that your fingers can type Closingparen-Return-Openingcurly-Return-Tab without your ever needing to think about itwhich makes it especially hard if your development team decides to adopt K&R bracketing instead, because now you have to type Closingparen-Return-Openingcurly-Return-dammit!-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Space-Openingcurly-Return-Tab for a couple of months until your fingers learn the new sequence.

Likewise, if you're used to writing Perl like this:

     @tcmd= grep /^.*;$/ => @cmd;

then abiding by the guidelines in this book and writing this instead:

        = grep { m/ \A [^\n]* ; \n? \z /xms } @raw_commands;

will be deeply onerous. At least, it will be at first, until you break your existing habits and develop new ones.

But that's the great thing about programming habits: they're incredibly easy to change. All you have to do is consciously practise things the new way for long enough, and eventually your coding habits will automatically re-formulate themselves around that new behaviour.

So, if you decide to adopt the recommendations in the following chapters, try to adopt them zealously. See how often you can catch yourself (or others in your team) breaking the new rules. Stop letting your fingers do the programming. Recorrect each old habit the instant you notice yourself backsliding. Be strict with your hands. Rather than letting them type what feels good, force them to type what works well.

Soon enough you'll find yourself typing Closingparen-Space-Openingcurly-Return-Tab, and g-r-e-p-Space-Openingcurly-Space, and Closingslash-x-m-s, all without even thinking about it. At which point, having reprogrammed your intuitions correctly, you will once again be able to program "correctly" intuition.

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