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Working Code Podcast – Episode 99: Technical Debt Isn’t Romantic

Published: November 2, 2022

This week, I’m super excited to be getting the band back together! After several weeks of personal and professional obligations, Adam, Carol, Tim and I are all back at it again. And today, we’re talking about Technical debt. When engineers talk about technical debt in public, they often try to use financial metaphors; such as taking out a loan (debt) in order to buy a house (value).

These financial metaphors romanticize the notion of technical debt, elevating it into the realm of calculated decision making. But, if I’m being honest with myself, is any kind of calculation really taking place when I create technical debt? Or, am I just trying to do the best that I can with the knowledge and experience that I have? In other words, isn’t most of my technical debt really just the result of me writing janky code at the upper-limit of my capabilities?

All that and more on this week’s show:

… featuring these beautiful, beautiful people:

With audio editing and engineering by ZCross Media.

For the full show notes and links, visit the episode page. And, be sure to follow the show and come chat with us on Discord! Our website is and we’re @WorkingCodePod on Twitter and Instagram. New episodes drop weekly on Wednesday.

I work on a legacy system and that legacy system is littered with tech debt. And, as I’ve been maintaining it and I’m looking at all this code that I wrote years ago, none of it smacks of calculated decisions. It’s all like, oh, I just didn’t know how to write good code and that was literally the best code that I could write at the time and it’s not romantic. It’s not like I’m weighing pros and cons.

I don’t know if that’s a unique experience or if a lot of people are making real calculated decisions around tech debt. But I know that I’m not — almost the entirety of my tech debt is incidental shenanigans that I didn’t know how to do anything about at the time.

So first off, I gotta say, I think you’re putting entirely too much faith in people that take out loans, like financial loans.