Pretty Good Practices
By blueprints on Mar 25, 2008
A long-standing controversy within the Sun BluePrints Program has been over the term "best practices." As a superlative, the adjective "best" indicates that something excels everything of its class. This is the kind of language that drives our lawyers nuts: it is nearly impossible to prove and generally prohibitively expensive to even try.
Yet, the phrase "best practices" has crept into common usage with a little less rigor, often suggesting something that might be more correctly called "better practices." Wikipedia has an interesting entry on the term "Best Practice" that mentions that it is used as a buzzword '...to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use for management, policy, and especially software systems.'
While we encourage our authors to pursue as much rigor as possible in presenting options and trade offs, including their rationale for selection of one approach over another, sometimes it is just "good enough" to present something that we know works, based on the cumulative experience of the authors and the reviewers. Somehow that phrases "pretty good practices" or "good enough practices" just don't have the right ring to them. We will continue to use "best practice" to indicate the best approach based on the specific conditions and experience of the author; change any of those and you may find yet another "best" practice that works better for you. I would maintain that the real goal is to provide a pattern that the reader doesn't blindly follow, but rather adapts to their situation.