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As you poke and prod the area just past the warning sign with a stick, you might wonder: how on earth can anyone have let this happen? This way, a debt is accumulated: code that does the job any way it can but is completely incapable of being maintained properly, let alone built upon. Nobody cares about this as long as they're not the one having to touch it.
But eventually someone has to, and it will probably be you.
This principle is at work in any project, and if it isn't it most likely means you're not moving fast enough.
Your competition WILL take shortcuts, get new features out more quickly.
The cripple pixie that seems cross with you for some reason might annoy you but she's harmless.
Your time is better spent contemplating how to kick the ogre out.
So you will probably have a bit of explaining to do to convince him he needs to let you rebuild what he perceives as being in his possession already. If you don't succeed in swaying your customer to start paying what he owes, technical debt will grow to the point of collapse.
You might be tempted to comply, starting anew using shiny new tools, convinced everything will be better when you're done. The main risks of a rewrite, as I see it, are: So, don't start over. This might sound vaguely unpleasant, but the monsters in your swamp should be spitting in your face, dragons burning off the hairs on your arms, the gnome living near the mushroom-shaped rock kicking you in the shins.
These nuisances are in there ruining your project whether you notice them or not, you need to face them in order to get rid of them.
So, any healthy project will accumulate some technical debt, but in order not to go bankrupt - the code getting so hard to maintain it becomes unmanageable - at some point this debt will have to be settled.
That is where the frightened and resentful peasant comes in, forced to pay the debt in the swamp owner's stead.
You need to be able to see what is going wrong at any point in time.