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Paranoia is a Very Good Thing

By steve - Posted on 06 October 2009

Only the paranoid survive.--Andrew Grove

I'm not talking about paranoia with respect to your co-workers and your boss, though that might make sense in your situation. I'm talking about being paranoid about your own work product.

Whether you are writing some code, designing a network, or just opening a few ports on your firewall, being paranoid is a very good thing...

When you let your inner paranoid loose, you begin to think in all sorts of "what if" scenarios.

* What if my boss sees this code?
* What if a hacker does a port scan?
* What if a truck smashes through the front of the building into my brand new server rack?
* What happens if someone wiggles this piece here...

As I've said before, you should probably be making your mistakes faster (you're going to make them anyway, just get more effective at it). But, you should also try to make all of your mistakes BEFORE you deliver your end product. I can almost guarantee that you'll have to fix something or you'll miss something (that is why product versions are numbered and almost always have decimal points: 3.0, 3.1, 3.11...). However, having a huge capacity for paranoia will go a long way to help prevent "obvious" disasters.

A big part of being paranoid is testing. Test everything. You should always test your work product, whatever it is:
* Did you answer all of the specifications? If not, do you have approval for any variance? Reread the email/original request and verify your results match the request.
* Did you try all of the obvious functionality? (if you are writing a database web app, can you add, delete, and change the record? Do all the fields get changed?)
* Did you check for proper security?
* Did you put aside all of your assumptions and look at things from a clean perspective?
* Even though you feel you met the original specifications, are there new issues that haven't been anticipated?
* Did you ask any questions along the way? (If not, it isn't too late now to start. Honestly, you really didn't have any questions or make any assumptions?)
* Did anything change from the original specs and have you included those changes?
* Did you check your spelling?
* Did you proof read it?
* Did you have someone else look at the specs and compare your product to the specs? A fresh set of eyes does wonders.
* If you have the luxury of time, can you put it away for awhile and come back to it? A fresh set of eyes does wonders--even if their just yours.

A fresh set of eyes does wonders.

Be paranoid. Test your work. The quality of your work will stand out above everyone else's, including your own.

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