Dumping Grounds for Good and Bad

Ryan James Spencer

A former colleague and friend once referred to modules that grow without any clear organisation as "The Dumping Grounds". You probably know this module: it often is named "utils" and acts as a kitchen sink for anything you are unsure where to put. It might come in a different name, and there might be several of them when the last dumping grounds were abandoned. When that happens, it's only a matter of time until the majority of modules all become dumping grounds.

I do this thing when I'm coding or writing articles sometimes that I also call "The Dumping Grounds". It's similar because it's a pit of random junk I think might be useful but may also just be crap. I have a rule about this space: whatever is left in there by the time I'm done with the main chunk of work gets thrown out. No disputes.

I might do this with things like whitespace or certain patterns of characters, when writing these articles. For example, I'll tend to put a triple-hyphen or triple-underscore to mark where the dumping ground begins and it (generally) ends at the end of the file.

With the clear discrepancy of the dumping grounds, you can pick and choose what you want from it, knowing full well it will get deleted. Other times, like in code, it can be a bit more subtle.

When people work, there tends to be a bit of mess accumulated in particular areas of the final piece. If the whole thing is a mess it can be hard to think, but if the mess is distinct it can be a guiding force. Parts of a sculpture might clearly be finished and other parts are in the rough. When I code, there is usually a combination of tactically using whitespace, comments, and sometimes syntactic/type constructs to keep chunks of mess easily identifiable, and, most importantly, deletable.

If you treat dumping grounds as the landfills they are and try to keep them out of your results then you'll get closer to the target you want. By using this form of recognizable mess attached with a rule you can do just that, but remember that mess is inevitable and that's ok! This approach isn't saying "it can all be a bit messy just for this one piece". What it is saying is "this is what I want and this is the mess I'm using to get there which I will not keep".