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Decoding Developer Jargon – Part One: The Basics

4 MINUTE READ | November 24, 2014

Decoding Developer Jargon – Part One: The Basics

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Emily Fox

Emily Fox has written this article. More details coming soon.

Speaking to a developer can be difficult. With all the internal terminology rattled out casually in conversation, it can be hard to follow what they’re saying. Some of their phrases have to be made up… right?!

Here’s a list of some basic developer jargon to help get you on the right track next time you have to head into the developers den.

  1. BugA bug is a failure/ error/ fault in the code or software. It’s doing something it shouldn’t, or not doing something it should. But where did this term come from? Well, in 1947 a group of associates at Harvard were working on the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator and were having issues with one of the circuits. They finally located what was wrong with it, and ‘debugged’ it by pulling out a two inch moth! From then on when something was going wrong with a computer they said it had ‘bugs’ in it. Debugging is the process of finding and fixing, or bypassing, the code error.Check out a picture of the first “computer bug” here.

  2. Lorem IpsumThe real placeholder text, none of this ‘banana, banana, banana’ business. Lorem Ipsum is dummy text used because it has more-or-less normal distribution of letters, making it look like readable English. The text itself has roots to Latin literature from 45 BC, whoa! Now there are several ipsum generators for whatever you may want your dummy text to be – check out a few here. My personal favourites are and (I’m sneaking some NZ culture in!)Read more Lorem Ipsum facts!

  3. RefactoringThis one gets thrown around our team a bit, “I’m refactoring this”, “Let’s refactor that”. Why? Because it’s awesome! Code refactoring is the process of taking existing code and making it better by improving the readability and reducing the complexity of the code, without changing it’s external behaviour. You change the factoring of code by breaking it down into parts that are easier to understand and maintain – this can also be referred to as decomposition.

  4. UIUser interface. That’s it, simple! It’s the design of an information device for human-machine interaction. This can range from your keyboard and mouse, to the elements on your screen or in a web page (i.e. buttons, help messages etc). The goal is to have a user-friendly UI so that when you interact with it, it provides the expected result.

  5. Web CachingEver been told something is “cached” and to “try clearing your cache”?  Well, we know cache is synonymous with ‘store’ or ‘hoard’, and maybe we’ve even seen a few episodes of hoarders, but how does that apply to a website? Web caching is the temporary storage of items, such as pages and images, to increase performance. To simplify it even more, certain elements are getting stored for quick access so you don’t have to access them ‘new’ each time, this helps speed things up, like the time it takes to load a page, and reduce bandwidth.

Got those down? Good, here’s a few bonus extras just for fun:

  • Heisenbug – A pun on the name of the physicist, Werner Heisenberg. He first asserted the observer effect of quantum mechanics which states that the act of observing a system inevitably alters its state. This is a bug that, when you attempt to observe and fix it, changes or disappears. Frustrating!

  • Refuctoring – Slightly different to refactoring, in that you take a small, good piece of code and, through a series of small changes, turn it into something only you would be able to understand and manage. Uh oh.

  • Rubber Ducking – The process of explaining your code line-by-line to an inanimate object, like a rubber duck, in order to debug it. The term references a story told in The Programatic Programmer book.

That’s all for now, keep tuned for Decoding Developer Jargon – Part Two where we’ll dive in deeper to more technical terms! Don’t forget to follow us on facebook or twitter to ensure you never miss a PMG blog post!

– Emily Fox

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