Clean As You Code
SonarCloud is designed to ensure high code quality and security by helping you, the developer, make sure that every code change that you commit to your project is free of issues and vulnerabilities. By always committing clean code, you incrementally improve the overall quality of your project. We call this methodology clean as you code.
Focus on new code
The core idea of clean as you code is that you focus your attention and effort on new code. As you work on features and improvements, SonarCloud analyzes your code on each new commit and alerts you to any code quality problems and vulnerabilities. You can then address these issues right away and ensure that all new code added to the project is always clean.
The traditional approach to code quality usually emphasizes a separate stage of review at the end of each development cycle where quality issues are found and addressed. Having a separate stage in the process, often conducted by a different team, can lead to problems because the amount of technical debt accumulated can become unmanageable and the splitting of responsibility means quality issues can fall through the cracks.
Clean as you code avoids these pitfalls. It clarifies that code quality and code security are the responsibility of you as the developer. It also keeps the maintaining of code quality manageable by making it part of the daily cadence of your work.
What about old code?
If you adopt Clean As You Code from the start of a project, you should never face the problem of having to remediate problems in old code; SonarCloud makes sure that the code is clean with each commit.
If you have an existing project and start using SonarCloud with it, you may find that initially, SonarCloud finds a lot of quality issues in your existing, old, code. At first, you might think that you need to start remediating this technical debt immediately. In fact, it is still better to follow the Clean As You Code approach and focus on new code.
It turns out that in any software project a certain percentage of old code is touched with each new feature and improvement added. When this happens in a project analyzed by SonarCloud, issues in that old code will be highlighted and fixed as part of the normal evolution of the code. Eventually, the entire codebase will be cleaned up without you ever having to explicitly go back and dig through the old code. This approach is a lot more sustainable because it is part of your everyday work and does not require a separate, special effort of remediation. An effort which, experience shows, is often delayed indefinitely.
By encouraging this focus on new code, SonarCloud helps avoid the traditional pitfall where addressing code quality at the end of the development process results in an overwhelming number of issues that can be difficult to address. Instead with SonarCloud code quality becomes part of the normal, incremental development process.
How SonarCloud helps
SonarCloud helps you focus on new code by building the concept right into the product.
SonarLint catches issues early
We recommend that you use the SonarLint IDE Extension together with SonarCloud. It works like a spell-checker to provide in-IDE code analysis, alerting you to problems before you even commit any code. This provides the first level of defense to keep the code that you ultimately merge into your main branch clean.
Pull requests are always new code
Code changes made as part of a pull request are always considered new code. A major emphasis is placed on identifying such issues and surfacing them to the developer, not just through the SonarCloud interface itself but also through the pull request decoration in the interface of your code repository platform (GitHub, etc.), where you are most likely to notice them. In this way, SonarCloud encourages the fixing of code quality and security issues even before the code is merged into the main branch of the project.
New code definition
Apart from pull requests (where all code changes are considered new code) SonarCloud also encourages you to specify a new code definition for other contexts within their project. The details of this definition depend on your project, but the aim is to encompass code changes that are part of the current phase in development. For example, for projects that have explicit versioning of releases, the new code definition can be set as "everything that has changed since the last version bump". Alternatively, for projects that work on the principle of continuous delivery (i.e., they have no versions) other criteria are available to define new code.
Focus on new code in the UI
All views that display found issues or other code metrics always prioritize the status of new code. Data on overall code is available but is not displayed by default. This encourages you to maintain focus on the new code.
SonarCloud has a feature called quality gates. A quality gate is an indicator of code quality that can be configured to give a go/no-go signal on the current release-worthiness of the code. This also provides immediate feedback to you and your team about the global quality of the codebase.
Quality gate settings always distinguish conditions that apply to new code from conditions that apply to overall code and by default only conditions on new code are applied. This allows release decisions to be made specifically based on new code status.
The traditional approach to code quality suffers from an ownership problem. Responsibility for code quality is often split. A separate QA team identifies the issues late in the process and then attempts to get the original developers to return their attention to the problematic code and address the issues. In contrast, the CAYC methodology places the ownership of code quality squarely with the individual developer who wrote the code in the first place. We believe that only you and your fellow developers can have a sustainable impact on code quality and security.
How SonarCloud promotes developer ownership
SonarCloud identifies issues as soon as possible in the development cycle, sometimes before the code is even committed (if you are using SonarLint), often at the pull requests stage and at the latest in recently merged new code.
SonarCloud also uses repository information to tag each issue with the name of the developer who last touched that line of code.
This makes it easy to identify who is responsible for which issues.
Further, SonarCloud makes it easy for you to address each issue by providing detailed guidance on the details of each issue and how to remedy it. Developers have reported that as they use SonarCloud the educational aspect of the tool becomes more and more evident. This leads to a virtuous cycle where code quality increases as a developer's skills and knowledge increase.
Together, the quickness and clarity of the feedback, the definitive assignment of responsibility, and the assistance given by the system make it easy for developers to find and fix issues and that helps make the process an integral part of their daily work.