Technical Debt and Peanut Butter Jars

March 10, 2009. Filed under reflectionsoftware-engineering

I love peanut butter. I couldn't eat a pound of the stuff in a day, but I could eat about four ounces of the stuff. I know, because last year when I was living in Japan I could only find six ounce jars of peanut butter at the local grocery store (named Valor).

The first problem with small jars of peanut butter and obsessive peanut butter consumption is that you have to buy two or three each and everytime you go to the grocery store.

The second problem with small jars of peanut butter is that you need to wash out another annoying little glass jar pretty much every day.

The final problem with small peanut butter jars is that you will skip a day of cleaning.

Then you'll skip another day of cleaning, and a third. By the time I was getting ready to leave Japan my refridgerator was covered with empty peanut butter jars. I had a trashbag filled with empty peanut butter jars. I had cabinets filled with grocery bags filled with empty peanut butter jars.

After whittling away at the pile for weeks, in the last three or four days I spent literally five or six hours cleaning out jar after jar. Finally I finished, and my great reward was to just get back to the place I would have been months ago if I had been proactive enough to clean them out as I used them.

Technical debt is a lot like that, too.