It is easy to become absorbed in the technical challenges that arise, complex problems that need untangling, and the novelty of the latest tools and technologies. While these are integral aspects of the coding process, they should never overshadow an essential underlying principle: conscious coding. But what exactly is conscious coding, and how can we cultivate it to improve our craft?

Understanding conscious coding

A conscious coder is deeply aware and deliberate in the decisions they make as they write each line of code. They understand the short and long-term impacts of their choices in areas such as performance, security, and maintainability.

The ultimate aim? To write effective, efficient, and ethical code that benefits the intended users, the wider community, and the subsequent developers who inherit our work. And to do all of this in a sustainable way.

So what are the features of a conscious coder?

1. Human-centric coder

They understand that the end goal of technology is to serve human needs. They consider the user experience and strive to write code that creates meaningful interactions for users. They understand their users.

2. Continuous learner

What holds true today might not tomorrow. Technology is ever evolving: from Assembly language, to high-level languages like C# and Javascript, to game engines like Unity. Change is constant and learning in the realm of tech isn’t a straightforward process. It’s a spiral: you learn, implement, dig deeper, learn something new, and implement again. This circular journey is the essence of being a conscious coder.

By staying updated with the latest tools (such as new libraries or engines), understanding emerging concepts (like new architectural styles in backend or algorithms in game physics), and familiarising ourselves with enhanced processes (like Agile or DevOps methodologies), they ensure that they apply the right tool at the right time to solve the right problems for users.

3. Resilient

They embrace failure as a learning opportunity. They display resilience and perseverance during difficult times, accepting that errors and setbacks are a part of the development journey. They have a favourite story of a failure that they are eager to share with others.

4. Empathetic and promotes psychological safety

They understand the importance of clear and empathetic communication. Respectful interaction with their team members promotes a more successful, creative, and harmonious work environment. They understand the benefit of psychological safety in themselves and others around them and cultivate this safety.

5. Prioritises health

Conscious coders grasp the value of their physical well-being and know that it is closely tied to their mental performance. They avoid undue pressure and burnout, understanding that long working hours don’t equate to productivity. They move and play.

6. Shares knowledge and helps others

They share their knowledge and are open to learning from others within their team.

7. Writes efficient code

Performance optimisation is a key aspect of conscious coding. Conscious coders understand that while certain routines, methods, designs, and data collections might provide short-term success, adopting a more meticulous and measured approach in our selection often brings greater benefits in terms of time and resource conservation over time.

8. Security conscious

In an era where data breaches and cyber-attacks take centre stage, conscious coders bear the responsibility of maintaining and championing security measures, starting from the ground up – our code. They keep themselves continually educated on the latest threats and security practices to protect end users and maintain their trust.

9. Clean coder

Conscious coding is not only intended for the here and now—it’s about the future. Mindful developers understand and anticipate that other developers will read, use, and maintain their code in the future. With this in mind, they maintain a strong emphasis on code readability, documentation, and overall maintainability. They develop code that is SOLID and Orthogonal.

10. Ethical

With the rise of technologies like AI and machine learning, ethical considerations are paramount. Conscious coders strive to navigate the murky waters of tech ethics, avoiding bias in their algorithms, protecting user data, and being mindful of the unintended consequences that their code might have on individual lives and society at large.

Fostering conscious coding

I’m sure there are traits not listed here that would be top of your list when thinking of what a conscious coder should be. This journey is different for everyone. But for many, cultivating a more conscious approach to coding starts with being curious and inquisitive about the larger context of our work. It involves continuous learning, careful decision-making, and considering the implications of our coding choices.

There is one caveat that must be mentioned: adopting conscious coding practices may initially slow down your development process. But, over time, it leads to resilient, efficient, and ethical coding that stands the test of time and delivers greater value to end-users. When you code consciously, you’re coding not just for functionality, but for sustainability, improvement, and growth. Happy (conscious) coding!

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