The ROI of Refactoring: Lego vs. Play-Doh

I recently had someone stop me randomly and say, “Your Lego vs. Play-Doh talk was one of the best I’ve ever seen – if not the best.” This talk would be the start of my speaking career, due to its overwhelmingly positive reception. The most frequent question I have been asked is, “Did you take all of those photos youself???” Yes. Yes I did. Many, many hours went into the preparation of that slide deck, and it nearly killed me. Each Lego piece and Play-Doh sculpture was done by me, photographed by me, and edited in Photoshop by me. I had a very specific vision for what I wanted, and put in a significant amount of time to achieve that vision. I’m told that it really shows in the final product.

Unfortunately, no video or audio exist of the original talk, which was done in 2010 long before I knew if I was a good speaker, and therefore worth recording. I have wanted to do a voice-over of the talk to narrate the slide-deck – perhaps I will one day.

Original Abstract

Refactoring is one of the most powerful tools for improving the intrinsic quality of any code base. Yet, as important as refactoring is, non-technical business stakeholders tend to see little value in the practice. After struggling for a decade to articulate refactoring in such a way that the ROI was obvious, I finally stumbled upon an analogy that seems to work: Building with Lego vs. Play-Doh. In this presentation I will demonstrate the techniques I use to turn an apprehensive room of business owners into the biggest supporters of refactoring in your organization.

Slides on SlideShare

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