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You can't fully make that distinction until it happens.

Sometimes you can say "I know this will need to be rewritten later" and be pretty sure you're seeing technical debt be accrued.

But other times you have no idea. It might be a tool that was intended to be used for a few weeks, but turned out to be incredibly useful and lasted years. Had you known, you might have written it better if the first place.

Technical debt isn't like financial debt in that there's nobody with an accounts sheet telling you that you owe them anything from the start. You don't necessarily make a deal with anyone. So you can't judge its existence in the same way.




Schrodinger cat's technical debt.




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