We often describe technical debt with a financial metaphor: we get some benefit today by incurring some (greater but unknown) cost tomorrow. This simplistic definition ignores the fact that some “debts” are higher impact than others — not everything that is “wrong” or that is viewed as a debt is wrong in an impactful way. Instead, we can think of technical debt more like pollution than like financial debt. Pollution is hard to clean up after the fact, doesn’t necessarily get better on its own, and needs to be viewed with an eye to prevention, monitoring, and enforcement. In this talk, I'll explore the implications of this metaphor, how it impacts the way we think about the environments we work in, and what it can tell us about making better decisions moving forward.
Hyrum Wright has worked at Google (mostly) since 2012, mainly in the areas of large-scale maintenance of Google's C++ codebase, and is currently the TLM of the Code Health team. Hyrum has made more individual edits to Google's codebase than any other engineer in the history of the company, and is one of the editors of the Google SWE Book.