Thank you for this meditation. I work on the operations side of things, and the code we do here is mostly automation and monitoring tools. Due to their focused scope, they are usually created by a single author, and maintained by a single person, usually the author of the solution himself. The approach to refactoring was once described by one of my colleagues as:
Each time I notice a nice trick, a better way of doing things, or a good module, I do a quick scan of my existing code base, to check if it can be improved by the "new thing".
That's the way it looks - the refactoring is not triggered by the passage of time, but is strictly event - based. There is no weekly code review, no monthly refactoring phase. Just noticing new, better ways of doing stuff.
This leads me to two observations: first, in an environment like this, communication is crucial. If I notice a new module, I spread the news, since it might trigger an improvement. If someone tells me about a simple data structure he used in his script, it might lead to improvements in my code. Talk about the new, better things as often as possible.
The second observation is: don't try to refactor code that you don't want to be responsible for. If you see something that seems 'wrong' to you in someone else's code, either introduce the change and take the responsibility for maintaining the script afterwards, or just make the suggestion to the person currently maintaining the script. When working in a place that has people, not teams, maintaining the scripts, it's possible that something that would be more clear and maintainable to you, will not seem that way to the owner / maintainer of the script. Convince him, or let him convince you, either way, engage in communication.
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