Tentative Toss It

As described under TossIt, it's wise to discard things that you aren't using, or clutter will accumulate. However, if the items are difficult to replace, a wise strategy is to "toss" them someplace out of your way for a while, but still keep the option to get them back. Perhaps development machines need a "Junkbox" directory somewhere to store the bits and pieces we aren't sure we want to permanently eliminate yet. Thus you "toss" on a trial basis. If some appropriate amount of time passes and you find that you don't miss having them, then finish the job.

The "trash can" of desktop GUIs and email programs is a nice instance of this pattern. You can delete files and email messages without worrying that you might want them back. It takes a second action ("emptying the trash") to finish the job. For instance, under MicrosoftWindows you'd look at the Recycle Bin, sort by date, then point-and-click on the files you wanted to permanently ashcan. When files are deleted from the Recycle Bin they are gone. Such systems would be even better if they had a command like, "Permanently delete all files from the trash can that are more than one month old." Windows provides a point-and-click solution, but no easy way to automate such a task (?).

As an aside, it may be wise to keep a log of one's development efforts in a "Road Not Traveled" collection of some kind. (See TheRoadNotTraveled) Use it to store algorithms, design sketches, even entire sets of functional code. It's nice to have something that Johnny-come-lately can look at so that he doesn't reinvent the square wheel.

The "Road not traveled" idea saved me a lot of trouble recently when I took over maintenance of a project involving some technologies that I wasn't very familiar with. The code was sprinkled with bits of code, commented out, with notes to the effect of "Didn't work. Darn!"

I do something similar fairly regularly: I seem to be moving house quite often these past few years. When I move to the new house, I don't immediately unpack everything. Eventually, I'm left with one box containing things that I've not used in 9 months to a year. I try to simply throw this box out once it's been unused for this long.

I was thinking about refactoring TossIt. Checking for backlinks brought this page up. Are you guys planning on continuing the the work you started here? Need a hand? Want me to help/back off?

If you think it would be a good idea to refactor TossIt, PerpetualNow, TheRoadNotTraveled, JunkBox, this page, and anything else you think fits, then sure -- give it a try. Please, first create a new comprehensive page before axing all the old stuff. And don't forget the backlinks.

See: TossIt, PerpetualNow, TheRoadNotTraveled, JunkBox

Contributors: BenKovitz, MartySchrader

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