You said ‘Should!’

I worked with a great developer one time that thought the word "should" was a dirty word.  As in:

  • Me:  "It should work as is"
  • Him:  "You said 'Should!'"

You'll have to make my word for it that the way *he* said it was funny.

The point being is that the phrase "it should work" is close to worthless, and borderline dangerous.  You're either sure something will work because you've tested all of the plausible possibilities that you know of, or you don't know something will work.  I've found myself repeating that phrase quite a bit the last couple of weeks as "it should be easy" turns into day long tasks or biggish stack traces.

About Jeremy Miller

Jeremy is the Chief Software Architect at Dovetail Software, the coolest ISV in Austin. Jeremy began his IT career writing "Shadow IT" applications to automate his engineering documentation, then wandered into software development because it looked like more fun. Jeremy is the author of the open source StructureMap tool for Dependency Injection with .Net, StoryTeller for supercharged acceptance testing in .Net, and one of the principal developers behind FubuMVC. Jeremy's thoughts on all things software can be found at The Shade Tree Developer at http://codebetter.com/jeremymiller.
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  • http://www.danielmoth.com/Blog Daniel Moth

    I had two colleagues always arguing over new features.
    One would say to the other:
    - “Just do this, that and that and it will work”.
    The other would always reply:
    - “You said ‘just’. I’ve told you many times, ‘just’ is a 4 letter word”.

    It was funny they way he said it :)

  • PandaWood

    Actually, I disagree that the phrase “It should work” is close to worthless.

    A phrase like this is approprate when outside variables that are not under your control are still possible. So “It should work”… eg providing Windows doesn’t crash for some other unrelated reason or IIS doesn’t cark it for some unexplainable, buggy reason…

    I think “it should work” means that everything that you are in control of determines that it will work , but that things that are out of your control, could feasibly happen – which realistically, is always possible in software.

    Strictly speaking, then, you can probably never do any better than “it should work”. Or am I being too anal about it?

  • http://kjellsj.blogspot.com KjellSJ

    One of my favorite phrases is “Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups” (from the Steven Seagal movie Dark Territory). I apply it anytime a “programmer” tells me that something should work and need not be tested/checked/verified.

  • http://benreichelt.net/ ben reichelt

    Ha! I had the same thought a little bit ago:

    http://benreichelt.net/blog/2006/07/06/but-does-it/

    It’s true too, when you say “should”, you’re just basically leaving yourself an “out” in case it actually doesn’t work :)

  • Dan

    Funny, i sometime use a similar quote when giving advice…
    Say with great conviction : “It will work!” and add timidly after “I think.”

  • http://ebersys.blogspot.com Eber Irigoyen

    the funny thing was right after I read this entry, I asked a co-worker
    - so, does the latest default.aspx work?
    - it should!