Choose Your Path Wisely

This article was inspired by a strangely acting Gradle build script. (Unimportant details: it worked fine locally, and it worked in Jenkins the first time, but when I renamed the job, it mysteriously started failing with a compile error every time after that.)

As I was troubleshooting that Jenkins job, I had a thought – I’ve known engineers and one manager who would have “just fixed it” – they would have changed the job name back to what worked and moved on. In the case of the (ex) manager, he would have made a decree to just change the name back, and would have been angry if anybody dared question his command.

I used to be annoyed by that manager – until I realized two things: (1) He does not have any real choice at this stage in his career. He has chosen the easy path for so long, he literally never developed the skills needed to understand and solve difficult problems. And since he doesn’t have the skills, he assumes nobody else does either, or gets jealous when they demonstrate those skills, and (2) I have chosen a different path. I think of it as “no magic in my world”. As in, until I figured it out, it was “magic” why one Jenkins job worked yet the other failed, and “magic” is not allowed as an explanation in my world. (I also sometimes think of this as “never be afraid of the system you are developing”.) And yes, I figured it out, and learned another piece of the Gradle system. There is neither “magic” nor fear left in that particular area for me.

A thought-provoking question: which Path is more efficient? I can’t say for sure – because when I can rattle off an answer to the current problem in 2 seconds, that feels good, and feels productive, but it took years to learn where to put the X. Either pay gradually over time or gradually over time become afraid.

I do know one thing though: when push comes to shove, I’m capable of acting like (and I have numerous times acted like) I’ve followed the “head in the sand” path. The opposite is not true, however.

For those of you on the “no magic” path – the “X” is: Do not use as part of your generated sources. Any time the directory name changes (as in Jenkins, which creates the workspace directory name from the Jenkins job name), the value of Gradle’s will change too.

For those of you on the other path – if you are reading this, then there is still hope for you yet.

Care about understanding and
before you know it,
in just a few decades,
you’ll have a system of thinking
that gives you answers
whenever you ask.
Richard Bach
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