Don’t Build Salmon Cannons

Today I learned about Salmon Cannons. Salmon have evolved to swim up river to spawn, but the introduction of dams has created a sometimes impossible obstacle for salmon to overcome.

A clever solution has been found in the way of the Salmon Cannon – a slippery tube that sucks salmon over obstacles so that they can continue their journey upstream.

The Salmon Cannon is a solution to a problem that the world found itself in – Salmon could no longer swim upstream because they were blocked by the dams. Human beings – being the creative and pragmatic bunch that we are – found a creative and ingenious solution to the problem at hand.

As developers we’re problem solvers, and building the code equivalent of a Salmon Cannon is something that we do on a daily basis.

We find ourselves in the middle of a problem – a challenge, even – and we do what we do best. We code our way out of it. It’s natural.

But… on further thought – the Salmon Cannon isn’t the ultimate solution. The problem that we were given was How can we help Salmon with their journey upstream – when dams are blocking their way? We’ve solved that.

But maybe a better approach would have been to stop, and consider the possibility Do we still need the dam, or can we just remove it? Sure – sometimes this is out of the question, but in reality – sometimes this really is the solution.

I see this in development all the time. Developers find themselves a problem – and they try dozens of ways of solving it – never stopping to think why they’ve found themselves in that predicament in the first place. I’ve found that so many times the solution to a problem is to change it.

Coding without thought is a hard vice to break – but once you do, you’ll find yourself producing solutions that you can look back on and be proud of.

Don’t be a Salmon Cannon builder, be a dam destroyer!

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