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Brutal Refactoring Game

Brutal Refactoring Game

I wrote a post on the history of Brutal Refactoring Game, you can read it here.

In this blog post I want to tell you more about the workshop and about my experiences while facilitating it. Also I will add some tips for facilitators that want to try themselves this workshop.

The purpose of this workshop is learn what refactoring is, why it is so important to do refactoring often and immediately after you spot some coding smells. Often I ask programmers “when are you doing refactoring?”. The question has a vast number of answers from “when I think I need to”, to “once a month” to something like “every couple of tests”. But seldom I hear that programmers do refactoring all the time, in the minute the tests had passed from red to green”. This is where the format comes into place.

Brutal Refactoring Game

Brutal Refactoring Game

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The history of “Brutal Refactoring Game”

The history of Brutal Refactoring Game

Last year I was thinking about a session during which attendees would learn how to focus on refactoring. I had some thoughts about this: we would need a list of coding smells, and have some cards to give the attendees that had that coding smells in their code. Now the obvious question was: how can you have coding smells if you do not have a code base? I thought about it, and then I figured it out: during coderetreats I anyway see legacy code after 10-15 minutes. So if this session would take 90-120 minutes we would have no issue with finding coding smells.

The first thing was: of course I will ask people to do pair-programming. This is how you learn a lot!

I came with these basic thoughts to Alex, and we had a chat about this session. Initially I had wanted to print one index card for each of the coding smells. But Alex helped me simplify the concept by creating a numbered list of coding smells that would be projected on a screen. Then we thought: we could use index cards just to write the number of the coding smell.

Refactor your code commrades or it s the gulags for you

Now the question was: how do we do this? How can we enforce the coding smells? We thought about it and we said “we love clean code, so we could be something like a dictator”. Then we both had in mind the concept of “Benevolent Dictator“. The sessions was starting to shape-up. The benevolent dictator was a key factor in the environment we wanted to create: learn and play.

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