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The Boy Scout Rule is Now the Scout Rule

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・1 min read

Our field is built on metaphors and naming conventions.

One great metaphor is the "Boy Scout Rule". It basically means "leave the code cleaner than how you found it, akin to a campground".

I love the concept, and I think it's one of the better software generalizations. It is a great way to take on a healthy refactoring mindset as we build resilient software systems. However, the name was unfortunately gendered—at least I thought so. But I wasn't sure if it was worth making a fuss about. It's complicated.

Anyway, I recently learned that the real-life Boy Scouts will be re-branding as "Scouts BSA" and will be allowing girls into the program. I imagine they'll eventually drop the BSA part and just be "The Scouts".

So as far as I'm concerned, the "Boy Scout Rule" in software development is now the "Scout Rule".

Happy coding.

Posted on May 9 '18 by:

ben profile

Ben Halpern


A Canadian software developer who thinks he’s funny. He/Him.


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I just call it the "campsite rule"


I like this a lot more. Focus on what the rule is, rather than who made it. Besides, BSA are inherently USA-centric and they're much more famous for "Scout's Honor" than cleaning campfires.


Oh thank god. I thought this was going to be a mindless rant about how you hate changing gender pronouns. Not saying i think about you that way. I've just seen a lot of people lose there crap over it. It's just changing the name to try and be more inclusive. It's not that deep.

I'm all for it!


I don't blame you for the reaction, but nah, not how I roll.


It was all about the cookies and popcorn. It always is. Lots of negotiations in smoke-filled rooms.


THANK YOU. I'm tired of that damn marine biologist hogging all the top Google results.


I created an account just to give this post a little heart.

The Scout Rule is my favorite in all of programming. It applies to every developer, no matter your level of experience. See something that could be better? Cool, now fix it!


This whole gender thing is going too far. It's okay when things are sane, but often it's radical. 😶


This is a much needed breath of fresh air.

I get so emotionally drained when I reflect on how our American culture is so broken that, in the 21st century, we're still struggling with inclusivity, gender equality, and racism.


It’s because law makers and the media (for the most part) refuse to have an intolerance to intolerance, and the two sides disagree about what’s okay on basic levels


/* As far as I'm concerned, BSA was one of the last NSO (National Scout Organization) having this gender-restriction. In my country, Scouts de Argentina has been accepting any person, indistinctly from gender/religion/socioeconomic condition/etc. It's a good step for the BSA into diversity. */
Since I've read about the Scout rule, i'm in love with it! I try to keep it in mind every time I code. Thanks for noticing the name change!


You're going to run into the problem of the ambiguous term "scout" pretty quickly. I don't think the other type of scout rule -- "leave no trace" -- is what you're targeting.


On the other hand... 'always prepared'


Scouts have been Male / Female in the U.K for a long time now, since I was one in fact!


Why not invent some new saying instead? Something to focus on the value itself, like campsite rule, millitary grade cleanliness.