We all know that teams, big or small, need documentation. Applications that are shared with the public or open source need documentation. But the lesser known and under appreciated is personal documentation. The audience is just you. Not just with coding projects, but anything that requires more than a few steps that you will come back to at some point.
Stepping away from a project is close to amnesia in how much my brain forgets. I spent way too much time trying to ‘remember’ what I was doing before or even how to spin up a project I was working on. The end goal with documentation is to get what/where you want quickly and easily. All the time fussing around trying to pick up the pieces, is less time on the meat of what it is you wanted to do. Whether you want to get back to work on a project you have let collect dust, or maybe just checking for reference. Either way it is time wasted.
Recently I wanted to pull up a project for reference while working on something similar. I used the entire time I set out for coding on trying to figure out how to spin up this old project. I forgot everything. I was reading online docs, looking around the code, got some stuff working and some not. By the time I gave up, since it wasn’t even that important, I not only wasted most of my allotted work time, but I was frustrated and drained. Definitely kicking myself for not leaving a trail.
Somewhere there needs to be some writing, either in code, readme.md file, or in some searchable note taking application. It is best to write while you are working, thinking about the future and writing as if a stranger were going to pick up on the pieces you left behind. Here are some of the big pieces:
- Steps to reproduce the last known instance of this project
- Reference file locations and local URL’s
- Reference Online Documentation
- Date/Time and info on where you left this project last
From now on, whenever I create a new project, that readme.md is getting created. The next issue would be how to find the notes you left yourself haha.